Freeing Democracy

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. ~Moliere

The blocking of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given was one of the most captivating stories of the week, and for good reason.

Whether we knew it before or not, we’re all at the mercy of a vast shipping enterprise that’s as precarious as anything else that’s so dependent upon the good graces of nature.

So when a hulking, massive ship went sideways (literally) and blocked off one of the most important shipping routes in the world, everything from livestock to cars to laptops was held hostage.

Waiting for progress.

Tugboats sprung into action. Multi-ton diggers working next to the Ever Given looked like playthings as they raced to scrape away the banks of the Suez Canal to free the ship from the muck and the mud.

Meanwhile, divers inspected the ship – which was never designed to withstand the stress of being grounded in such a strange manner and was liable to develop stress cracks.

It could break under the strain.

To everyone’s relief, after nearly a week of heavy lifting and breath holding, the ship was freed. It sailed off, presumably to be inspected for damage. The canal is now being tended to. It was damaged, too, in the grounding and in the effort to free the Ever Given.

It’s a good analogy for where we are, in this country, at this very moment.

Right now, we’ve got lots of initiatives, ideas, policies. Voting rights, civil rights, infrastructure, health care, gun reform. Cargo ships full of deliverables. Just waiting for a path forward.

But there’s a massive, hulking presence blocking our way.

That hulking presence is a composite of lots of smaller bits and bobs that have clumped together to create the blockage we’re facing – systemic racism, misogyny, gerrymandering, economic inequality, political power grabs, lobbyist and corporate influence, legislative cowardice, the filibuster…. I could go on.

The blockade we’re suffering under is damaging not just progress, but our very structure. Democracy itself.

It’s holding us – all of us – back.

So when the Ever Given was finally freed, I was inspired. Those little diggers and the dredgers and the tugboats (and a high tide) had done their work. Tedious, sweaty, unglamorous work.

And in the end, they got things moving again.

Friends. We can get things moving again. There’s a lot blocking the way forward, but we’ve already seen movement.

We did a lot of the heavy lifting when we elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But there’s much to do, and that work continues. Tedious, sweaty, unglamorous work.

Bit by bit. Voter by voter. Policy by policy. With each of us taking one small step in front of another small step.

Just as those diggers took one shovel after another shovel after another until water started to pool around the Ever Given’s rudder, we just have to keep working.

Until suddenly, we open a channel.

We’re on our way, friend.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of March 30, 2021

Tuesday: For the People Act

This remains at the very top of my list, for all the reasons we talk about above. Please continue to call, email, and send postcards to your Senators asking them to support the For the People Act, and to consider filibuster reform if that Act is blocked in the Senate. It’s really critical, so this is action #1 in priority.

You can use this great script from Chop Wood Carry Water! (H/T!)

Script: Hi, I’m a constituent calling for a couple of reasons today:

First, I want the Senator to support S1, the For the People Act. The laws passed in Georgia are just more proof that we HAVE to pass federal voting rights legislation. [If Dem add:] If it requires filibuster reform to get it done, please support that.

Second, is the Senator planning to have any tele-town halls during the April recess?

IF YES: I’d like to RSVP. May I please have the details on how to digitally attend?

IF NO: Then I’d like to request that the Senator schedule one. I have many issues I’m concerned with and would like to hear the Senator address our community. Thanks.

Wednesday: Boycott Coca cola

There’s a new theme – that I quite enjoy – of activists pressuring corporations to stand up for civil liberties (or at least not supporting insurrectionists, see below for actions on that). This action falls into that category.

First off, Coca Cola is in the list of companies that took some wishy-washy action after the insurrection on January 6 – they stopped political contributions to everyone (not just the congresspeople who voted to overturn the election). (See that full list of companies here.) So they’ve been acting pretty wimpy.

And, no doubt by now you have heard of the Jim Crow-esque voting suppression laws that were signed by Georgia Governor Kemp last week. In case you did not know, Coke is very proudly headquartered in Atlanta, as are a number of other high profile corporations.

Georgia activists, including black church leaders and elected officials have called for a Coca Cola boycott to encourage them to use their considerable weight in support of democracy (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coca-cola-boycott-georgia-voting-laws-jim-crow-brian-kemp/).

It’s an excellent idea. I apologize to those of you who are Coke drinkers, but it’s worth giving up to send a message; corporations listen most closely to things that impact their bottom line.

So let’s set a goal of not buying any Coke products – at least through April (or until they take stronger action in favor of voting rights). One month of significantly fewer sales should be enough to raise their eyebrows, no?

Make sure to tweet about it if you are on twitter; tag @cocacola and use the hashtag #BoycottCoke so others can see what you’re doing too.

And call Call Coca-Cola Company at 404-676-2121 and let them know you’re boycotting their products because of their refusal to stand up for democracy.

Thursday: Ask the House Ethics Committee to Remind Legislators It’s Against Rules to Threaten Corporations

Long headline, I know…

Last week I noted a new article that highlights some of the companies that restarted donations to the legislators who had voted to overturn the election (or to entities supporting those legislators). https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/545188-companies-sidestep-self-imposed-bans-on-gop-donations

But there’s another, more sinister, thing going on in Congress, and a Missouri Congressman is “leading the charge.” According to Popular Info, Blaine Lutkemeyer indicated in an internal meeting that he was going to create a “list” of his own: https://popular.info/p/the-enemies-list

Aides to some Republicans lawmakers say they are considering punishing the companies that halted PAC donations by banning their lobbyists from coming to their offices to advocate on legislation.

“The way these PACs have tried to so quickly distance themselves is going to have a lasting impact on our relationship with corporate America,” said one congressional aide who works for a lawmaker who voted to challenge the election.

In response, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a non-profit advocating for ethical government, sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee. The CLC called on the committee “to immediately address threats from congressional staff to condition official actions and access to elected officials on campaign contributions.” The CLC argued the conduct violated House Ethics rules, citing this passage from the House Ethics Manual:

Members and staff are not to take or withhold any official action on the basis of the campaign contributions or support of the involved individuals… Members and staff are likewise prohibited from threatening punitive action on the basis of such considerations…

The House Ethics Manual also advises members of Congress and staff “to avoid even the appearance that solicitations of campaign contributions are connected in any way with an action taken or to be taken in their official capacity.” 

That seems pretty cut and dried, doesn’t it? So it’s curious as to why there’s not yet a general statement from the House Ethics Committee reminding everyone that creating an enemies list of corporations that haven’t donated to your campaign IS NOT ETHICAL.

So let’s reach out to the House Ethics Committee and make sure they understand that we’re concerned about this series of events, shall we?

First, you can email the Ethics Committee at this email address, and provide your comment:

 ethics.comments@mail.house.gov

Here is what I sent them this morning:

“Good morning,
I’m writing with regard to various reports of threats from congressional staff and elected officials to condition their official actions and positions on campaign contributions. The threats are in response to promises by donors, particularly corporate PAC donors, to cease political contributions in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol.


As the Campaign Legal Center put it in a letter to you in February: “The House Ethics Manual clearly advises that ‘Members and staff are not to take or withhold any official action on the basis of the campaign contributions or support of the involved individuals . . . Members and staff are likewise prohibited from threatening punitive action on the basis of such considerations.’ The Committee ‘has long advised Members and staff that they should always exercise caution to avoid even the appearance that solicitations of campaign contributions are connected in any way with an action taken or to be taken in their official capacity.’ These congressional staffers are running afoul of House rules and ethics standards, and their actions implicate bribery, illegal gratuities, and other criminal laws.” (That CLC letter is available at https://campaignlegal.org/sites/default/files/2021-02/CLC%20Letter%20to%20House%20Ethics%20Committee_Feb.%203%202021%20%281%29.pdf)


As of this morning, I do not see a report or statement regarding this issue. I’d like to know where the Committee stands on enforcing these provisions in the Manual, and when the public can expect a report or statement. 
Thanks in advance, and have a lovely morning!”

Second, here is the membership list of the House Ethics Committee. If you are a constituent of any of these members, you should email and/or call them individually:

Democrats:

Chairman Theodore E. Deutch, Florida

Susan Wild, Pennsylvania

Dean Phillips, Minnesota

Veronica Escobar, Texas

Mondaire Jones, New York

Republicans:

Ranking Member Jackie Walorski, Indiana

Michael Guest, Mississippi

Dave Joyce, Ohio

John H. Rutherford, Florida

Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota

Friday: Thank Dell!

Let’s end the week on a high note!

There is an ongoing campaign by lobbyists and Congressional staff to pressure corporations to resume donating to Republican members that voted to overturn the election results. Fundraisers “have reached out to corporations, encouraging them to remove their restrictions and resume contributing,” CNBC reports. The effort includes “people and groups with ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.” 

Dell has publicly resisted these tactics, stating:

“We have no plans to revisit the decision to suspend contributions to members of Congress whose statements and activities during the post-election period weren’t in line with Dell Technologies’ principles,” a company spokesperson told CNBC. “Our employee-led PAC board meets regularly to discuss current events and to vote on key decisions like changes to PAC contributions. All PAC contributions are a matter of public record so you will be able to stay informed on any future updates.”

Let’s thank Dell and make sure they know how much we appreciate their consistency. You can call them at  800-289-3355.

Script: Hi! I just wanted to say how much I have appreciated Dell’s consistency in dealing with campaign donations after the deadly January 6th insurrection. I know that Dell temporarily paused its corporate PAC donations to the 147 traitors who voted to overturn our democracy, and saw that you are continuing to publicly resist the pressure that you’re under to resume. I just wanted you to know that matters a lot to me. It’s rare anymore to see a company acting so ethically, and I just wanted to take a second to thank you. I hope you’ll pass that along, and stay strong in the face of pressure. 

Tweet at: @Dell

You can report their response at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Drain The Traitors Project here, if you’d like.

DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE A ROCK STAR? I DID. SUPER PROUD OF YOU!

If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

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.

P.P.S.: 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. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s