It’s action time around the GOP recall

Indivisible groups around California are taking action to get out the NO vote in the recall election, following polls showing a real risk of Newsom falling below the 50+% vote he needs  to stay in office.   Newsom has accomplished a lot as governor, and whatever his shortcomings, the alternatives on the GOP side are scary: a Trump-supported right-winger like Larry Elder could replace him with as little as 20% of the vote!  Your ballot and the ballot of everyone you know saying “NO” TO RECALL on question 1 will be critical.

Other Actions to Support Governor Newsom & Stop the Recall:

Part 1: Actions

Write postcards, send text messages, or phone bank with other Indivisible groups. Northridge Indivisible has a website with extensive resources and links to action centers at https://www.trnindivisible.org/noontherecall/.  Indivisible SF has voting information and links at their site: https://indivisiblesf.org/vote

Check in with the CA Democratic Party–CADEM for phone banking and canvassing opportunities. New actions are being added every day.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1utBAR291y6Iuv2Oz4DkGSWWjD0-32_qgEdDb80Z_K1Q/edit

Use your social media to show your support with these ready -made social media posts for Facebook and Twitter. bit.ly/norecallsocial

If you are a Spanish speaker or know someone that is a Spanish speaker you are in high demand!  Sign up here to textbank with Voto Latino!

Part 2: Voting Options:

Return your ballot by mail. It must be postmarked no later than September 14 and received no later than 7 days following Election Day. Complete the ballot using a blue or black pen. No postage is required. Sign and date the envelope. Make sure your group numbers (on the ballot and on the envelope) match. If they do not call 800-815-2666 select option 2.

Drop Box –  to locate a drop box closest to you, go to https://www.acgov.org/rovapps/maps/ballotdropbox_map.htm

Bring your ballot to an early polling location or vote early in person.

Vote in person on Election Day or turn your ballot in at your polling place.

Deadline for Democracy Rally July 7

On July 7 from 6 to 7 pm a large group of progressive Bay Area organizations will host a Deadline for Democracy Rally in Oakland at the Frank Ogawa Plaza in support of S-1, the For the People voting rights act.  The event is sponsored by Indivisible East Bay and Indivisible SF, in partnership with East Bay Activist Alliance, Indivisible Sonoma County, Indivisible Livermore, Rise Up To Action SF, and the Wellstone Democratic Club. 

Speakers at the include: Elisha Crader, Nor Cal Organizer from Working Families Party; Bruce Hartford, 1960s Field Organizer for  Dr. Martin Luther King in Alabama/Mississippi, webspinner for Civil Rights Movement Archive; Queen Jackson, grassroots leader with Community Change Action and MoveOn; Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Council Member-at-Large and Vice Mayo; Janani Ramachandran, social justice lawyer, artist/activist, running for CA State Assembly, and Aisha Wahab; Mayor Pro Tempore & City Council Member of Hayward.

The Oakland rally is part of a national Deadline For Democracy effort by Indivisible and 70+ other organizations during the July congressional recess to demand that lawmakers act urgently to defend democracy and pass the For the People Act by August. There should be significant media coverage.  You can sign up to attend at here.

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)

Supporting democracy reform: the West Virginia connection

Indivisible’s national organization has been working hard to support on-the-ground efforts by progressive groups in West Virginia and has passed along the following recommendation as to how groups in other states can be of help:

“As we continue this fight for a bold democracy reform agenda, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is playing a pivotal role in the advancement of life-changing legislation. We know that many of you are eager to get involved in the work in West Virginia. We’re happy to say that your fellow activists in West Virginia are hard at work organizing calls to action to convince their Senator to support these democracy reform bills, just like you are! We are focused on providing the resources that West Virginians need to do this work and we are putting an emphasis on West Virginians talking to their friends and neighbors. This is why for now, we are asking out-of-state groups to respect the process in West Virginia by not organizing any phone banks or postcard programs into West Virginia. The good news is, there are even more powerful ways to help West Virginians on the path to bold, progressive legislation! Instead, consider donating to the efforts on the ground. We are following a similar approach to the one we took in the highly successful Georgia Senate Runoff.

Rather than spending time and money on postcards, consider donating to one of these amazing organizations on the ground in West Virginia: 

When you donate directly to the work on the ground, your dollar goes even further than it would on a stamp. It goes right to talented activists taking on the task of shifting the progressive landscape for good.” 

Actions we can take after the failed insurrection

Indivisible groups around the state and nation are putting pressure on their Congressional representatives to act promptly to forestall additional damage to our democracy and national security from Trump and his followers. Scripts from national Indivisible for calls or emails are online here and here. If you prefer a shorter version, I’ve emailed this message to Diane Feinstein and Barbara Lee:

Trump is an immediate threat to American democracy and national security.  It is absolutely essential that you take a leadership role in getting him removed from office ASAP via the 25th amendment, impeachment, or any other constitutional means—before he pardons anyone else, incites any more violence, or does further damage.  Every hour Trump remains in office, he presents increased danger to democracy and safety.

Bruce

Donations that build for the future—the Movement Voter Project

As we look back on the achievements and shortcomings of our Indivisible Elmwood work over the past months, our support for the Movement Voter Project has represented something a bit different—a longer term investment in the future we’re hoping for.  The MVP approach is described on their web site here, and they’ve just produced a YouTube video that’s worth watching if you’d like to feel good about our political efforts this year.  And needless to say, the Movement Voter Project could put new donations to good use in Georgia and beyond!  B&B

Whither Indivisibles?

When “Defund the Police” became a progressive slogan and a priority for Indivisibles this spring, my inner alarm bells went off. Memories of Willie Horton reminded me of how easily right-wing media have exploited—for political gain—any apparent ‘softness’ towards criminals on the left.  I learned later that James Clyburn had the same reaction, fearing it could set back the vital work of Black Lives Matter despite national revulsion at the killing of George Floyd.  Yet when I raised my concerns in a CA state Indivisible call, the response was a lecture from a national Indivisible leader to the effect that I was ignorant or misguided—that ‘Defund the Police’ didn’t really mean what it said. Actually, I’d read the fine print and largely agreed with it, but felt that the slogan itself was an open invitation to GOP fear-mongering.

I was attracted to Indivisible in the first place out of a sense that it was not just another leftist movement, but an organization grounded in political reality, where the history of what’s been effective or ineffective in actual practice would inform actions going forward. As a long-time resident of Berkeley, I get it that progressive realists face pressure and shaming from the far left. I understand the liberal guilt and self-doubt that accompanies any hesitation to endorse a minority-led campaign—the temptation to prove bona fides and “wokeness” by endorsing any initiative launched by Black activists. But I’ve thought Indivisible was more pragmatic, more alert to how ill-chosen actions and slogans can hurt the causes they were designed to support. 

On Monday’s Indivisible NCN call, the issue came up again following leaked discussions of Democratic Party leaders in which Representative Abigail Spanberger warned of the damage ‘Defund the Police’ headlines have done to Democratic electoral prospects. Again, the reaction from Indivisible leaders was to argue that the problem was in the candidates’ messaging.  Somehow we should be able to make sure even the occasional voter has a nuanced understanding of a complex issue whose trumpeted slogan doesn’t mean what it says. When has that ever worked?

The Indivisible movement has to choose between two possible roles. It can be part of the ultra-progressive left, trying to shift the range (the ‘Overton window’) of what’s politically acceptable by pushing radical change.  Or it can work to elect majorities of reasonably progressive senators and representatives who can get critically important legislation passed and signed into law.  Both roles have value and can find adherents within the movement. But Indivisible may not be able to do both. Trying too hard for the former may doom the latter.

I hope we can have a discussion of this at a future meeting.

Bruce

Multiple resources for activism

Wednesday’s Indivisible CA statewide call was rich with ideas and opportunities for activism. Here are links for the call notes and chat box comments, which in turn provide links to key resources for national and state actions. 

At the state level, Nina Moussavi pointed out that seven of the State Strong priority bills are still awaiting signature by the Governor, and urged support for those bills at  leg.unit@gov.ca.gov. The  call notes have other links to state actions for TJ Cox, Christy Smith, and other key California races. In a discussion of upcoming propositions, various CA Indivisible groups provided links to published analyses of what’s at stake with each proposition. At the national level, Nina supplied extensive lists of actions and resources for the critical weeks ahead, all recorded in the chat box.

Actions for Friday Juneteenth and beyond

The national Indivisible organization has recommended the following actions for this Friday 6/19 and beyond:

  1. RSVP for a Juneteenth Day of Action event near you. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has created a centralized map for folks to register events and RSVP to them—there are several in Berkeley & Oakland Friday. If you’re looking for ways to take action from home, a good starting point is our resource for taking action in solidarity with Black lives — but we also encourage you to stay intentionally plugged in and aware of the demands and activities of Black-led organizing groups in your area.
  2. Call on your own local and state officials and tell them to defund your local police department and invest those funds in resources people need in Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color. Local governments must commit to cutting funding for the police and investing it in Black community-led education, health and safety programs (such as funding for schools and youth homelessness services, solutions to the opioid crisis, and non-police responders for crises such as mental health response teams and community violence prevention programs). There is a national crisis of violence against Black people that spans centuries. Now is the time for visionary and radical change that you can be a part of. Call on your own local and state officials and demand this long overdue change.
  3. Urge your elected officials to sign onto the No Cash from Cops campaign. This is a campaign led by our partners at Color of Change, urging elected officials to refuse to take any political donations from police unions or sheriff associations, and donate any contributions already taken to Black-led community strengthening initiatives.

A promising alternative to campaign donations

During the May 20 state Indivisible call, Aram Fischer hosted a presentation on the MVP, a national group funneling investment into social justice work and grass-roots democracy. It hit home with us.

It’s frustrating to live in a deep blue corner of a deep blue state and have few outlets for activism. We’re tired of sky-is-falling emails from campaigns warning that all will be lost without a midnight cash infusion.   We know that money sent to a campaign can evaporate in TV ads or consultant fees.  We’d like to see donations to a political group actually reach the grass roots and have a lasting impact. And we think there’s an alternative approach worth considering—the Movement Voter Project or MVP at https://movement.vote/

 The Movement Voter Project “works to strengthen progressive power at all levels of government by helping donors – big and small – support the best and most promising local community-based organizations in key states, with a focus on youth and communities of color.”

 “Sometimes very simple ideas are the most brilliant ones,” writes Arlene Avakian.  “The idea behind MVP is to connect the dots between grassroots activism and electoral politics. MVP does what no other group does. It seeks out, vets and supports progressive community-based organizations around the country, particularly in communities that are most affected by economic and racial injustice. Based in their communities, these groups know their neighbors, know the issues people care about. They are successful in engaging people to make real change in their communities year round. At election time they turn out votes up and down the ticket.”

MVP-supported local groups helped elect Maggie Hassan to the Senate in 2016, helped mobilize the voters to elect Doug Jones in 2017, and helped Virginia Democrats win state elections across the board in 2019.  In 2018, MVP directed $14 million to 354 groups in 42 states for mobilization and engagement. 100% of donations to MVP go to the grass roots, an investment in the critical infrastructure of democracy. This could be the key to the November election and many more to come.