Feel Like a Bystander?

Two years ago at this time many of us were engaged in electoral politics, knocking on doors, encouraging people to vote, advocating for particular candidates in the hope of wresting various legislative bodies from Republican/Libertarian control. In Eastern Washington many of us volunteered enthusiastically for the Lisa Brown campaign. We overcame our dread of door-knocking. We went out and talked to people. Lisa Brown did not win, but we managed to draw Republican money, time, and effort away from other campaigns. Nationally, by dint of a huge volunteer effort, the House of Representatives flipped and the Libertarian federal legislative juggernaut slowed. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, CD5) was relegated to a back bench in the House. She lost her position as chairperson of the House Republican Conference to Liz Cheney (R-WY).

What to do now? Feeling hopeless and frustrated as you read the news? Feeling like a bystander to history? We’re cooped up by Covid-19. Door-knocking is out of bounds, potentially dangerous, and un-American under current circumstances. We watch, feeling helpless, as Mitch McConnell brings the U.S. Senate back to Washington. D.C., not to consider legislation passed by the House of Representatives, but to force through more right wing Federalist Society endorsed judges for the federal bench. He licks his chops over the prospect that Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not last until January, 2021, having stonewalled the Merrick Garland nomination for months. 

While the Electoral College still allows Republican popular vote minorities to put people like Mr. Trump in the White House, neither Idaho nor Washington is much in play in this November’s presidential election. Unless something completely unforeseen occurs, Washington’s 12 electoral votes will go the Democratic nominee, and Idaho’s 4 electoral votes will go to Trump. Potential voters whose focus is only on the presidential race will see little reason to pay attention and bestir themselves to vote. “Why bother? It’s out of our hands.”

What to do? Engage. Elections this year are the most consequential elections of my lifetime. Outcomes of state level elections in many states will determine whether Republican computerized gerrymandering continues or is curtailed. (Redistricting, done by each state, happens next year based on 2020 Census results.) In many states these same elections will determine the fate of Republican efforts to suppress the vote. (Voting in this country is mostly a state issue.) On a federal level, Democrats must take majority control of the U.S. Senate (needing a net gain of four seats). Without a Senate Democratic majority, Mitch McConnell will continue his hyper-partisan reign of obstruction, hamstringing all attempts to pass legislation favored by a majority of American voters (see Control by the Minority). If McConnell remains as leader of a Republican Senate majority he will obstruct Democratic initiatives regardless of who wins the Presidency. That would include obstructing Supreme Court nominations by a Democratic President..

But what can we weak individuals do to avoid these depressing outcomes? Sitting in our homes, getting increasingly angry and talking only to like-minded individuals is not going to cut it. Have you ever watched ants re-build an ant mound? They are persistent and energized–and they are many. So, too, are we. If we sign on and dedicate a half hour a day we can make big things happen. Here are just two of the grassroots efforts either or both of which are worth your time:

1) If more people are motivated and empowered to vote more votes for Democratic candidates will be cast. Republicans know this. Voter suppression is a key Republican tactic. Witness the actions of the Republican majority legislature in Wisconsin last month that forced thousands to risk exposure to Covid-19 in order to vote. (The appointed State Supreme Court Justice they were trying to protect lost anyway, in part on account of efforts I’m about to describe.) In many states Republican have purged voters from the voting rolls using arbitrary cutoffs. The non-partisan Reclaim Our Vote Campaign seeks to alert voters in states like these to the importance of checking their voting status before showing up at the polls. A half hour a day spent hand writing postcards to a select group of voters in selected states has the potential to drive turnout, increase awareness, and change electoral results. I am aware of several groups in the Inland Northwest involved in this effort.
Email contact for a local coordinator in Spokane Valley: petra@bethechange509.com.
Email contact for City of Spokane coordinator: eileenpostcards@gmail.com
I am also aware of a north Idaho contact for this effort. If interested, click “Reply” to this email and I can help connect you.

2) Pick a battleground state and engage from your desk. For example, Mark Kelly is the Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona against an appointed and vulnerable Republican, Senator McSally (see P.S. below). One key to Mark Kelly’s run is voter turnout in Arizona legislative district 20 (northern part of the Phoenix metropolitan area). Currently LD20 is held by two state representatives and a state senator who are all Republicans. Challenging for one of the AZ State House seats is Judy Schwiebert and for the AZ State Senate seat is Doug Ervin, both very credible, decent candidates with whom I have Zoomed. By supporting their efforts in Arizona we could help tip the majority in the Arizona House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. For starters, click on their names, read about, and “Like” their Facebook pages. There are local Spokane “Sister District” efforts to support these two and local Spokane dedicated volunteers working from home on these elections. 

Something closer to home? There is a strategy to help Steve Bullock, the Democratic governor of the State of Montana in his run to unseat Republican Senator Daines. Email contact for all of #2: petra@bethechange509.com.

When I receive a postcard I pay a lot more attention to it if it is handwritten–and I don’t have any trouble telling which ones are machine printed. There are other non-postcard volunteer efforts also available. 

Get on board. Feel less helpless, less of bystander to history. and

Keep to the high ground,

P.S.  Mark Kelly is an astronaut. He is the husband of Gabby Giffords, who resigned from her U.S. House seat in 2012 after an assassination attempt that resulted in a severe brain injury. Mark Kelly is running against Martha McSally, who was appointed to John McCain’s former Senate seat. McSally tried–and was unsuccessful in a run for the the other of Arizona’s two U.S. Senate seats after Jeff Flake (Trump-critical R) resigned in 2018. (McSally lost 48%-50% to Kyrsten Sinema (D), whose term lasts another four years.) Arizona’s governor appointment of McSally to the John McCain’s old seat almost looks like a consolation prize. McSally would appear to be on thin ice in a state that could also flip its state’s house of representatives.