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.]

Minutes from May 23, 2021

“Minutes”. Long time since I wrote that.

We started with a champagne celebration of being able to get back together again.

I continued with a discussion of the elections held since last November. Although Jon Ossoff raised more than any Senate candidate before, with Raphael Warnock in second place, credit really goes to Stacey Abrams and her ground game. We followed that with a collapse in the TX-06 Special Election. We were going to lose this in the runoff, but we didn’t even make it to the runoff, and the fault seems to lie with Democrats who don’t understand teamwork. I didn’t mention at the meeting, but another good example is the late Alcee Hastings, whose Blue seat will sit vacant until early 2021 through a combination of local Dems who don’t want to resign their current positions early and Hastings’ belief he had to run again in 2020 as an 84-year-old man with advanced pancreatic cancer.

We can redeem ourselves with a good performance in the NM-01 Special Election to replace Deb Haaland, now Secretary of the Interior. This is a Blue district and anything less than a double-digit victory will encourage Team Red. Despite the hysterical emails you receive, early voting, although disappointing in numbers, is excellent in party breakdown.

The focus of odd-year elections is again Virginia. Our old friends Nancy Guy and Alex Askew are running for re-election to the House of Delegates. Their districts seem to have become a little safer. Guy won by 41 votes last time, but Biden won by about 15 points. East Bay Activists Alliance, which has a picture Guy and Askew unlabeled[!] on their front page, will be phone- and text-banking for them again. I have volunteered for a big challenge: HD-59, where Dr. Ben Moses is taking on the Republican incumbent. Trump won this district by 20-plus. Besides having to peel away Trump voters, there is a Libertarian who might siphon conservatives unhappy with the Trump brand. I am going to ask Moses to Zoom into one of our upcoming meetings to give a pitch. Don’t give him your rent money. This is to lay the foundation for the Democratic Party in an area it has been invisible for decades. He is on track to get enough for that.

We also discussed what 2020 California loss we would like to help win back. Naomi and I have become partial to CA-21, where we canvassed for TJ Cox. (Districts may get renumbered in the decennial reapportionment.) There is already a promising D candidate, Bryan Osorio, currently Mayor of Deno. Not Deno nor Deləno. Osorio is a child of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college graduate: Berkeley 2018. Christy Smith doesn’t seem to know how to win her district, and Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy are in strong positions. Bruce and Babette Jackson think we should make a target of McCarthy anyway. Two Democrats are already in the race against him.

Judy Stacey explained that the bill to allow non-LEO sheriffs has been bottled up by Democrats. It was not a good Legislative session for progressives.

Bruce, sometimes known to phone-bank targets as Bruno, has his own post on democracy protection, Joe Manchin edition.

Ann Overton announced an EBAA garage sale to support the Movement Voter Project. The sale itself is not near Elmwood, but you can drop donations off with her on Friday, June 4. Email her first, because only specific items will be sold.

Non-political: Janice Weingrod has a show upcoming at the Moss Gallery, at 2980 College in Elmwood near the movie theatre. Hours are 12:00–4:00 pm, May 27 through June 19.

We discussed how we want Indivisible Elmwood to move forward. Everyone is happy to be meeting in person. Naomi and I would like some other people to host on occasion. This will give us a chance to grow by bringing in friends without asking them to go to strangers’ homes. There was support for this. We would like to be at 20 to 25 active members, realizing not all will attend meetings, but still be available for postcard and phone campaigns.

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.”