Freedom From Expectations

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” ~Janis Joplin

“Who you are is what you settle for, you know?” ~Janis Joplin

The election of 2016 gave us the freedom to throw the rule book out the window.

You know the one. The book that says candidates must say X, dress like Y, and have a resume like Z in order to get elected.

But in 2016, the unthinkable happened and the unelectable candidate was elected.

And the very next day, a very large portion of our country started figuring out ways to minimize the damage, to prop up our institutions, to support values and policies that we believe in.

The near-instantaeous and organic creation of such a powerful movement was itself unthinkable just a week before.

So there’s absolutely nothing conventional about this time in our history. But we see time and again analysts and politicos trying to stuff this era into a conventionally sized and shaped box.

“They’ll never be able to [fill in the blank.]”

“[Fill in the blank] will never work.”

You would think they hadn’t learned that “conventional” is the antonym of our era.

I recently read an article claiming that local Democrats are “flailing” around (we’re not) that we’re desperate (as anyone who is watching our democracy crumble before our eyes should be) and that our cause is hopeless because we’re gerrymandered into districts that are unwinnable.

But here’s the thing those analysts and writers don’t understand: Those gerrymandered red-district elections all across the country give us the freedom that comes from having sub-zero expectations. Electorally we’re in such dire straits in some parts of the country that we’ve got ourselves a test kitchen.

We also have a whole crop of people that are newly interested in being politically involved, so we have a whole bunch of folks with a whole lot of great ideas to try out in a whole bunch of places where any improvement is cause for celebration.

So what a causal observer might see as “flailing” is actually just market testing in real time. Rather than being the party that stereotypically analyzes an issue to death but fails to take action, we’ve become the party of hyper-activity.

That’s not a bad thing.

And it’s certainly not flailing.

While policy wonks and consultants sit and strategize, we’ve been out on the streets knocking on doors. We’ve been taking it old school and writing postcards to voters in red-district elections. We’ve gone past the television ads, past the social media boosts, and we’re speaking face to face with the people that matter. And, by the way, face to face conversations with voters are – and always have been – the “gold standard” in electoral politics.

And we’ve got the people and the energy and the freedom to do just that.

So, fine. Let the writers and analysts tell us we’re flailing while we capitalize on the freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. We’ll try everything. We’ll see what sticks. We’ll keep that part. Then we’ll try again. We’ll keep going, because we care and we know that we’re among a vast and inspirational group of people that care just as much as we do.

At this moment, we’ve got a whole lot of freedom to work with.

So let’s use it, and let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Tell Congress to Do Its Job (It’s a Tough Ask, I Know).

Trump continues to refus to implement and enforce the Russian sanctions imposed by Congress. As we discussed last week, this is a constitutional crisis in real time. But it’s just as alarming to note that Russia has set its sights on attacking our power sources and infrastructure. Last month, Senator John McCain noted the Russian intention to attack our power grid and infrastructure; he asked the Attorney General whether we have a way to counter those attacks. The answer was no.

This is not a time for the United States to play nice with Fancy Bear.

We need to show our MOCs that we see what’s going on and we care a whole hell of a lot. So call and write (and fax!) your MOCs to let them know that you read more than the news toplines.

Script: Good for any and all MOCs, and suitable for postcards and faxes as well:

My name is ____ and I’m a constituent at (zip code). I’m incredibly concerned that the Trump administration is flagrantly disobeying Congress by refusing to implement sanctions intended to punish Russia for its election meddling. The message that the administration is sending to foreign powers – including Russia – is anti-American and encourages future election interference. It suggests that America is weak on security and willing to conspire with foreign nations that wish to do us harm. It’s shocking to me that one branch of government – Congress – would be willing to allow another branch of government – the President – to walk all over it. I look forward to hearing (Senator/Congressman/woman____) speak to this issue – which is a constitutional crisis in the purest sense of the phrase.

Wednesday: Community Health Center Redux!

The House is finally taking Community Health Center funding seriously. If you’re a regular follower, you’re familiar with this issue (we’ve been far ahead of the curve on this one, folks, so pat yourself on the back!). But to be brief, Community Health Centers derive funding from the federal government, which has failed to fund them since the fiscal year ended on September 30. CHCs provide care (and jobs) in a huge portion of the country. As of right now 53% of our Community Health Centers may need to lay off staff if federal funding isn’t on its way soon. (4% have already had layoffs, and 20% have been under a hiring freeze.)

This is no joke.

If CHC funding is not restored, 2,800 sites will close, meaning that 9 million patients will lose access to care, more than 51k providers and staff would lose their jobs, and $7.5 billion in revenue for economically distressed communities would be lost.

Here’s the good news: there are bipartisan talks about how to fix this, and the House is expected to pass funding legislation that provides for CHCs. That legislation’s fate in the Senate is unclear.

So our job is to contact our Senators – before Thursday – and let them know how important CHCs are, and that we want them to get funding for them ASAP.

(Also, you can go to this resource to find state-specific impact numbers to use when you are calling your Senator.)

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to see what  ____ is doing to reauthorize funding community health centers. I’m glad to hear that there are bipartisan talks about how to fund CHCs, and I want to stress how important I think that funding is. I hope Senator _____ will show his/her support for CHCs.

Thursday: Call On Your Senator to Stand Up for Professor Jamal

You may have seen reports that a 30-year resident of the United States, a chemistry professor and well known and respected member of his community, was detained by ICE in his front yard as he was taking his children (who are American citizens) to school.

By all accounts, this man is an upstanding member of his community. He has no criminal record, he’s a taxpaying member of society, and he is the father and breadwinner that support three American citizens.

Oh – and did I mention that his wife literally donated a kidney?

And that last year he ran for school board?

Clearly this is a family that should be admired, not vilified.

There’s a petition that you can sign to show your support, but better yet – call your Senators and tell them about this situation. Tell them that you see what’s going on and you expect them to do something about it. Explain that this administration is harming American citizens through its cruelty, and they need to stand up for those kids and our country.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I wondered if you’ve heard about the detention of a Kansas chemistry professor – he was arrested by ICE in front of his kids, who are American citizens. Professor Jamal has lived in the United States for 30 years, and is a taxpaying member of society and a well-respected member of his community. He doesn’t have a criminal record, is the breadwinner for his family, and his wife is literally a kidney donor. This is not a person that poses a threat to the United States. If anything, the Trump administration’s actions are harming United States citizens. What is going to happen to these kids if he is deported to a country where he might be killed? It’s high time that the Senator and other leaders stand up for people like Professor Jamal.

Friday: Make Your Volunteering Plan (In Five Minutes.) (“Be yourself, and you’ll be more than you ever thought of being.” ~Janis Joplin)

You’ve probably heard the directive – “make your voting plan.” It’s because studies show that just thinking through the logistics about when and how you’ll vote makes it more likely that you’ll do so.

I don’t know of studies that prove it, but I think the same thing applies to political volunteering.

If you haven’t worked on a campaign, you may not fully appreciate how understaffed and under-resourced they are. Campaigns are wonderful places to work – with folks that are passionate about their platforms and their candidates, and are busy and frenetic and full of ideas… Ideas that are fantastic but that need someone to make them a reality. Campaigns are practically giddy when they get an intern.

I’m actually a little jealous that they have interns. (Putting that to one side…)

Not only does volunteering for a campaign (or cause) help you see the literal difference you’re making in your local area, it also gives you the opportunity to hone skills or learn something completely new. It’s a win-win!

So let’s make our volunteering plan. This will take 5 minutes.

Take the first two minutes and think of skills you can lend to a campaign. You might have photography or video experience, social media expertise, mad typing/data entry or copywriting skills – maybe you’re incredibly talented at organization, or design (trust me, campaign headquarters are not well-decorated spaces…), or event planning. So think of what you love, and what you’d love to do more often.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, take one minute and decide how you want to reach out to the candidate’s campaign. Phone? E-mail? In-person? (You can probably do this in under one minute.)

Now take the last two minutes to find the contact information for the candidate. Look for their newsletter, find them on social media – copy down their contact information and decide when you’re going to reach out. Take out your planner and write in a date that you will contact the campaign (or plug it into your phone).

Voila. In (probably under) five minutes, you’ve planted the seed for action in your mind. It’s going to be far easier to act on that now. Fantastic!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.


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