Gradually, then all at once

In both Ukraine and in US there are existential fights for democracy going on. Both engendered by autocrats enamored of the Big Lie and no respect for the rule of law. ~Andrew Weissmann

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways.” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.” ~Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Over another long(ish) drive this weekend, I couldn’t help but admire the highway median sunflowers, nodding in the breeze.

It felt like a fitting flower for the moment.

As you’ve no doubt heard and seen, over the past week Ukraine initiated and executed a counteroffensive that has been massively successful. From reports and maps, it appears they have beaten Russian troops out of entire states (called “oblasts”) and in mere days have retaken territory that it took Russia months to secure.

It’s welcome news.

Around the world, we’ve been watching – and supporting – a democracy fighting for its existence against an autocratic despot. Putin – and because he is the singular head of the government, Russia itself by extension – represents a stinking, spreading rot. He is morally putrid. His troops have shown themselves to deserve their association with him.

That we have anyone in our country who is rooting for Putin is shocking to me. But, we do. And so here we are.

The fight that Ukraine is waging is just one part of a war that is happening across the globe, including here at home. It’s a fight between democracy and autocracy.

Between rule by the people and rule of the people.

It’s a war that we’ve been fighting in one way or the other throughout our history, I suppose.

But in the last few decades it’s been building, building, building. It came into more focus gradually, with just enough obscured that we could fool ourselves into believing it wasn’t happening. And then of course it arrived all at once, descending on a golden escalator.

We were taken by surprise. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been.

Likewise, the “lightning speed” of the Ukrainian counteroffensive wasn’t lightening at all, of course. It involved a lot of training, planning, preparation… which enabled the forces to take advantage of a bloated and self-assured opponent. Reports suggest that Russia knew that Ukraine was amassing forces in the north and east. It just failed to do anything about it.

Those forces built up gradually over a month’s time… and then unleashed all at once.

As it turns out, everything seems sudden if you’re not paying attention.

So from the emergence of pro-autocracy sentiment here at home to the successes of Ukraine abroad, we’ve seen this gradually-then-all-at-once scenario play out in real time again and again. My hope – my fervent hope – is that we’re starting to see it with Democrats’ chances in November.

For months now Democrats have been gradually building, building, building – a fact that has just recently gotten attention from the popular press. For those of us who are on the ground actually doing stuff and talking to people, Democrats’ rising excitement and enthusiasm isn’t surprising. What’s been surprising has been the failure of the political pundits to see what’s happening in real time.

Incremental gains are gains, after all. Improving polling numbers. Improving job numbers, Improving gas prices. Improving inflation numbers. Increased registrations. Bills passed, bills signed, infrastructure projects begun…

Building, building, building…

The weight of momentum increases with each win. The compounding effect of success is strong. Wins beget wins. Losses beget losses. Psychologically, the impact is significant – both for the winner and the loser. There’s a lesson there for political strategists, particularly in this time of information warfare.

After all, hope – like fear – is contagious.

And like a snowball rolling downhill, we are picking up mass and momentum with each revolution.

But if you look around, it’s as if nobody sees that huge snowball coming. Or maybe they see it coming, but don’t think it will make an impact. Sortof like those Russian generals who looked at the massing troops in the northeast and shrugged, believing those forces to be no big deal.

So as frustrating as it may be to be underestimated – I think it’s a monumental gift. Because right now nothing is certain … but everything is possible. That’s a really good place for us to be sitting for a few reasons.

First, as a party, Democrats have a tendency to sit things out when a result seems pre-ordained, or when we aren’t 100% on board with a candidate or cause. (See, for example, 2016.)

Second, it’s a bit shocking, but even with all of the momentum we’ve been building out in the open, we still have an element of surprise. We can still catch Republicans a bit on their back foot – because they’re just not expecting what I think can be unleashed in November.

I think we can have turnout that rivals 2018. I think mobilizing anyone with a uterus + Gen Z + the anti-MAGA contingent gives us a massive number of voters. I think turning out those voters leads to huge wins all over the map. And I think that’s all possible. Not certain. But absolutely possible.

You bet that looking at historical numbers and trends and traditions leads to dour predictions of our chances in November.

You can point me to a graph and a chart and a five point thesis that explains why we will lose, handily, in the midterms.

And I’ll smile.

And nod.

And continue building, building building.

And then arrive, all at once, on November 8.

And on that note. Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of September 13, 2022

National Voter Registration Day One Week From Today!

One week from today is National Voter Registration Day! If you often find yourself a bit hesitant about encouraging folks to register, or finding it hard to make voter registration a topic of conversation at your workplace – this is the perfect excuse. You’re just celebrating a holiday!

Go check out the resources that they’ve put together for you, and share with your network.

Defend Marriage for Everyone

File this under: “I can’t believe we have to do this, but we have to do this.”

In July, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which formally repeals the ridiculously-named “Defense of Marriage Act.” DOMA defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and deserves to go on the ash heap of history. Because the Supreme Court in Obergefell deemed DOMA unconstitutional, it’s no longer the law of the land.

But because the Supreme Court has gone off the rails, Democrats rightly want to ensure marriage rights – for everyone – are preserved. The Respect for Marriage Act does just that.

Of course in the Senate, it’s been like pulling teeth to get Republicans on board. Schumer has now said he will call a vote sometime in the next week, as Susan Collins (perennially “concerned”) tries to whip votes for the bill. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether there will be 10 Republicans who will support the bill.

That’s where you and I come in! If you have a Republican Senator, give them a call this week and tell them they need to support the bill and ensure marriage rights – for everyone – are protected.

Script: Hi, my name is ––– and I’m a constituent at –––. I’m calling to encourage the Senator to support the Respect for Marriage Act. We need to ensure marriage rights for everyone are protected. Thanks!

Wednesday 12:30pm Zoom: The Surge of Women Voting Post-Roe

Have you – like me – been reading EVERY SINGLE news article about women registering and voting in droves post-Dobbs? Then I’ve got an event for you.

On Wednesday at 12:30 (eastern), join NDN (more about them in the last action) for a timely political discussion with Democratic strategist and data guy Tom Bonier, who will be discussing his NYTimes op-ed, “Women Are So Fired Up To Vote, I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It.”

Tom has crunched the numbers and we are seeing a huge surge in women voting and registering in the days after Roe ended and the GOP enacted extremist abortion restrictions across the US.

In what is sure to be a lively session he will discuss what it all means for 2022 and beyond.  You can RSVP here

Tom Bonier is a Democratic political strategist and the C.E.O. of TargetSmart, a data and polling firm. He teaches political science at Howard University and is a member of S.E.I.U. Local 500.

Here’s that link again:

Wednesday 6:30pm: Attend “Block election disinformation” summit with Dan Pfeiffer:

Join Indivisible’s Truth Brigade and Crooked Media’s Dan Pfeiffer for their meeting: Block Election Disinformation on Wed., September 14th, 6:30 – 8:30 ET.

Disinformation poisons minds and prevents our society from moving forward to protect the people and the planet. Lies are spread to obtain unearned power — it’s as simple as that. Lies around voting and elections provide the path to that unearned power. Join Dan and Indivisible on September 14th to learn where we are most vulnerable, and how we can and must disrupt voting-related disinformation; leave this Summit inspired, clear-headed and focused on taking meaningful action.

Sounds like a great event!

RSVP Here:

Another Excellent Analysis By Simon Rosenberg

A few months ago, back when it was *super* unpopular to say that Democrats had momentum, I shared a presentation by Simon Rosenberg, founder of NDN. I highly recommend watching his newest iteration of that same presentation, where he describes the “newer, bluer, election.”

He also lays out why Democrats need to be more forceful when talking about what Democrats do for the economy. The presentation is worth watching for that part of it alone.

Check it out here:

You can also read his most recent analysis here:


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!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

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.

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