Our enemies have a goal: They want you to first give up hope, then just give up altogether. Despair is their tool. Exhaustion, fear and isolation are their tools. Cynicism is the obedience they seek from you. Refuse to obey: Take heart. Embrace defiant optimism. Hope huge. ~Alex Steffen
A poll came out recently showing that 62% of us are exhausted.
I think that is a very conservative estimate.
We all feel the drain. We’re all talking about it. Heck, Portlandia even had a skit about it – featuring a song (“Let’s Give UP!”) that is all too catchy – and all too relatable.
But do you know what?
The first battle is always knowing that something is wrong in the first place. Now that we know that we’re all overwhelmed and exhausted we can focus on that problem and try to find some solutions. (And that solution is not just to give up. Obviously.)
And besides – we’re wonky Democrats, right? So let’s dive into the research a little, and try to understand what drives more engagement.
Okay, so back to that poll. The folks at Navigator Research found that “substance, and a clear goal, are most likely to get progressives engaged.” That seems obvious, I know, but it’s far easier to just rage against the Donald generally. But doing so just depletes our resources and sucks air out of the room. So as you’re reaching out to people and trying to engage them (and yourself) stick to concrete actions with a clear goal.
What does that mean? Rather than posting the latest outrage on immigration with an “OMG can you believe this is happening?!?!” – go ahead and post the article but followed with a clear action (like, “I simply can’t believe this – so I’m calling Roy Blunt right now to tell him that I think he needs to use his office to stand up to this crap. Join me?”). And hey – why not make it fun? A friendly challenge for who can make the most calls/knock the most doors/write the most postcards is a great way to re-energize yourselves while reaching a goal.
Relatedly, Navigator found that “[s]pecific issue activism is key to keeping progressives engaged.” Do you sense a theme? This generalized “the world is over” feeling may be accurate, but it’s not particularly motivating. There’s also not a whole lot to do about it except cover your head and hope for the best.
Okay, so how do you pick what issues to focus on? Well, Navigator found that “[h]ot-button issue fights are stronger motivators than topics that feel settled or too late to change.” And we should “[l]everage issues that are visibly in play, and avoid language that makes them feel final or backward-looking.”
There are many topics “in play,” these days, but gun violence, healthcare, and immigration were the three topics that more Democrats polled by Navigator said engaged them than exhausted them.
Which topics exhausted them? Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Treaty, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the passage of the tax bill. What do those three things have in common? (Other than being terrible?) They’re over. So while we shouldn’t stop criticizing the GOP and Trump’s past actions, we need to recognize that they aren’t going to be motivating factors for people to get and stay engaged.
But as I noted above, (un)luckily for us, there are issues to act on every day – and many of them have ties to healthcare, gun violence and immigration, which from Navigator’s research we already know are motivating topics.
As a current example, with Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, reproductive justice and women’s healthcare is front and center. So when you think about it, it’s not surprising that last night we saw large protests – with many women advocating specifically about his stance on reproductive rights – in front of the Supreme Court. His nomination gives us something very specific to fight against; it’s a clear goal, with a clear ask, with clear policy reasons behind it that tie into healthcare and women’s rights.
See? Sometimes it’s good to be wonky!
So, friends, as you find yourself and your communities feeling overwhelmed, don’t just accept it.
Fight against it.
Fight against it by helping your fellow Resisters focus their attention and energy in the right direction. They need you, and we need you.
Let’s get to work.
Tuesday: Oppose Brian Benczkowski’s Nomination
Attorney Brian Benczkowski has been nominated to be an Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Criminal Division.
Why is that a big deal? He represented Alfa Bank, which is a bank with significant ties to Russian oligarchs. Those connections alone should be enough to sink his confirmation; I’m also old enough to remember when just the appearance of impropriety was enough to sink a confirmation. And confirming yet another appointee with Russian ties sends a very troubling message.
The Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee have already written a letter opposing Benczkowski’s nomination, and you can read that (as well as Senator Durbin’s other thoughts on the matter) here.
Please call your Senators (both of them) and urge them to oppose Benczkowski. A vote is expected this week.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling to ask Senator ___ to oppose Brian Benczkowski’s nomination for Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. His representation of Alfa Bank and his ties to Russia are incredibly troubling, and confirming him at this point – when he would have involvement in matters relating to Russia’s interference in our election – sends an awful message. Please ask the Senator to help protect the ongoing investigations, and oppose this nomination.
Wednesday: Tell Your Senators to Oppose Kavanaugh
This is a no-brainer, right?
On Monday, July 9, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. His background is exactly what you would expect from someone who was endorsed by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. Which is to say that you won’t like what you hear.
Opposing his nomination is not going to be an easy lift. But what has been an easy lift these days?
Once again, our friends at Indivisible have put together a great toolkit (which you can find here) that lays out the strategy for opposing his nomination. We need to be clear with our Democratic Senators that we expect them to oppose his nomination – a president that is currently under investigation (for potentially colluding with Russians to influence the election in which he took the presidency, no less – I mean, you can’t make it up) should not be able to pack the Court with a nominee that he thinks is going to be the one that treats him most favorably.
And to another point – we also need to demand and expect that Kavanaugh’s record be throughly examined. Keep in mind that he spent five years in the White House. His e-mails while there are a matter of public record, and we should expect that Senators voting on someone who will wield this amount of power will review those documents. As citizens, we should expect nothing less.
So, let’s get out our phones!
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m concerned about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Because President Trump is under investigation, there are a number of issues of unsettled law – like about whether a president can be indicted at all – that will certainly go up to the Supreme Court. He should not be able to choose his own court with one eye toward which nominee will treat him the most favorably if questions about presidential power arise. It’s the clearest conflict of interest you could imagine. Please ask the Senator to vote against confirming Judge Kavanaugh.
Thursday: Midterms. Midterms. Midterms. Did You Know About the Midterms?
In a recent Salon interview of intelligence expert Malcolm Nance he discussed the importance of the 2018 midterms by saying: “When this nation was built out of my city, Philadelphia, the odds were simple. They win or they hang. And now it’s simple again. We win or we lose American democracy. We lose it forever, and I don’t think we’ll come back from autocracy.”
Sorry if that quote means you don’t sleep as well tonight. But, frankly, the time to rest and recover has passed.
The November elections are critical, critical, critical. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about it, but it’s absolutely the case. Turnout has to be high, and we’ve got to get all of our ducks in a row.
At a loss for how to help? Here are some ideas.
First, if you haven’t already, go subscribe to It Starts Today, which crowd funds for every single Democratic nominee for House or Senate in 2018 for $4.68/month. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I got on board with the It Starts Today idea and team over a year ago. You can read the story of how Jonathan Zucker came up with the idea to crowd fund for the 2018 elections here. My favorite part of IST? It leaves no district behind – even those districts that are considered long shots by traditional standards. This election, we need every single vote we can squeeze out of every single district. Nobody – and I mean nobody – should be left behind this cycle.
Second, do you like music? Do you like Democracy? Awesome! Then head over to HeadCount – a non-partisan voter registration organization that partners with musicians to offer voter registration at concerts and other musical events. And they’re having great success; according to a recent article, by April this year HeadCount had registered more voters than it had at the same date in 2014.
It takes two minutes to sign up to volunteer to register voters at concerts (I literally timed it). After signing up you can browse the available events, which are searchable by act or by geography. You don’t pay to get into the venue, and volunteers often (though not always) get to see the acts. It’s a fun way to register and engage with voters. Check it out and share!
Friday: Share We Are Progress’s Training Schedule! (There’s One In Wisconsin Saturday, July 14!)
We Are Progress is all about empowering young people, and has a bunch of upcoming trainings to help do just that. There are a variety of states on this list – lots in the midwest, which I love to see! It takes just a minute to RSVP, and you can indicate what issues you care about politically. (And dietary restrictions, which always gets me excited that there may be a boxed lunch. Hopefully with a cookie.)
Note: “young people” is not defined. I sincerely doubt they’d turn you away if, like me, you have gray hair but a young heart. Just know that “younger people” is the target audience.
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.
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