The forces attacking democracy are always there. The question is: will you resist fiercely? Or will you let them win? ~David Pepper
A few weeks ago, my friend David reposted a video of his that’s gotten a lot of (much deserved) attention.
In that short, two-minute video, he outlined how our country’s history proves it: anti-democratic forces are always there. (You can watch the video here.)
Take, for example, the immediate post-Civil War America, when Black men actively participated in democracy. Over 100,000 black registered voters lived in Louisiana alone.
Black Americans voted in huge numbers and held local offices, seats in state legislatures, and congressional seats.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opposition to their participation. There was – and it was strong. But the federal government (including the courts) was forceful in their support for democracy. With that strong federal response, the anti-democratic forces were held at bay.
But, over time, the strength of that federal support weakened. And the relentless, organized, constant effort from anti-democracy forces made ground.
Such that by 1910 the number of Black registered voters in Louisiana had gone from over 100,000 to 700. Not 70,000. Not 7,000.
With no robust federal protection of voting rights (and thus democracy in general) the progress and participation of Black Americans in American democracy was squelched in just a few years.
Democracy was in shambles. Jim Crow would reign for nearly a century.
That wasn’t inevitable.
It was allowed to happen. Courts refused to uphold voting rights. Congress similarly refused to stand up, instead prioritizing economic issues. And on the state and local level, Black Code laws were pushed to restrict voting due to “voter fraud.”
All of that should sound familiar.
David’s point, and it’s one I agree with, is that this history shows that the anti-democratic forces that we are seeing now are not new. They’re not foreign, either.
They’re as American as apple pie and baseball, and have been the constant downward pull on America since our founding.
America is a place – but it’s also the revolutionary idea that free people can determine their own leaders, their own laws, and their own fate.
And there will always be people who just don’t like that. Who seek power at the expense of others. Who know that what they want to accomplish can best be achieved by silencing their opposition, rigging the rules in their own favor, and keeping checks on their power weak and ineffective.
Those forces have always been, and will always be, a constant downward pull on America.
But, you might wonder, if that’s true, how is it that Jim Crow ended at all?
Well, it’s because of people like you. Because while the downward pressure of wanna-be authoritarians is constant…
You are the variable.
Progress is made – and only made – when the forces fighting to lift democracy up are stronger than those wanting to tamp it down.
When our pro-democracy forces are strong, vibrant, cohesive – our democracy flourishes. Civil rights expand, human rights are validated, voting rights are protected.
But when pro-democracy forces are splintered, or distracted, or weak, or afraid, or tired, or hesitant, or simply in disbelief of the looming threat…?
That’s when the anti-democratic forces – which are united behind their certainty that democracy will not serve their aims – beat them down.
All this to say…
I really don’t think you realize how much you matter. And I really do mean you, personally.
I know. (Long, heavy sigh.)
You’re almost certainly mentally, emotionally, and physically tired of hearing about the danger to democracy and about your need to be engaged to fight for it. Hearing someone say “you need to fight!” is not terribly novel nor motivating.
It’s most likely been used 50,000x in your email inbox by people who are looking for a $15 donation by midnight for their next manufactured fundraising deadline.
I get that. I feel it too, in both my heart and my overflowing inbox.
But we are at a precarious moment, when the downward pressure from anti-democratic forces is especially strong. And our pro-democracy movement – which includes you – is being called to task. Some folks aren’t taking it seriously enough. Others are tired – even more tired than you and I. Others are hesitant – in disbelief of what’s happening, and wanting to wait and see, and “trust the institutions,” and not be too rash.
But from our own history we know what happens next if we just “wait and see.”
After a century of waiting, civil rights heroes from the 1960s refused to “wait and see” any longer. They sat at lunch counters, registered voters (at great personal risk), organized communities, marched, engaged in sit ins, lobbied Congress and the White House…
If they hadn’t mobilized, do you think any of the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Era would have happened?
No. No, they wouldn’t have.
But they proved that if we are strong, united, and steadfast in demanding support for democracy – we can succeed.
And the best part is you already know what to do, and it doesn’t have to envelop your whole life.
You’re not being asked to sit at a lunch counter where people will yell at you. Or take a dangerous bus tour to register voters.
When you’re being asked to “fight” for democracy – you’re just being asked to call Congress.
To register voters in your own neighborhood.
To sign up for a phone bank, or to write 25 postcards. Maybe knock some doors, or put up a yard sign.
To reach out to your friends and family and make sure they know how important it is to vote. To bring two or ten others with you on election day. To call that new neighbor down the street and make sure they know how to register.
There are so many ways you can fight for democracy, and in your own personal way push back against the forces that – without your intervention – will drag us down.
The question isn’t whether our democracy needs fighting for. The question is whether you’re willing to fight.
I think you are. I hope I’m not wrong.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of July 19, 2022
Tech Privacy, Part 1: A Few simple Things You Can Do to Improve Yours
It’s a sad fact that with the truly Orwellian laws that are being considered in states that restrict abortion, you need to give more thought to how much information about you is readily available to authorities. Even if you’re not able to get pregnant yourself, if you help someone else you could be targeted in some of these states. I’m not trying to alarm you, but it’s worth thinking about how easy it would be for a prosecutor to get records that show you were at a certain location at a certain time.
The alarming truth is that big tech amasses a ton of information about you all the time. But there are a few things you can do right now on your phone to decrease the amount.
By disabling your mobile advertising ID, you can limit the ways companies can collate your data, location, search history and browsing history.
It will take you 30 seconds.
For iPhone users, go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking to see if there are any apps you previously allowed access to track. Switch the slider to “off” where it says “Allow Apps to Request to Track” so the button appears gray.
For Android users, go to Settings > Privacy > Ads > and tap “delete advertising ID.” An older version of Android may instead give the option to “Opt out of Ads Personalization.” Read more here.
**A separate note that Duck Duck Go (duckduckgo.com) is unlike Google in that it does not track your search history. From their FAQs:
Ever notice ads constantly following you around? That’s in part because Google tracks your searches and hides trackers on millions of websites. By contrast, our private search engine doesn’t track your searches and our DuckDuckGo browser extension and mobile app block Google’s (and many other companies’) trackers across the Internet, helping to keep your browsing history more private, as it should be. And that’s just the beginning — by using DuckDuckGo you also escape the manipulation of the filter bubble and can use the Internet faster (after all that tracking code is disabled).Learn more.
It’s a great search engine. And with Google and other Big Tech not immediately promising to protect your online information from prosecutors who want to fish around your browser history (see below) it’s worth trying out.
Tech Privacy, Part 2: Support the Health and Location Privacy Data Act
Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced the Health and Location Privacy Data Act, that would ban data brokers from selling health and location data.
Yes, we need this legislation.
Here’s a link to a one-pager about the legislation: https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Summary%20of%20Health%20and%20Location%20Data%20Protection%20Act.pdf
The current cosponsors are:
|Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR]*||06/15/2022|
|Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]*||06/15/2022|
|Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]*||06/15/2022|
|Sen. Sanders, Bernard [I-VT]*||06/15/2022|
|Sen. Shaheen, Jeanne [D-NH]||07/11/2022|
Now, this should be no-brainer legislation. That every single Democrat has not signed onto this bill shocks me, and it should shock you, too. So let’s hit the phones!
Winning With Democrats
Simon Rosenberg, founder of New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, has conducted a few zoom presentations entitled “With Democrats, Things Get Better.” I highly encourage you to watch it. It’s 25-ish minutes, but you can speed up the recording and watch in 1/2 the time.
The upshot: he’s put together wonderful data and slides that show – convincingly – that the country just does better when Democrats are in charge. More jobs are created, the deficit goes down, wealth goes up, unemployment goes down… It’s a great presentation, and I think it’s helpful to know these data points for your personal conversations with folks.
Simon has also done some great work showing how and why this election is going to be competitive – not a red wave. That presentation is also worth watching, if for nothing than your own personal motivation!
Here’s the link for the “With Democrats, Things Get Better.” https://www.ndn.org/WithDemocrats
And here’s their big new 2022 election analysis: https://www.ndn.org/11-polls-show-dems-2-point-lead
Tuesday @7:30 EST: Curious About What the New Gun Law Really Does?
The first gun violence prevention law in 30 years was just signed into law. What does the new legislation actually do? What more can be done to reduce gun violence in the US? What is preventing us from addressing this urgent national problem? Come get answers to these questions and learn what you can do.
Hear from Kris Brown, President of Brady, an organization dedicated to delivering life-saving change and comprehensive solutions to gun violence.
Wednesday @ 7:30-8pm EST: Join Red Wine and Blue for their Troublemaker Training
Are you ready to join a team of thousands of women who are turning out their friends and family to vote? Then it is time to become part of the Great Troublemaker Turnout! Talking to people in your networks about issues and elections is called relational organizing – and data has proven that it is the MOST effective thing you can do to turn out voters in 2022! RWB will provide you with all the training, tools and resources you need in this 30 minute training session.
Thursday: Tune In To The Next January 6th Hearing
I suppose it’s a good sign that “the next January 6th hearing date just dropped” is becoming a regular thing.
This Thursday’s 1/6 hearing is in prime time – 8pm eastern. One committee member has said that they will be “filling in the blanks” in this hearing. Frankly, the story they’ve laid out thus far is pretty clear, so it will be interesting to see what additional details they provide.
It’s the last of the hearings they anticipated/planned for, but they have emphasized that witnesses continue to come forward and evidence continues to come in. So, it sounds as if they may continue. That would be a good thing.
Join me on Thursday night for the hearing: https://january6th.house.gov/legislation/hearings/072122-select-committee-hearing
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.