Rage-Cleaning U.S. Politics: A Baby Step Primer
Hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s an election on November 6.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume I don’t care who you vote for. That’s both a true and untrue statement; I don’t care who you vote for because voting is your own business, but I care very much who gets elected to our seats of government. And the majority of those people currently suck. A lot. (Journalism school taught me that stating your bias helps instill readers with a sense of your objectivity. Is it working?)
I am both proud and ashamed to admit that I’ve done more for this election than for any other since I went to knock on doors in Nevada for Obama’s 2008 campaign. I’ve become pretty excellent at posting and defending feminist statements on Facebook; I am decidedly less good at getting off my ass and doing something real about things that I think need to change.
Gone are the days when we had 3.5 years of relative quiet between Presidential elections. The 2020 race is going to start on November 7, 2018, so what are you going to do to to keep yourself engaged, motivated, and most importantly, sane during the next 2 years?
As an extrovert with plenty of public speaking under my belt, even I’m a little afraid to knock on strangers’ doors and ask them to vote for my girl. I’ve challenged myself in the next couple of years to get better at it so that in 2020 I will be cucumber-cool when I ask you to cast a ballot for the Harris/Warren ticket, even in the deepest red district of… probably Nevada, since it’s just up the 80. Here are a couple of the things I’ve been trying out:
Phone bank for the ACLU. This was originally supposed to be the less-intimidating TEXT banking, but they switched it a few days ahead of time and I figured what the hell, I’ll make like Melania and be best. It ended up being pretty chill. There are dialers to anonymize your number, so you just plug your headset in and wait for someone to pick up the phone. The ACLU fed me a burrito and Halloween candy, I added 2” to the sock I’m knitting, and signed up to go back next week. That sock ain’t gonna finish itself. This isn’t The Burrow.
Write letters to voters encouraging them to vote on Nov. 6. I did this through Vote Forward (votefwd.org), and in the tried-and-true method of Complicating Simple Things, I decided to hand-write the whole letter every time instead of printing out the template and just filling in the end of the prompt “I have pledged to vote in every election because…” and sign my name. I’ve hand-written ~55 letters so far, and since I’m nowhere near running out of letter stock at my office or fountain pen ink, I’ll probably make my arbitrary goal of 75 by the mailing date.
Donating actual dollars. This is useful especially as retaliation for people being douchebags on the internet. Some guy is debating whether the AR-15 is a weapon of war on a thread about the mass murder in a Pittsburgh synagogue? I just donated $10 to Everytown for Gun Safety. Another friend-of-a-friend is arguing that women only vote Democrat so that men in government will take care of them? I sent $10 to the National Organization for Women. It is impressive how much sputtering happens when I announce what I’ve done; white dudes who are just playing devil’s advocate get real mad, you guys.
There are a lot more ways to get involved with campaigns in 2018 than there were in 2008. You can text/phone bank from home. You can write letters or postcards by yourself or in a group. You can do the old-fashioned thing and donate cash, but you can do it via text or the Cash app or carrier pigeon. You can join the ACLU or the NOW or an environmental group. You can do it on the local level and vastly increase your effort-to-result ratio, and maybe even meet a neighbor or two along the way.
There are a ton of groups out there that are organizing small actions regularly, which are the easiest way to dip a toe in the water. I follow the East Bay Solidarity Sunday group and have gone to a couple of postcard-writing meetups after work. Because the place I live is super-cool, occasionally Kamau Bell shows up.
Now. Let’s get real for a moment: all of this work and thought and time is made less impactful if you yourself don’t vote. That letter-writing campaign? Boosts voter turnout by 1-3%. That means that if I don’t vote, I’ve effectively canceled out all of those hours of writing. Also I become a terrible hypocrite for writing “I have pledged to vote in every election because…” at least 75 times, which I’m pretty sure constitutes some kind of hex on myself. Whether we like the results or not, voting is the way people get into positions of political power in the United States, and the people with the most votes are supposed to make the rules. So even if you think it doesn’t count, cast a ballot and then pick a cause and start fighting for it for 2020, because this happens more often than I’m strictly comfortable with.