We all do better, when we all do better. ~Senator Paul Wellstone
We’re all on board with the idea that all people matter.
Same with the principle that all voters matter.
But too often, what that comes down to in practice is “all voters matter but especially all voters in certain swing states that determine the presidential election every four years.”
There are many problems with that. Most obviously because it’s completely immoral. Leaving people out to fend for themselves without strong national support simply because they don’t live within the right state boundary is, frankly, the opposite of what we stand for.
But it’s wrong for another reason.
Red states – many of which are truly scarlet states – are the training grounds and finishing schools for the autocrats that will eventually grace the halls of the national capitol, after their statehouse experience lends them an air of legitimacy.
I’ve called the red-state statehouses the GOP’s petri dishes, which is not far off from what David Pepper, former Ohio Democratic party chair and author of Laboratories of Autocracy, calls them. (As you can imagine, he calls them … Laboratories. Of Autocracy. Hence the book’s title and premise.).
I told you last week that I read the book – which I highly, whole-heartedly, recommend.
I recommend it for red-state readers, but even more so for blue-state readers.
Because for too long, blue-state folks have looked at the troubles plaguing red-state inhabitants and shrugged, under the mistaken belief that there’s nothing that can be done, and that red states – with lower populations and fewer electoral college votes – aren’t a priority.
Besides the moral issues with that belief (see above), there are many practical ones.
Because what’s happened in many of these red states is a wholesale attack on democracy. Think of the various bills and efforts you’ve seen generated in red states recently. There’s the hair-on-fire, blatantly unconstitutional SB8 from Texas, which prohibits abortions after six weeks and enlists everyday folks as bounty hunters to enforce it.
That law has been hailed by red-state Republicans, who are lining up to be the first in their state to introduce similar legislation.
Or look at Missouri, where the Governor shirked his responsibility during a pandemic, proclaiming it to be an issue for “local government.” Local governments in St. Louis and Kansas City stepped in to fill the void with mask orders, occupancy limits, and restrictions on in person dining – all of which were proven to save lives. No matter. The state legislature swooped in anyway and set restrictions on what local health departments can do. During a pandemic.
That kind of behavior is not new for Missouri – or for many other states. While fervently preaching about local control, these state legislatures strip back any local laws they don’t like – whether it’s increasing the minimum wage, issuing new common-sense gun reforms, or even (in Missouri) restricting what authority local health departments have over Concentrated Animal Farm Operations that pollute the air, land, and water.
I could go on.
Red states then borrow and build upon legislation they like from other states, bolstered by a sophisticated conservative messaging ecosystem and the absence of rural Democratic infrastructure to fight back.
Activists, candidates, and donors in these states are exhausted and resource-deprived, even while national funding pours into high profile races against bad guys (think Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mitch McConnell). Still, priority is not given to these red states that desperately need it.
We are simply not behaving like a party that understands what’s at stake. It’s not just the Democratic Party that is at a crisis point. It’s more serious than that. We’re talking about the state of our democracy.
And all of this comes to a head, right now.
Because we are in the throes of redistricting.
Right now we’re seeing red state supermajorities solidify their control over the states – and Congress – for the next ten years. They are expected to retake the House in 2021 simply due to the gains they are making in gerrymandering.
Missouri again offers a helpful example. Missouri is solidly red, but at least 40% of Missouri is Democratic. We’ve got eight Congressional seats; two traditionally Democratic seats in the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas whose populations are overwhelmingly Democratic, and six Republican or Republican-leaning seats throughout the rest of the state. So, the Democratic seats represent 25% of the congressional delegation – far less than the approximately ~40% of the state that actually votes for Democrats.
In other words, Missouri’s congressional delegation is already a misrepresentation of our state’s partisan lean.
But last week our Republican Secretary of State endorsed gerrymandering the state to a 7-1 map, claiming that because he won his election “by 25%” (which is actually wrong – 40% of the state voted against him, and he actually did better than Donald Trump), he believed a 7-1 map would better represent the people of Missouri.
That, of course, will take our Congressional delegation from 25% Democratic to just 12.5% Democratic – even though 41% of the state voted for Joe Biden.
Does that sound like democracy?
I don’t think so either.
Listen – Donald Trump was the most obvious, dramatic symptom that made it clear that our nation’s democratic health was abysmal. He’s like the broken hip that sends you to the hospital, where the doctor promptly tells you that you’ve got advanced osteoporosis. And until you address that underlying cause – which will take time and real effort – you’re going to keep breaking bones.
The democratic health of these red states – our red states – matters.
When we are disenfranchised, gerrymandered, and diluted, the impact is felt far beyond our state’s borders.
It’s why it’s so critical to pass the voting rights legislation we’ve been talking about for months now.
Right now, state legislatures are rigging maps and passing voting restrictions.
The clock is ticking.
There’s no time to waste.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of November 16, 2021
Pass the Freedom to Vote Act
Hopefully the essay above convinced you of the importance of passing voting rights legislation. So now it’s time to call your Senators and tell them how critical it is for the health of the country to get this done.
From Indivisible: The Freedom to Vote Act is a transformative democracy reform bill that builds on the For the People Act and brings us closer to passing critical voting rights and fair redistricting provisions this Congress, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the Voting Rights Act gutted by Chief John Roberts and the Supreme Court.
We cannot continue to let Republicans hold our democracy hostage. We must eliminate the filibuster to save our democracy. Call your Senators and let them know you want them to eliminate the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We don’t have time to waste.
Here, here! Let’s call our Senators and let them know that this is not a drill. We’re taking the threat to our democracy seriously, and they need to as well.
Script (H/T to Jessica Craven for a great script!): Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support the Freedom to Vote Act. The partisan gerrymandering, the attacks on our election officials, the dark money, the voter suppression…it’s genuinely scary. These bills are my top priority and they should be the Senator’s, too. [If Democrat add:] We know the Republicans won’t support this. They have shown by their actions that they are opposed to representative democracy. Democrats need to go it alone and get this done, or they will have missed the last best chance at saving it. Thanks.
Pass Build Back Better
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is an amazing accomplishment that we need to champion (more on that below). But now we need to turn our attention to the Build Back Better. We need to invest in ourselves again.
To put it mildly, there have been a lot of back-and-forths with this legislation. Again, Indivisible does a great job of describing the current situation: House conservatives Democrats committed to vote for the Build Back Better Agenda (BBB) after getting fiscal info from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office this week. For more on how this went down, you can read this message from our Co-Executive Director Leah Greenberg. BBB is how we’ll win much needed public investments across the economy, designed to support children and families, historic investments in climate action, make healthcare more affordable, and provide deportation protection and work permits for many immigrants, all while taking steps to make our tax code more fair for working families. …
On Friday, November 5th, the House passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) with most progressives voting in favor. The original agreement was to pass BIF at the same time as the full Build Back Better Act (BBB), but conservative Dems in the House refused. Progressives struck a deal to pass the BIF, and in return got a written commitment from those conservative Dems that they will vote for the full Build Back Better Act (BBB) by the week of November 15th once they receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). For more on how this went down, you can read this message from our Co-Executive Director Leah Greenberg. In short, this is a procedural delay from a handful of conservative Democrats, but they are now on the record saying they will support BBB – meaning there are no more excuses!
So here’s the action for this week:
- If your representative is one of the conservative Democrats who held their votes last week, (Reps. Ed Case (HI-01), Jared Golden (ME-02), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07)) hold them to their word and demand that they vote yes on the Build Back Better Act when it comes to the floor.
- If your representative is one of the Democrats working hard to get Build Back Better over the finish line, thank them and tell them to keep it up.
- If your representative is a Republican, remind them that the provisions in the Build Back Better Act are wildly popular across bipartisan lines — and that as a constituent, you demand that they vote yes.
Join Activate America and Spread Positive News With Postcards to Wisconsin
One of our jobs in the next few months is to spread the word on Democratic accomplishments. Activate America is writing to likely Democrats in Wisconsin to let them know Democrats delivered on their promises with the new Infrastructure and Jobs Act. Fun!!
Wisconsin is widely considered to be the most vulnerable state in the Democrats’ “blue wall” for presidential elections. Then-candidate Joe Biden narrowly won the state in 2020 after Donald Trump won in 2016. But Republican Senator Ron Johnson is increasingly out of touch with reality.
Many voters do not pay attention to their elected officials’ voting records. Join Activate America (formerly Flip the West) to write to Wisconsin voters and let them know how Johnson is voting against their interests.
Head over to their Mobilize event to sign up [CLICK HERE].
It’s Always Time to Register Voters
Well, it’s always time to register voters. But we have limited time between now and the midterms, and we need to hit the ground running.
This is a more involved action, I know. But for any of you who have a group that is looking to do something BIG and super impactful this year, this is one of the best ways to do it. One of the best places to register new voters is high schools, community colleges and universities. Young people just aren’t as aware of voter registration requirements, and may not even realize they’re eligible. So imagine the good you can do by going to local high schools, presenting to the senior civics class, and then helping register the kids who are eligible (this depends upon your state law – some states allow kids who will be 18 by the election to register in advance).
Headcount has created a great document that helps you think through what you need to do to put on a successful registration drive. (https://www.headcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Booklet_Final-1.pdf) Think about it – and again, if you’ve got a group that is looking to do something inspiring, and wants to get involved now, this is a great option!
P.S.: If you work in a high school, community college or university, work within your administration to make voter registration part of the student registration process. Those schools that do have sky-high voter participation, and that’s good for everyone!
WHEW! GO TEAM!
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.