Thursday, July 5, 2018

Another check-in on family plan

As of today, a hateful reality-show D-lister has been president of the United States for 1 year, 5 months, and 15 days. How are we doing with our family plan?

One part of the plan was about emotions vs action. Outrage can fuel short-term action but can quickly lead to paralysis, and it’s also often not based on fact. The narrative that everything was fine in America before Trump, and that we have suddenly, precipitously turned into Nazi Germany, is not helpful. The first part is inaccurate and offensive – Clinton escalated mass incarceration and crippled the social safety net, W started an unnecessary war that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and tanked the economy, and Obama separated tens of thousands of children from their undocumented immigrant parents. The second part, that we are becoming Nazi Germany, some days I believe it, like when the Supreme Court upheld the Muslim ban. Other days it seems that Trump is “only” doing what the U.S. government has done for most of its existence – enrich the wealthy, comfort the powerful, and use any means at its disposal to keep the rest down. But even if it is true that we’re turning into Nazi Germany, then the answer is not outrage, it’s resistance. Outrage is a brief flash of anger; resistance is enduring and strategic. The U.S. has a long strong history of resistance. Rushing out to start a new protest may make us feel like we’re doing something. Joining movements that have existed for years and are led by affected people with experience and a sense of history will get more done. We need to keep our heads in the right place if we’re going to be effective.

A main focus of our action has been to be more politically active. We are now both elected committee people in our local Democratic party. We have done a ton of canvassing for candidates at the state and congressional level. Some have been successful, others not, but one undeniable success has been an increase in voter participation. In May, Pennsylvania held primaries for congressional seats.  Typically off-year primary elections see very low turnouts – if 20% of eligible people vote, you’re doing well. Our statewide average this May was 18%. T and I canvassed all over town, and in our precinct at least, after two quick rounds of door-knocking, turnout reached 40%. Now we have a chance in November to turn both our congressional district and our State House district from red to blue. (As John Oliver points out, state races matter a lot. In my district, it’s a chance to kick out the guy who constantly tries to crawl into my uterus and replace him with a candidate who supports abortion rights.)

Our actions also focus on money. We are making more political donations than in the past, to both local candidates and candidates in swing districts across the country. We are continuing monthly donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. And we have been giving more cash directly to people who need it. In my experience, the neediest people are the ones least able to access resources and giving only to programs leaves some people out. In the past year we have given about $1500 directly to individuals who need it. This falls far short of our goal and we need to step it up. I am thinking now about reviving the 10% challenge.

We also planned to take part in more protests and contact representatives more frequently. We have done some of that but not as much as we could. We need to do more.

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