You’ve got to reach across the aisle and across philosophies in this country. ~Joe Biden
I saw some numbers this week that reminded me of a conversation I had a few months ago, before COVID times, with a woman who lives in southern Missouri.
She found It Starts Today-Missouri, an organization I work with that supports every Democratic nominee for Missouri state legislature. Every single one of them, equally, with monthly donations of a few bucks a month from regular people like you and me. (It’s really fabulous.)
Having found us on Facebook, and being justifiably concerned about social media these days, she wanted to reach out to a human to make sure we really existed before deciding whether to sign up for our program.
Frankly, I appreciated her thoroughness.
“I’m a writer,” she explained. “I’ve written over 1,000 articles, so I’m used to researching. It’s just what I do…” She trailed off a bit. I could hear what sounded like a screen door slam.
She must be in her kitchen, I thought. I wondered if it was as bright and cheerful as I imagined it to be. She sounded like she was cleaning, or doing dishes, which is what I normally do when I’m on the phone, so I could relate.
“I’ve always been a Republican,” she went on. “But I just can’t believe what I’ve seen over the last few years. It’s just …”
“Unbelievable,” I finished the sentence for her.
“It is. Yes, yes, that’s right. It’s unbelievable.”
She told me that even though she lives in a very red area (that’s an understatement, frankly) that she is part of a network of Democrats and democratic-sympathizing Independents that spans from Kansas City to the southern border of Missouri.
“It’s a closed Facebook group,” she explained.
She went on to share that she had gone to a religious college, but that she and a few fellow alumnae speak regularly about politics, offline. Sortof in secret. They live in other regions – far from Missouri. But they, too, have come to the same conclusion that she has.
That things are simply … unbelievable.
Yet, their conversations go on quietly, almost in secret. Secret Facebook groups. Secret conversations limited to trusted friends and confidants. I can understand why – in some areas of my state, door knocking by Democrats is discouraged because there’s a greater than zero chance you’ll be met at the door with a shotgun.
I’ve thought many times over the past few months about that conversation. I wonder if the Facebook group is still active, if the alumnae group has expanded, if there have been any additions…
And as things whirl further out of control, I’ve also wondered: How many more once-Republicans are doing dishes in their kitchens, shaking their heads as they talk on the phone and describe the current situation as “unbelievable”?
There’s some data to suggest there are quite a few. A long, long, (long) time ago we talked about how many people self-identify as Republicans, and how that number is decreasing. Gallup Polling has done a party affiliation poll every month for a very (very) long time, where they ask: As of today, do you lean more toward the Republican or Democratic party?
Since March, more people have described themselves as Democrats than republicans. (It’s currently 31% Democrat, 26% Republican, 41% Independent). And for the last four months, Independents have leaned toward Democrats by at least 6 points. (*Note that in November 2016, when they asked that question, Independents broke for Democrats by 3 points, and more people described themselves as Democrats. So no – just because a poll says we’re the majority doesn’t mean we’ll win. But it is a good measure of the temperature of the country.)
All this to say that in the polarized environment we live in, it’s easy to dismiss people you think are likely Republicans. But these numbers and the conversations I’ve had suggest we shouldn’t count anyone out just yet.
That’s what I was reflecting when I saw a piece in the Washington Post from Timothy Snyder, the Yale professor who wrote “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.” Something he said resonated:
“Americans should speak to their neighbors who disagree with them, even if there is no hope of persuasion: That act of human contact is one of resistance to the deadly spiral of ‘the worse, the better.'”
It’s a bit novel these days, isn’t it? Talking to people you disagree with who aren’t even persuadable. They’re not even in that “independent” category, so why bother, right? Lincoln once said that a house divided cannot stand. After four years (and more) of dividing ourselves with the help of state media encouraged by Russian troll farms, it seems like advice we should heed.
Campaigns won’t reach out to “likely” Republican voters. But you can extend a hand to your neighbor, your coworker, your family member. And I can do the same thing. Even if you think they’re a Trump Republican and you don’t think you can sway them.
But because compassion and inclusion is an act of resistance. Retaining our connection to one another makes it harder for people to further tear us apart.
Regardless of the outcome this November, our Country will be in turmoil. Let’s do what we can now to repair the frayed edges so we don’t tear straight down the middle.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of September 8, 2020
Tuesday: Speaking of your neighbors…
A great article in Slate suggested we treat October as “election month,” doing everything we can to increase participation, education, and assistance. Great advice! Let’s start in our own backyards. A new tool called Map The Vote allows you to see who in your neighborhood is NOT registered to vote.
Just go to https://mapthe.vote, sign up for an account, and check out your neighborhood and community. Some local groups, like St. Louis Indivisible and the St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee, have created voter registration packets to complete and deliver to likely Democrats. You can do the same thing with your group, and in your community. A simple, socially distanced lit drop with registration information would be informative, helpful, and effective.
Check it out here: https://mapthe.vote
Wednesday: Voter Protection
(Hat tip to Rogan’s List!) Biden’s campaign is gearing up to protect voting in November, and I love what I’m seeing here. You likely already know about some voter protection resources (like 1-866-OURVOTE at https://866ourvote.org). But Biden is planting a flag in the voting rights issue and I’m completely on board with that.
You can sign up for his Voter Protection team by volunteering as a poll watcher, recruiting more volunteers, or working on the Voter Assistance hotline. http://joebiden.com/voterprotection
Thursday: Check Out and Do Some of Americans of Conscience Voting Actions!
Hat tip to Jen Hofman and her crew at AOC for putting together a fantastic, fun, effective list of voting actions. (You can find that here: https://americansofconscience.com/encourage-others-to-vote/) But also a big hat tip to Jen for sharing the sourcing on some of the actions – a blog post by Lemonade that goes into some of the behavioral science behind the best ways to turn out voters. It’s one of the best summaries of the available research that I’ve seen! It’s short, sweet, and a little sassy, and it’s packed with great information and ideas. Check it out here: https://www.lemonade.com/blog/persuade-your-friends-to-vote/
Friday: Encourage Friends to Complete the Census
A local newspaper calculated the cost of each person not counted in the census (at least in our area) as $1,300/year. That means that for every person not counted, your community stands to lose $13,000 in federal funding/benefits/services over 10 years.
The deadline to complete the Census is September 30. (Or is it? There’s a court challenge to the deadline, but why wait? Check out some coverage of the legal challenges here: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/05/909745230/census-work-was-winding-down-but-a-judge-says-it-needs-to-press-on-for-now)
If you have forgotten, or waited for some reason, just take 5 minutes and complete it. Go to www.2020Census.gov. Then go on social media and say you’ve completed your Census form, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. Social pressure makes a huge difference, folks, so something this simple is honestly one of the most effective and persuasive things you can do.
You can also share the Census “Spread the Word” social media campaign – they’ve already done the content creating for you! https://2020census.gov/en/how-to-help.html
WHEW! GO, TEAM! SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
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!
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. Don’t you forget it.