We’re in the hands of the state legislature and God, but at the moment, the state legislature has more to say than God.” ~ Ed Koch (Mayor of NYC from 1978-89)
In the past month or so it’s become even more clear how anti-democratic forces have coalesced and have been working in plain sight to do in 2024 what they could not accomplish in 2020.
There’s a lot to discuss.
Pull up a chair.
We all – regardless of whether you have a uterus – lost when the Supreme Court handed down Dobbs and handed over power to state legislatures.
I want to talk about why that’s really bad. And while this is a wonkier post than most, I hope you’ll hang with me – and find it helpful.
State legislatures are often lauded by the federal judiciary, and in particular this Supreme Court, as being voices of “the people.” They are not. At least, not anymore.
After the 2010 REDMAP effort, when Republicans focused on and won state legislatures across the country, we’ve seen partisan gerrymandering on steroids. With surgical precision, Republicans crack and pack both state and congressional districts – all but guaranteeing the partisan outcome in all but a handful of contests.
The Supreme Court has refused to weigh in on these gerrymanders, even though they have led to states being ruled by a minority via a “manufactured majority.” When a majority of a state’s voters cast their vote for a Democrat for state legislature – but through gerrymandering Republicans get a majority of the state legislative districts– we’d not describe that as democracy in action. That’s not “the people” having their voice.
Problem is, these “manufactured majorities” are not uncommon. At least, not anymore. (See Mirian Siefter’s excellent Countermajoritarian Legislatures for more: https://columbialawreview.org/content/countermajoritarian-legislatures/)
And they happen to be in a number of battleground states that we need to secure the 2024 presidential election.
Some fo the “worst partisan gerrymanders,” according to the Schwarzenegger Institute, include Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. (http://schwarzeneggerinstitute.com/theworstpartisangerrymanders/)
Just check out this table from the Institute:
In Wisconsin, Republicans got 44.7% of the votes statewide… but 64.6% of the seats in the state house.
Now that’s some effective gerrymandering.
With that backdrop … Dobbs. In Alito’s Dobbs opinion, he claims that the Supreme Court is merely sending this decision back to state legislatures, where “the people” can make their voices known – and elect representatives accordingly. “The people” should have their say, not unelected judges. (Put a pin in that.)
This is gaslighting, at best – because anyone who has been paying attention understands that Republican state legislatures are wholly uninterested in doing anything that isn’t blessed by their base. And it’s their own gerrymandering that has caused this dilemma.
See, in their packed Republican districts a Republican victory in the general election is a foregone conclusion. So, only the primary matters. To win the primary, candidates court primary voters. And Republican primary voters tend to be the most extreme and radical of the bunch.
Hence, to court Republican primary voters you become the most extreme version of Republicanism.
Hence, our predicament.
Again, you could not and would not describe that system – where the majority’s view is not only unimportant to the representative, but actually politically toxic – as “democratic.”
And so, with all that relatively depressing background…
We heard last week that the Supreme Court will hear a case centered on what’s called the independent state legislature theory, or ISL.
Under ISL, the state legislature – and the state legislature alone – has the power over federal elections in its state, including presidential elections and the choosing of electors. Governors, secretaries of state – even the state constitution and the state supreme court have zero say.
It’s based on a (misguided and myopic) reading of the federal elections clause and the electors clause of the US Constitution.
Under this theory, it would be legal for a state legislature – that already represents a minority of the voters of that state – to change the way presidential electors are chosen and award its electoral votes to someone other than the winner of the popular vote.
That would be legal, under this theory.
And again, the state legislature’s actions would be unreviewable by state courts (who are often elected) – and instead reviewed by the federal judiciary (who are not elected).
And, of course, those cases will ultimately end up … at the Supreme Court. (See where I’m going here?)
So you can see how this theory is one that retired judge and conservative icon J. Michael Luttig called out as one of the primary paths Republicans will use to steal the 2024 election. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/27/opinions/gop-blueprint-to-steal-the-2024-election-luttig/index.html “Trump and the Republicans can only be stopped from stealing the 2024 election at this point if the Supreme Court rejects the independent state legislature doctrine (thus allowing state court enforcement of state constitutional limitations on legislatively enacted election rules and elector appointments)”).
If hyper-partisan minority-majority state legislatures are untethered from their constitutions, unreviewable by their state supreme court, untouchable by their executive counterparts, and only subject to checks from an “independent” (wink, wink) federal judiciary, then these states can act with complete impunity.
And the response from Alito and the Gang will be the same frustrating answer in Dobbs: vote in your (rigged, gerrymandered) state legislative elections.
[screams into the void]
And that is why we have to – have to have to – focus on state legislatures in this election cycle.
There are some opportunities to flip state legislative bodies, which is an especially critical goal leading up to 2024. Both Arizona and Michigan are essentially up for grabs and should be a (but not the only) focus of your state leg attention and volunteering efforts. I’ve given you some ideas on how to help Arizona in particular in the actions below.
But if we only focus our attention on those flippable races and those flippable legislative bodies, guess what?
We give everyone else a pass. Let’s not do that.
Focusing only on flippable state legislatures means we allow Republicans to focus solely on those very same flippable state legislatures. We need to diversify and divide their attention and resources, while giving Democrats across the country the support they need to fight in every district in every state and build that infrastructure we so desperately need.
(There are benefits to doing that beyond lifting electoral chances – Democrats need to see leaders fighting everywhere, which we will talk about next week. Promise.)
If you’re in a blue state or have connections to Ohio or Missouri, join our Blue Ohio community (www.blueohio.org) or It Starts Today Missouri – both of which are crowdfunding efforts for Democrats running in those states’ legislatures. If you’re in a red state, reach out to your local state rep or caucus and find out what they need (they have lots of needs!). Then send me an email and share those actions, so we can get them more help.
Last week, a friend forwarded an excellent tweet thread from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in which she passionately described the need for Dems to take action.
My favorite part was the end: “Chop chop!”
A chipper way to underscore the need for movement. Fast movement.
We don’t have much time, but we do have time.
We just need to get to work. Today.
So let’s get to it.
Actions for the Week of July 5, 2022
Northeast AZ Democrats phone banks to reach out to Navajo, Hopi and Apache voters
A while back I profiled the NE AZ Dems because I was so darn impressed with their creative and effective GOTV efforts. They swung AZ to Biden with their work. Their methods work.
So join the NE AZ Dems Thursdays and Saturdays (with the Bay Area Coalition) for their virtual phone bank to reach out to Navajo, Hopi, and Apache voters to unleash the power of Native votes on November 8th and beyond.
Each week they begin in a Zoom meeting, review the week’s script, and then make calls for two hours. You can stay on the Zoom if you’d like help (or company), or you can hop off to make calls on your own.
Why are these calls so important? Northeast Arizona tribal voters can defend Mark Kelly’s Senate seat (and the National Senate majority), and flip statewide offices – including the Governor – this fall! Help make sure Native Democrats have all the information they need to register for mail-in voting (AEVL), triple their votes, and support Democrats up and down the ballot this fall. The work you do now to empower Native voters will last beyond the next election, and build political power for Native communities.
Help the Northeast Arizona Native Democrats Reach Voters With Postcards
Near and dear to my heart is making sure Democrats don’t stop supporting communities after election cycles are over. Once again the NE AZ Dems are leading the way with their postcarding efforts – reaching native democratic voters to share what Dems are doing for them right now.
So if you are a postcarder, or would like to try, please sign up to get a list of 25 voter addresses and a script to help them reach voters. https://www.mobilize.us/aznativeorganizingcampaign/event/428361/
In 2022, their goal is to reach every Native Democratic voter on Navajo, Hopi, and White Mountain Apache lands in Northeast Arizona. With your help, they can empower Native voices in Arizona politic to defend Mark Kelly’s Senate seat; fight for a Democratic Representative in the newly redistricted CD 1; and defend or flip all statewide races, including the governorship.
This volunteer effort allows NE AZ Dems keep funds in the field and increase the number of organizers they can have on the ground. They now have four full time Native field organizers: you help make that possible with these cards to voters.
More from NE AZ Dems about why they write postcards to voters on Sovereign Lands in Northeast Arizona:
The tribal lands in Northeast Arizona stretch over a vast rural geography whose population is thinly spread. Most areas receive little to no cellular and Internet coverage. There are few major roads, and seasonal washouts and snowfall complicate driving. Given this geography, Native Democrats organizing their communities turned to large postcards campaigns to reach out to Navajo, Hopi, and White Mountain Apache voters across the region.
In 2020 volunteers for the Northeast Arizona Native Democrats sent over 18,000 postcards to voters on the Navajo, Hopi and White Mountain Apache Nations. That means volunteers sent postcards to EVERY Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) voter, explaining to them how to make sure their vote counted. Their work paid off. We had a 300% increase in mail in ballots in 2020 over 2016 and yet only a tiny increase in ballots that needed corrections. We know this project increased the number of votes counted on tribal land and extended Biden’s victory in Arizona.
In 2021, we sent almost 80,000 cards to keep our voters connected to what Democrats are doing in their community – every year, not just when there is an election. Your work has allowed to reach out to every registered Democrat on Tribal lands, while saving us the equivalent of an entire year’s salary for one of our Native organizers. Thank you!
Help Vets: Honoring Our Pact Act
There’s a critical bill that will help our military vets – HR 3967 – the Honoring our Pact Act. It passed the House and the Senate-but is back in the House for final vote.
It will improve health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic military burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would cost $180 billion over four years and would cover injuries suffered by service members exposed to toxic smoke from the burn pits, which has been linked to respiratory illnesses and rare cancers
This should be a lay-up. So today, call and tell your Congresswo/man to pass it. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senate-votes-advance-burn-pits-victims-bill-move-toward-final-vote-2022-06-15/
Look to see how your rep voted here: https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/202257
And look to see how your Senator voted here: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_votes/vote1172/vote_117_2_00227.htm
Register for Indivisible’s Summit:
This sounds like a great event – totally virtual, and you can go to as many (or as few) sessions as you want.
This is our time to strategize across our movement, and organize for the crucial midterm elections this November. Here’s some of what you can expect:
Day 1: We’ll dive deep into how we can use strategic messaging to make sure your peers, the press, and persuadable voters understand how extreme the mainstream Republican Party is today.
Day 2: We’ll hear directly from local group leaders who are organizing diverse and creative voter outreach initiatives in their communities.
Day 3: Recognizing the pandemic and political fatigue have made it harder for local groups to recruit and retain members, we’ll share best practices for recruiting strong members and getting them involved.
Please note that you do NOT need to attend the full event every evening. Our convention is open to all Indivisible activists, not just group leaders or steering committee members, so be sure to share this invitation with your group members who may be interested!
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 email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.