Minutes from the June 20, 2021 meeting

Bruce Jackson approved, on our behalf, a letter sent by numerous progressive California organizations to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. You can find the text in his post below. The letter has gotten quite a bit of press, as seen in Bruce’s post.

Unfortunately, we continue to see stories that suggest Sen. Feinstein has memory issues. ACTION ITEM: It is worthwhile to FAX Feinstein and/or Padilla a short letter urging them to support voting rights including S.1 and the John Lewis Act.

There is an election this June 29, only in Assembly District 18 (parts of Oakland). This is a special election to fill the seat Rob Bonta vacated when he was appointed State Attorney General. You can sign up to be a poll worker here. Younger workers are especially useful. If they can’t work on June 29th, encourage them to sign up for the next election, which will be in November.

I talked for some time about the Manchin Kabuki Theater. Manchin’s Voting Rights Bill has been pared down to essentials that can be opposed only on totally dishonest grounds. (That isn’t so true of H.R.1/S.1.) Seeing how Republicans are still refusing to accept it is a learning experience. Which way he goes is hard to say; there are not any clues. Today, unfortunately, his partner in waffling, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, wrote a ridiculous pro-filibuster piece in the Washington Post (no link on purpose). As far as anyone can tell, there is literally no agenda she finds more important than approval from the Republican Party. If we can go +2 in the 2022 Senate elections, Sinema and Manchin lose all their leverage.

Sally and I talked about Bryan Osorio’s Zoom call. Osorio has declared for CA-21. He is young and earnest. (He also, surprisingly, does not speak good Spanish: his parents thought it was important for his future to use English at home.) Demographically, he may be a better fit than ex-Rep. TJ Cox. The district is extremely close. We will, of course, be working for whoever is the candidate. It will help if he develops some gravitas in the meantime. We will include Osorio in our fund-raising starting in a month.

Bill Marthinsen talked about the revised East Bay Activist Alliance Fellow program, who, unlike interns, will receive a stipend. The best way to do this is through the campaigns themselves, sending them checks marked for “EBAA Fellow”. The candidates, as in the last cycles, are Alex Askew [checks payable to Friends of Alex Askew] and Nancy Guy [Guy for Delegate]. To support the Fellows, send your checks to us and we will forward. (We will add Askew and Guy to our thermometer, but money donated directly at ActBlue will not count towards the Fellowships.)

ACTION ITEM:

Write a Giving Circle email. Here is an example, based on one from Jody Lerner.

Dear Friends and Family,

I am asking you to join me in supporting Alex Askew and Nancy Guy, Delegates in Virginia, who are up for re-election this year. Perhaps you’re tired of election stuff. I know I am. I hate to be a downer, but our democracy is in jeopardy, and that’s not hyperbole. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring the incessant attacks on our electoral process.

With gratitude for all you do, (Your name)

Indivisible East Bay meeting with Senator Padilla’s leg director Josh Esquival

At yesterday’s IE meeting I agreed to report back on the Indivisible East Bay (IEB)zoom meeting with Sen Padilla’s leg director that I attended today. IEB holds regular (often monthly) meetings with both CA Senators’ leg directors. Some of these are attended by reps from other Indivisible groups. In CA and nationally, many Indivisible chapters do the same, as well as holding regular meetings with Congressional Reps and with state legislative electeds and/or their staff. I have been attending many of these meetings over the past 3 years or so. Two remarkable IEB policy wonks prepare detailed memos with questions and pitches on current legislation that serve as the basis for these conversations. I have forwarded the memo from today’s meeting to Andy so that he can either post or forward it to anyone who would like to see a copy.

Today’s meeting started by emphasizing the For the People vote tomorrow. Josh reported that Sen Padilla personally, and the Democratic caucus generally, have been in intensive convo with Mancin throughout the week-end. As we know, we are not going to win this without modifying the filibuster graveyard. However, Mancin has moved to support a compromise version of For the People, and it appears that tomorrow there will be the “moral victory” of 50 Dem votes. Various strategies about how to proceed after that are being discussed. A bumpy road at best.

Today’s meeting also discussed a long list of domestic and foreign policy issues. The memo is below.

Progressives put pressure on Senator Feinstein over Democracy & the filibuster

On Monday, June 21, 2021 a group of over 100 progressive organizations, including Indivisible Elmwood, sent a open letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein.  It urges her to “publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger,” and support abolishing or reforming the 60-vote legislative filibuster in order to get the election legislation, known as the For the People Act, passed through the Senate.  The letter has drawn media attention: here’s a link to a Politico article. Text of our letter:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

We, the 101 undersigned advocacy, civic, environmental and labor groups in California representing over 288,000 of your constituents, ask that, in advance of this week’s procedural vote on the For the People Act, you publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger. We also ask that you publicly affirm that you will do everything in your power to help pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through all means possible, including, if necessary, through abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster.

While in the past you have expressed openness to these possibilities, on June 10th, you were quoted in Forbes as stating, “If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it,” but “I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.” Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, responded aptly to your statement by saying, “We live in a two-party system. One of the parties is anti-democratic. The other is not sure that’s a problem.”

We are dismayed that such a considered and thoughtful Senator as yourself could fail to perceive the danger of the current moment to our democracy and our country. Below is a partial list of clear indications that our democracy is in serious jeopardy:

  • The Big Lie of election fraud has led to:
    • At least 86 lawsuits being filed as part of a broad based attempt to overturn 2020 election results and increase funding and support for the Big Lie;
    • An unprecedented attack on our Capitol on January 6;
    • The introduction of at least 389 bills this year to restrict voting rights in 48 states
  • The passage of more than 20 laws this year that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Some of these new laws even allow partisan legislatures to overturn valid election results. Additional voter suppression laws are likely to be enacted soon since many legislatures are still in session; 
  • The belief held by 56% of Republicans, according to a May poll from Reuters/Ipsos, that the results of the 2020 election were the result of illegal voting or election rigging;
  • The rise of hate crimes to their highest record in a decade, according to the FBI; Further, hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose 164% between May 2020 and May 2021, according to a recent study by California State University-San Bernardino.
  • Our democracy is drifting toward authoritarianism:
    • Those with the most knowledge on the topic – historians, political scientists, former officials from both parties, and experts in tyranny – are all raising the alarm that our democracy is in serious danger;
    • Post-census gerrymandering alone could cement generation-long minority rule in multiple states and in both Congress and the Presidency.

We know remedies are available in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act of 2021. These critically important bills would restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and would protect our precariously fragile democracy from voter suppression and intimidation, extreme gerrymandering, and potentially even partisan nullification of the results of free and fair elections.

Since you co-sponsored both bills, we know that you fully understand the crucial nature of their respective provisions to the protection of our democracy.

These pro-democracy bills would require the Senate to amend an arcane rule called the filibuster since they run counter to the GOP’s stated anti-democratic interests and will surely not reach the 60 vote threshold. This rule, which is not written in the Constitution, exists to sabotage Senate proceedings, not to ensure democracy. The notion that it promotes bipartisanship only applies when both parties are vested in an outcome that benefits our country and its people. As uncomfortable as they may be to confront, the obstructionist and antidemocratic actions of the GOP make clear that democracy itself is subordinate to their desire to obtain and hold power.

Over the past seven months, scores of Indivisible chapters and other groups across California have brought this perilous situation to the attention of you and your staff via tens of thousands of phone calls, in dozens of meetings, in numerous op-eds, media briefings, protests, and postcards. We also sent you a letter on March 15 that was signed by 70 groups representing over 82 thousand of your constituents asking you to vote to end or reform the filibuster in order to pass the “For the People Act” and other critical legislation in the coming year.

We were gratified and reassured by your public statements in March and April indicating a new willingness on your part to change the filibuster should we see it being abused by the Republican side of the aisle, especially as it pertains to passing the For the People Act. However, your statements on June 10 contradict these earlier commitments.

Now that we have seen the obstruction of a bipartisan commission to examine the origins of the infamous attack on the Capitol and other bills supported by the majority of voters such as the Covid Relief Bill and Paycheck Fairness Act, the situation is clear. Our democracy is in jeopardy.

The hour is late. The risks posed by inaction and paralysis are irrefutable. Legislation must pass this summer if we are to counter the mortal threats to our foundational right to vote. We have discussed, informed, negotiated, and respectfully asked for action as your constituents. Now, in addition, we appeal to you as Americans who love our country and who believe in the promise of our democracy.

Senator, it is time for you to stand up for democracy – for yourself, for the citizens of California, and for the United States of America. Again, we ask that, in advance of this week’s procedural vote on the For the People Act, you publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger. We also ask that you publicly affirm that you will do everything in your power to help pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through all means possible, including, if necessary, through abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster.


Sincerely,

(Signed by Indivisible Elmwood and 100 other progressive organizations)

A Big Weekend This Weekend

Saturday 2-3 on Zoom, meet Brian Osorio, Mayor of Delano now running again Valadao in Congressional District 21

https://www.mobilize.us/osorioforcongress/event/396076/

Saturday 3-4 join Janice for the closing of her art show at the Moss Galley, next to the Elmwood Theater

Sunday 4-5 our next Indivisible Elmwood meeting at our house. Agenda: update on voting rights with next steps, update on the meeting with Osorio and update on Virginia and special update from Bill about the intern program in Virginia. Lots to discuss and some action items.

Minutes for June 6, 2021

Soon after we began, we had a virtual visit from Dr. Ben Moses, VA-HD-59. He is a very impressive candidate—ICU doctor and Army veteran—who can connect to his rural district over health care. He seems clear in understanding that he needs amazing turnout from the 2020 Biden voters to have a chance. Normally these odd-year elections have a big drop-off, for both sides.

Our ActBlue page is up for Ben, and Naomi and I will match up to $500 given over the next two weeks.

Our friends at EBAA are supporting Alex Askew (VA-HD-85) and Nancy Guy (VA-HD-83), both repeats from 2019. Bill, who was out of town, says that EBAA is raising $1800 (each) for an intern, now called a Fellow. We postponed making any commitment to these races, but we can reconsider. Biden won both of their districts, Guy’s with 56% and Askew’s with 55%, although Guy had much the closer 2019 race. Trump won Moses’ district: it is a much steeper hill to climb.

We have Virginia postcards. I am working on getting addresses from the Moses campaign; alternatively, you can write for other Virginia Delegate seats through Postcards4VA.

We also had a poor result in the Texas Special Election for mayor of McAllen. Not only did the Republicans win in a county that is 85% Hispanic, turnout was apparently 7%. That’s a level of disinterest we can’t overcome long distance. Let’s look for grassroots groups than can fix this. There are also two Congressional special elections in November for Ohio. OH-11 is a lock, the only question is the Democratic Primary. Bernie adviser Nina Turner is so much better than the alternatives she is also getting mainstream support. OH-15 is a tough district for us. Our candidate, Allison Russo, holds a Ph.D. in. public health, so getting support from STEM groups. If we lose by single digits, it would be a positive indicator for 2022.

Closer to home, we are looking at CA-21. A new, young Democrat is running: Bryan Osorio. We have received an invitation to a Zoom fundraiser, Saturday, June 19th at 2pm. There’s no sign defeated ex-Rep. TJ Cox is trying again, which is probably for the better. Osorio is a 2018 graduate of Cal, the son of Mexican immigrants, and first-generation college graduate.

The rest of the meeting discussed how to handle Joe Manchin’s thumbs-down on S.1., the “For the People Act”. The best way forward, Bruce suggested (I agree), is to rally Democrats behind the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which has no provisions that are controversial among Democrats, or among the general public. Manchin even wants a strong version restoring pre-clearance. (All the provisions are, I suppose, controversial among Republicans, as they involve allowing people to vote.) We will contact Feinstein’s and Padilla’s offices to suggest they get behind this plan. (We will keep it separate from our suggestions that Feinstein, who is senile, should retire.)

We suggest communicating by fax.
Windows users: You can create a “printer” that is actually a virtual fax machine. This is part of the Windows system itself.
Mac users: If you have a multifunction printer connected to a phone line, you will probably be able to fax from that. If not, this web site allows you to send five faxes (max three pages each) per day. I have used it successfully while traveling. Ignore all of the sign-up ads and offers for expensive fax services. Just use the free option.
As usual, tech support available from Yours Truly.

Agenda for our Working Meeting

Sunday June 6th 4:00-5:15 pm

We’ll get to work on our three goals:

  1. Helping protect our wins in Virginia and flipping the 59th District House seat.
  2. Pushing Senate Bill 1 and other forms of voter protection
  3. Flipping CA Congressional District 21 back to blue in 2022

4:00–4:15 Andy update on the Virginia races and request for Indivisible Elmwood to fund one Virginia intern

4:15–4:30 Zoom visit with Candidate Dr. Ben Moses

4:30–4:45 Update on how to support Senate Bill 1 and voter protection

4:45–5:00 Update on Ca Congressional District 21 Race

5:00–5:15 Reviews of actions to take until the next meeting

Roll up your sleeves and join us. Bring a friend.

NM–01 Special Election results

Given the Blue nature of the district I don’t think it is a reason to throw a party, but I can safely say Team Red (or is that Team Brown, the color of fascism?) can not be pleased with the New Mexico results. Democrat Melanie Stansbury is ahead by over 25, likely to outpace even the big wins Biden and now-Sec’y of the Interior Deb Haaland racked up in November.

Calendar

Next Indivisible Elmwood meeting: Sunday, June 6, 4:00 pm, at the Elmwood Resistance HQ. [UPDATE: Ben Moses (VA HD–59) will join us by Zoom, 4:15–4:30.]

Remember that on Friday, June 4, Ann Overton is collecting items you wish to donate to the EBAA Garage Sale. Email her for directions and to determine if your donation is an accepted item.

A new group, Central Valley Matters, is holding a Zoom fundraiser on Thursday, June 10th, at 5 PM. The recipients are Valley Voices (located in Kings County), Valley Forward (located in Fresno County), and the Dolores Huerta Foundation (located in Kern County). RSVP and more information here.

And right now: Postcards4VA has addresses for the Delegate races in Virginia. We will try to have some Virginia-specific postcards to give out; our Blue Wave cards aren’t quite apt.

Tony the Democrat also has postcard campaigns going.

In the NM-01 special election, as of Friday, early ballots from Democratic registrants were outpacing Team Red’s by over 2:1. The election is June 1. Democrat Melanie Stansbury has also outraised the Republican by over 2:1. I wish Democrats would stop trying to win elections by flooding the zone with expensive yet mediocre ads—and I especially wish they would stop asking us for donations to do it. [UPDATE: Separate post on result. Short version, Big Blue win.]