Tag Archives: activism

Avoid the Media Circus. Focus on Policy and Voting.

If Trump succumbs to COVID-19, his administration can still win the election. His ideas may still pervade and damage this country, impact and cost real people, real rights, real safety.

If Trump loses the election, it really won’t matter what the disease does or doesn’t do to him. It will matter that he lost, and we can start putting things back together again, start making real progress on reversing damages and protecting the future.

I don’t care if the announcement was timed or not. I don’t care if Trump’s on a drug cocktail that makes him loopy or not. I don’t care how serious his case is or isn’t.

All of those are plot developments, twists, and cliffhangers on the reality show he wants us to buy into, and the information we’re provided isn’t always reliable or consistent from one day to the next. I’m supposed to believe people who lie all the time that he’s on this or that drug, so I can conjecture that he’s doing this badly or that well, and then analyze how we feel, our response, how we think this month will go…based off of that? What a god damn waste of our time and energy.

None of those changes the real things that are before us that we can impact: the calls we make, the votes we re-enable, the civil rights we remind people are maintained by their votes. Trump can be severely ill for the rest of the month or flying through the air on a pony tomorrow; it should not change our work.

Resist the temptation to allow your feelings to exist in the circus of chaos they want to make of this. Like in everything else, the reality they present will change day by day, and so will our reactions. If they dictate the reality every day, then they dictate the reality the election takes place within. How are we supposed to win an election where the reality of what even matters…stops mattering?

Trump will be the picture of health and a miracle cure one day, on his last legs and needing prayer in the form of donations the next, refusing drugs because he prays it away one minute, then “surprisingly cogent” despite all the drugs a minute later. COVID will be like the common cold one minute, and then a terrible disease only a warrior like him could beat the next. Get too deep into that mountain of bullshit and you’ll be looking at the election, wondering where all that time went, and going, “Why am I so deep in all this shit and sputtering even more of it?” as they dictate the day’s message every morning.

This is an election about civil rights. Keep it about that. Remind people of that, of their role in keeping those rights. What’s the day’s message? Policy. Civil rights. Our message.

The message doesn’t change day by day if you wake up every day in the same reality, with the same set of provable truths, and the verifiable effort and impact you can make before you.

I don’t care what happens to Trump. I care that he loses this election, and that we do what we can together to ensure it. That’s it. There’s not a lot of drama to it. There aren’t constant updates about it. There’s just continuing step by step, keeping the work in front of us that we know makes a difference.

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Why Would We Give a Supreme Court Seat Away without a Fight?

I am not exhausted by Republicans. I am exhausted by our thinkpiece cowardice.

I am exhausted by the idea that instead of thinking we can beat Republicans head up, we twist ourselves in knots figuring out how to give away the current fight, like this Supreme Court seat, to win the next one. How many fights is that given up for the next one, a next one that turns out to be so much harder because we gave away the last? Republicans use that last fight as a building block, as foundations that we lack because we said we’d build them later.

Let’s just ram ourselves into their political process. Make them spend their political capital on us. You want to appoint a Supreme Court justice, then it will take you every ounce of political capital you’ve got left. Spend that shit on us. Fucking earn it. You want to act like the next fight will be easier if they waltz through this one, build political capital off it, change polls off an October victory? You call that political calculus, instead of the one thing that could risk this election more than anything else right now?

Gifting an October Victory

Winning this confirmation fight without a real political cost will let Trump and Congressional Republicans produce advantage and raise mountains of cash. It will let an administration that has been anything-but declare itself competent, and allow a Republican nominee who campaigns only on the idea of winning – who hasn’t produced a win for his party in a year-plus – turn around and refresh that image on the basis of a brand new, shiny victory, easily won because we thinkpieced ourselves into deciding that tarnishing it wasn’t worth it.

Can we please take a fight head-up for once? Since 2016, we more often argue ourselves out of the next fight, and why we should give up on it for the one after – I am so sick and tired of reading people’s god damn think pieces on why we should let Republicans win every other battle.

What fucking resistance so often talked themselves into the notion of, “Yeah, let’s not resist so often, you guys. They’ll win it anyway, so why make it hard for them?” The fuck is that? Do you realize how much that erases the effort that activists have put into everything else – how much it allows Republicans to drag norms rightward in those moments when we pretend as if the fight doesn’t effect those norms?

Then we have the gall to act like we’re bad at fighting these battles when we never fucking bothered in the first place. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of, “Well, we’ll lose this battle anyway cause we’re not good at them, so let’s not focus on it,” which only gives you more evidence that you’re bad the next time you want to justify not bothering.

We’re going to have the fight over this nomination. Senators and the Democratic Party are going to take up this fight. If the rest of us pass it up, they won’t have the foundation on which to press it.

But Our Resources!

The notion that we don’t have the resources to spend is nonsense. We have more people. We have significantly outraised Republicans on nearly every front. We are the stronger.

What happens when we do take on these impossible fights we convince ourselves we’re destined to lose? What happens when we convince ourselves that Mitch McConnell is secretly baiting us into the fight as if he can magically predict its outcome and what we think he thinks we think is assured?

Trump and McConnell wanted to have a fight over the 2017 ACA repeal – we handed them their asses. They wanted that fight for years, were champing at the bit for it, had years to plan how to enact repeal at their perfect moment, and we put that repeal the fuck to bed. That was a fight they wanted, and we shut it down cause we didn’t ask, “Should we be having this fight?” We just fucking fought.

They tried to escalate into a war with Iran earlier this year. They wanted a scalable war they could half-fight so they could obsess the media over it and argue it would damage a war effort to support anyone but Trump. They had been trying to maneuver into justifying a war for years. And we shut it down in a week. We didn’t argue whether we should fight that fight, we just told them, “Fuck this”. We just fought.

We have more people than them; we have outraised them; we have more support than them; we have better polling than them; we finally have them backed into more of a political corner than ever before; and now we want to ask whether we should press the fight or not – when failing to do so relents and give them a Supreme Court seat?

We imagine that Republicans will somehow magically outspend us despite lacking the resources to do so. That’s because we’ve sold ourselves on the narrative they always will. It does not reflect the reality before us.

The notion that we have to save it up is nonsense. If we don’t spend it in the next month, what we’ve saved will be significantly devalued under a second Trump term that rips apart election integrity. There’s a month left. What are we saving it for?

An Open Seat will Turn Out Republicans?

Oh, but Republicans will use an open seat to campaign? Yeah, and they’ll use a successful Supreme Court appointment to campaign, too. They’ll use people’s willingness to normalize that appointment to campaign. They’ll use Trump coming fresh off a win to campaign. They’ll use that win to convince a base that’s partially abandoned Trump to come back home. They’ll use that win to revitalize voters who rarely came out but chose Trump in 2016 to come out once more. At the very least, that win must come with great difficulty, and it must have every asterisk we can pin to it in plain view.

You want to argue that not having this fight is politically smart, and instead hand them a massive, uncontested political win right before the election? That’s what we’re calling political savvy now?

This is the most important part: even if we lose, that fight itself anchors norms that people will vote on in the election. People aren’t voting on whether they think Trump is guilty – everyone already knows that and has decided whether they’ll care in their vote. We fear Republican turnout when a Supreme Court confirmation is on the line, as if the same doesn’t hold true for us – even as we trumpet how many small donations were made in the wake of Justice Ginsburg’s death. You marvel and treasure at the mobilization in her name, for her seat, and then you forget that mobilization holds true for voting as well, acting like it only somehow magically turns out Republicans.

What people are voting on is whether we can ensure they hold to civil rights norms enough that they still hold them sufficiently valuable in the voting booth to make the right decision. And you’re looking at a fight over civil rights norms taking place 5 weeks before the election, and arguing maybe we shouldn’t participate in it?

I have no words for that level of abdicating our responsibility, for evidencing to voters that level of wild inconsistency on the norms we need them to be consistent about come November. What a horrific example we set if we don’t pick this fight up. What a fucking fire sale of our norms that is. What a fugue state of looking at the finish line and going I’ll take the second and third step, sure, but not the next one, and imagining that somehow makes us finish.

I’m tired of fights over civil rights being turned into anything-but, and then witnessing our utter shock when elections decided on civil rights norms don’t go our way. If we’re telling voters to vote as if civil rights are on the line, yet we fail to clarify how this puts civil rights on the line or even fight to defend them…what cue do voters take when they don’t even see us taking that fight seriously, insisting to them that they should?

If you’re working in another lane, on election work, calling, fundraising, textbanking, or anything like that, keep it up. That is valuable. We can’t relent on that. That adds to the pressure on this front.

Yet if you’re figuring out what to do next, this needs to be on your plate. This adds to the pressure on the election fight. They’re not separate fights; they’re the exact same one.

Let’s not one more time thinkpiece our way out of lifting a finger for a fight that needs to be had.

Why are We Shocked Mitt Romney is Still Mitt Romney?

Sen. Mitt Romney just agreed to push forward a Supreme Court nominee from Donald Trump in the last days before a presidential election. Keep in mind that earlier this very year – just seven months ago – Romney voted to convict Trump on an article of impeachment relating to Abuse of Power.

Said Romney about this vote, “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’ Yes, he did.”

Somehow, Romney can vote that Trump should be removed from the presidency, yet at the same time insist Trump should be able to put forth a Supreme Court nominee as president.


Let’s go over a brief selection of the heroes who would save the day so we didn’t have to:

  • Hamilton electors in 2016 would buck the Electoral College in an unprecedented move.
  • Jill Stein’s recount would save the election instead of simply giving us access to more information.
  • Obama’s press conference toward the end of his presidency would change everything when there’s no possible way a press conference can undo an election.
  • The Steele Dossier would topple Trump.
  • John McCain would lead the charge despite being a moral Slip ‘N Slide throughout his career.
  • Lindsey Graham would help him do this instead of becoming Trump’s bestest golf buddy ever.
  • Susan Collins would stand up for what’s right instead of doing whatever kept her from facing a primary challenger.
  • Jeff Flake would fight for more than two seconds instead of enjoying his half-retirement.
  • Bob Corker would become reliable when allowing Trump to gut regulations was helping him make millions.
  • Bob Mueller would embarrass Republicans with a dramatic show of anger instead of simply fulfilling his role as an investigator.
  • Mitt Romney would be the voice of moderation instead of folding like a lawn chair the very same way he has throughout his entire career.

Again and again, we find ourselves shocked that our hero of the moment doesn’t fix everything. Why? Because they surprise us by continuing to be exactly who they’ve always been, instead of having an inexplicable third act character reversal. We volunteer to excuse ourselves from the process in the hope that one of our heroes, or a “moderate” Republican, or a senator who’s retiring and has one good speech, will fix everything despite having failed to after countless chances.

There are useful efforts that have been productive in this list, but we too often consider those efforts complete jobs from people we assume will take a next step they never said they would take. Viewing them that way, or waiting and hoping for that person to take that next step delays us from using the step they’ve already taken as a foundation to build from.

The people we make heroes of will – at the very best – do their jobs well. That’s it. At their worst, their stances are marketing points that have been copied 50 times over and mean nothing.

If they do their jobs well, it’s up to us as an activist coalition to take full advantage of it. If they’re just ambulatory blogvertising with a smile toggle like Romney, it’s up to us as an activist coalition to mitigate the damage and turn it around as much as possible.

The power to change what is happening still rests with us. Every time we’re disappointed a hero didn’t save us, we’re just disappointed with the inconvenience and reminder that we’ve got to do that work instead. And you know what? It is a shitty inconvenience. It sucks, but complicity is bred from the dangerous idea that someone else will do the work, so we can justify excusing ourselves from it.

I get it. It’s fucking hard. We shouldn’t have to do this, but we talk about how this is a marathon. A general election is coming up. Trump can be replaced. The final stage of any run, even marathons, is where you push yourself hardest – it’s when you’re most exhausted and it’s easiest to give up and coast. It’s when you’ve got to sprint out that last stretch after your energy’s already expended, after it’s been gone for some time. There are either two choices – you do it, or you let someone else win.

The worst results won’t come if we’re disappointed by people in power. The worst results that can happen come if we end up disappointing ourselves. We still control whatever process we get enough people to make noise over, and that volume influences public opinion that shifts even more voices to our side.

On the Usefulness of Anger During Social Distancing

There’s a real temptation during social distancing to cut out negative emotions. What happens when so much around us deserve these “negative” emotions, though? What happens when abuses by the Trump Administration deserve your anger, but you’ve taught yourself not to be angry? Anger is useful, and it can be positive. Understand first that I’m talking about this as an activist, and someone who’s worked in politics. I’m not a psychiatrist, and this doesn’t engage anger problems. It is worth it to engage the everyday, earned anger that should not be chased out or numbed away during this time.

Anger and Politics

People can’t go about engaging in politics with only part of themselves. They can’t have their hearts break at something and then turn around and always try to rationally engage political offices that are gaslighting them. Anger is useful for communicating that such offices need to cut the shit. It’s useful for communicating: we both know what you’re doing, so I’m going to move past that and you’re going to listen to me.

Like anything else, anger can be taken to places where it’s counterproductive or useless, and it can’t be the sole contributing emotion for actions or community. It can be taken advantage of and gaslit in its own ways, just like any other emotion. Yet I deeply believe that many people can’t just operate on hope alone. Some days you communicate through hope, some through sadness, some through anger.

Some of the “positive” productive feelings get worn thin. Some days you just need to continue angry, and those angry feelings need to fuel you. There are still rules to that, so that you can be angry in a productive way, and so that you can protect yourself.

Emotions are fuels that we can harness to continue actions. Those fuels run out. Anger’s very useful as a bridge – maybe not the main emotion we operate out of, but certainly one that can reliably serve in a pinch to get actions done when the other emotions tire out. It’s not a replacement for self-care. Neither is it a solution for people who can’t handle their anger. Even people who can will begin to lose their grip on keeping it productive when they burn out. So it’s not for everyone, but if you can be productive out of it and you do the work to know when you’re hitting a point of diminishing returns with it, and you’re responsible about self-care and responsibility to others in relation to it, it’s fine. Anger comes with responsibility, but if you take care with that responsibility, it’s like any other emotion.

I’ve never thought we should chase our anger out. I don’t want to know how not to be angry because I genuinely fear not being angry. I fear the disillusion of comfort or the introduction of numbness. Self-care, taking breaks from it, processing in healthy ways – those are all things I believe in. But I don’t want to know how not to be angry. We should be angry. Not being angry is a privilege. I want to know how to use my anger effectively in activism. I want to create action out of my anger, out of my sadness, out of every emotion.

Social Distancing with Anger

I still feel heartbroken or exhausted sometimes. The Trump Administration is wearying. But I don’t feel powerless. Anger is only unhealthy if you use it in a toxic or harmful way. It can be a coping mechanism. It can help you still feel everything else, instead of going numb to it. It can help give you energy and motivate you to still take actions – big activist actions that create change, and modest actions that rely on thousands each contributing their voice to turn a tide.

Some of you may want your anger at everything that’s happening to go away. And that may be the right thing for a time; I can’t speak for everyone and especially not for those who have lost someone. But I see many asking how they can make their anger go away. There’s a temptation toward numbness during social distancing. We don’t want to be cooped up with negative emotions.

I know for myself, there are only two ways I can make it go away. I can harness it in a productive way so that I’m doing something to change the things that make me angry, or I can dive into a disillusioned fugue of numbness and isolation – which wouldn’t change anything and would simply transpose the anger into a resentment that loses perspective.

Maybe for some the anger’s overwhelming or debilitating. Maybe for others it’s toxic or harmful. Not everyone processes or finds motivation the same way, and that’s OK. They’re strong in other ways and may process emotions in ways in which I’m less practiced. For many who know how to harness your anger into action, for whom this is a coping mechanism or a motivation, for whom taking healthy actions from it helps you process it, who need to do something just to be able to start processing, that’s all legitimate.

Strive Toward Consistent Action

You might see something this administration is doing in the current crisis that makes you angry. Then you go about the rest of your day angry, but not knowing what to do with it. What can you possibly do to change this moment? Did you call about it? Call about it. Senators, representatives, governors, state legislators, whoever needs to hear you being angry about it. Still angry? Ask a friend to call about it, too. Call again tomorrow. Set up a time every day where you both call and then talk about how the calls went, and help each other process that anger through action.

There’s no purpose to getting angry about this stuff if you then fail to do something about it. And you can’t avoid getting angry, because this administration, its corruption and abuses, it all deserves your anger. Who would you be if you didn’t get angry at mistreatment and abuse? You’re going to get angry about it, which is legitimate. So take action with that anger to make sure that it’s heard, and to make sure that it goes toward changing something, that it goes toward someone you know helping you to make that change, doubling your voice.

Where you see abuse and mistreatment, get in its way. Put a wrench in its works. You don’t have enough wrenches? That’s not a reason to do nothing; that’s a reason to get your friends to call and throw their wrenches in. Still not enough? Then you keep going, cause this administration isn’t going to stop doing things that make you angry, and you’re right to fear the person you’d be if you failed to get angry – I fear that person in me. So I keep on getting in their way, keep on asking for help from my friends to get in this administration’s way. Even when we’re cooped up, we can still pick up the phone every day.

Sometimes things change quickly, sometimes they change so gradually, slowed bit by bit, gummed up over time until they reverse course, that it’s hard to tell if we’ve made a difference. It does make a difference, so long as your community keeps at it. Don’t measure it by days. Measure it by your norms – by still getting angry at the things that used to make you angry, by still taking action instead of growing numb to it, by still asking what helps people today, by still making sure others are joining your actions. This administration can move policies and shift norms, but if they can’t move people away from those policies and norms then they can’t do so for long. They can’t sustain it. Make sure you can sustain it, and make sure you do sustain it.

This administration can’t meet all our communities fighting them on so many fronts, and that means all our communities need to stay fighting this on every front. If they can’t move you off your anger at their abuse, they can’t normalize their abuse. Keep on going. Don’t measure it by how things look – they can make the situation look like anything in a given moment. Measure it by the fact that you still keep on going, that your community still keeps on going, that you keep on getting angry, calling, fighting, helping people. That’s what they want you to lose sight of, so make sure you carry it with you every day.

Anger Isn’t Impolite if It’s Earned

I’ve worked as a legislative aide. Those offices need to hear from people coming from multiple perspectives and emotions. If you pick up the phone and you hear everyone with the same script, same wording, etc., you go numb to it, you don’t really take it as seriously. If people are calling you with hope that you’ll listen, sadness that you haven’t, anger that you aren’t, you’ve got to start to pay more attention. You can’t just have the same reaction – in terms of words or your own emotions – as an aide anymore. You have to pay attention and engage actively, even with voicemails. Anger is dangerous because it can quickly make someone else defensive and opposed. There are more effective ways to use it, and I do think it needs to hit policy and specifics really fast off the bat to be useful in political communication.

From a more organizational perspective, anger is a quick way to galvanize into action. It needs substance backing it up, though. It needs direction and education as to why that direction is useful in some way, or else all you’re doing is getting people riled up and then failing to direct that emotion toward a useful action. Anger pretty explicitly requires knowledge and education on a topic to be useful. It should always serve something and get to a point, rather than have the action or the policy point serve it.

Some people think there’s some sort of ethic to political communication that requires we set certain emotions aside. I don’t see a use in that. Any emotion – positive or negative – can be abused, taken advantage of, and misdirected. Any emotion can be used to replace information and de-prioritize fact. Cutting out only the “negative” or impolite ones means that we’re really teaching ourselves to police part of our reaction on behalf of someone else and normalize the idea of numbing those feelings even in the face of policy that deserves those feelings.

Anger in politics is useless when someone can’t make it serve a point that helps someone – when it gets out of control. Yet I’ve encountered plenty of people who have hope that something will get done, and so don’t take the actions to do it themselves – when that gets out of control. Same with sadness, happiness, any emotion that’s prioritized over taking useful, helpful actions.

Anger is just an emotion that we can more readily recognize when it’s out of control. We don’t mind out of control hope that debilitates someone into inaction and causes help to be denied because we believe that hope is good, anger is bad. Either can be useful, either can be useless. Different people know how to harness and modulate each responsibly because they’ve done the work on different parts of themselves, and what politics needs is for people to become better aware of which in them serves them doing the work that changes things and taking the actions that help people.

Negative” and “Positive” are What You Do With Them

Anger can be a clarifier. I don’t always like writing that way, and certainly I’ve written my share of hopeful, reassuring things – I couldn’t write criticism angry; I have to write that out of a place of hope. But anger connects and translates, too – any emotion someone’s done the work to understand better in themselves is useful for translating, clarifying, motivating, communicating, the whole bit.

Whatever emotion it is can’t be the end goal, though. It always needs to serve communicating or acting on policy or an action that helps someone. That’s the rule, I think, for any emotional communication in politics, regardless of the emotion. The goal shouldn’t be to justify anger, it should be to use the anger to communicate a policy that will help someone, or to stop an abuse that’s harming someone. The goal shouldn’t be to justify hope either, it should be to use that hope to communicate policy or stop abuse. In politics and activism, our emotions keep us going, but if the goal is to elicit a specific emotion in ourselves, then the approach is self-serving. Being cooped up, I get it. We want to chase what’s “negative” out. Yet if what’s negative is earned, it’s legitimate. It needs to be heard.

Whatever emotion helps get you to take actions in a consistent and responsible way that stops harm and enables help – those are the right emotions. Chasing them out won’t do anything but numb you to the things that deserve your anger. Who would you be then? As I said, I fear that person in me. Take responsible, helpful actions instead. Anger is only negative if you use it for harm. And that includes harming yourself with it by carving out chunks of your emotional whole. Hope and happiness can be negative if you use them for harm or to ignore harm, too.

Action is a form of processing emotions. Use those emotions to take actions that help people, and you’ve turned them positive. That’s it. No feeling is inherently negative or positive. The actions that arise from them are. You can’t decide your feelings, but your actions? Those you can decide, and they can help people. Decide them.

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Will Coronavirus Impact Our Perception of Trump?

Some are saying Trump will be remembered for the deaths that result from his bumbling on coronavirus, that this is finally him crossing a line he can’t come back from. How many are still remembering him, how many can still find that line for the kids in cages, the escalation in hate crimes, the erosion of rights that protect women from violence, the other things he’s caused that kill, the other abominations we insisted he’d be remembered by, that he’d be collapsed by, the travesties we set aside to remember the next one, like Matryoshka dolls of memories each hidden inside one more hideous than the last.

I can’t help but think of Ronald Reagan, of the hundreds of thousands who died because he ignored the 1980s AIDS crisis and vilified its victims. He’s largely remembered as an icon, an emblem of the country, a hero.

I remember even the wildly progressive telling me to wait and respect John McCain passing away, that it was inappropriate to talk about Navajo and Hopi water rights, his support for SB 1070 and profiling of Hispanics, that his passing away should earn him days of forgetting so many of the rights and lives he had a hand in ending.

Witness how many now normalize George W. Bush, and his endless wars, the erosion of FEMA and disaster response capabilities, the militarization of the police, militarization of Border Patrol, the erosion of Constitutional protections that created the foundation for so much of what Trump now takes advantage of. Because George W. Bush paints and likes candy and gets along with Michelle Obama. That’s it. That’s all it takes.

We are a country of forgetting. It is a national addiction. To remember anything with accuracy, that has to be changed first. People will remember if we do, and if we give them no other choice, if it becomes utterly unacceptable to treat this differently in this moment. The universe won’t magically remember Trump for any of these things for us. We need to do the work to define it as wrong now, to oppose it now, and to mitigate the damage now.

No one will do it for us. The worse this gets, the more it serves a man who revels and exploits chaos and shock. Memory won’t make up for it, won’t create some balance in the end. Memory fades and twists, and it is not a trade for lives that can be saved. Actions survive and give rise to more actions.

Figure out what you are going to do, who among your elected officials you’ll call, and what exact expectations you will communicate to them. Don’t count on someone else’s memories of how this moment took place when you are in this moment and can make it take place the way you want it to.

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After Trump’s “Acquittal” — What Do You Do?

Donald Trump was “acquitted” Wednesday on the two counts the House had passed to the Senate. Every Republican except Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Mitt Romney had voted against hearing witnesses in the trial, breaking hundreds of years of precedent. Every Republican except Romney voted to acquit Trump on the count of Abuse of Power. Every Republican including Romney voted to acquit Trump on Obstruction of Congress.

To cover up so many witnesses is unthinkable. Is democracy broken? To hear many, it’s a death blow that democracy can never recover from. To hear many, the fight is all but over.

This is only a death blow to democracy if you allow it to be. Months back, we were wondering if we could even get an impeachment process off the ground. We were trying to pressure Democrats to instigate something long delayed. Now we’re trying to pressure Republicans to simply do their jobs. That’s a distance traveled.

Does it mean we succeeded? No. Does it mean we failed? No. It means there’s more work to do. It means we succeed if we do that work and get others to do it with us. It means we fail if we don’t. That’s always been the equation. It hasn’t changed.

Democracy is no less intact or damaged because you’re the democracy. Stop pretending these fools are. They’re a system built to represent that democracy. If they fuck up, the democracy itself is still intact unless it decides it’s too dejected to be.

Our job is to get in their works, and slow them, and frustrate them, and expose them. They sand us out, replace a part, ignore the problem, we get right back in there and fuck up the works and slow them and frustrate them all over again.

They disconnect Congressional phone lines when they get overwhelmed. They stop answering phones as often and let voicemails stay full so no one can leave more messages. Those aren’t the acts of people in control, unburdened. Those are the acts of the overwhelmed, of desperate people clinging to waning power in the face of the people who they know really control it. They want to avoid you and their accountability to you because they fear it.

Democracy isn’t dead or broken. It’s simply in your hands instead of theirs for once. How do you mistake that as dead or broken? That’s you mistaking your power for something useless. That’s you mistaking their desperate fatigue for your own. Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you envision us as so incapable?

Republicans in government are the ones who are acting out of cowardice. They’re the ones who hid from you. Democracy isn’t dead or broken. It’s simply been abandoned by cowards who hope you don’t find where they left it. Pick it the fuck up and use it.

When they try to hide, call them out. When they forego accountability, keep asking the questions you need answered. Do it consistently, publicly, and keep yourself capable of doing it consistently. Most importantly, get others to do the work consistently by your side. Get the vote out. Register voters. Arrange carpools to voting locations for those with decreased access. Participate in phone banks. Write letters to the editor. Call the offices of elected officials. March.

This has always been a war of attrition and Republicans’ only strategy from the beginning has been convincing you that we aren’t strong enough. They wouldn’t spend so much time trying to convince us of that and then hiding from accountability to us unless we fucking were. This is one more battle among so many that we’ve forgotten half of them.

Republicans in government are overwhelmed and desperate. Treat them that way. Keep pressing. They have less and less ground every day because we’ve been taking it day after day for three years. They’re fading, retiring, negotiating shreds of cover where once they had systems of it.

Keep doing the work. The work is democracy. Getting others to do it with you is democracy. Keep doing it, and democracy will eventually fuck these cowards up. You do the work, and democracy is fine because it’s yours and not theirs anymore.

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It’s Easy to Lose Hope — Good Thing You Have Other Emotions

“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

-climate activist Greta Thunberg

“Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something you create with your actions.”

-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

How can you be useful in activism when you’ve lost hope? In all the same ways you’re useful in activism when you have it. Hope is an emotion, like any other. It comes and goes. The work of protest, activism, resistance – it can’t depend on the presence of a single emotion. That denies you being able to be a real person within that work, and that will burn you out much faster than simply being hopeless for a time will.

Don’t despair that you can’t find hope; do the work to change things.

Despair can be its own convenience. Despair is a tool Trump, Pence, and Republicans sell you to convince yourself the endpoint you fear is inevitable. Despair can quickly become a comfort in powerlessness.

If you don’t feel hopeful, that’s OK. Hope isn’t the goal. Hope isn’t an accomplishment. The work to change things is.

There are days when I’ve called or researched threats or protested when I had a great deal of hope. There are days when I’ve had none.

You’re told always to hope, and that’s good if you can have it. Some days you don’t, and that’s OK. Still do the work. If you’ve done the work and need self-care to get yourself back up to doing the work again, that’s one thing.

If you refrain from doing the work to change things because you have no hope, hope is not always the fuel for that work. It can be. So can other things. Often, hope is manufactured by the work you do. Despair is chased out by standing up for yourself and others. Hope is a byproduct as well as a source.

If you give up hope, that’s OK. It’s tough to come by sometimes. If you give up the work to change things, that’s not OK. That produces hope for yourself and others, bolsters the work of others, encourages others to do that work.

We’re often told the opposite of fear and despair is hope. It can be. That’s legitimate. It’s not your only resource, though. You wouldn’t need resilience if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need persistence if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need the twinning of empathy and anger on its behalf if you always had hope.

You cannot work just from hope. You cannot expect hope to be your only fuel. You have to be a full person to do this work. You have to be a full person to do your best to help others. You have to be a full person to keep hold of your norms.

It’s OK to feel hopeless some days. It’s OK to get knocked down, take a minute to stand again, and then stand again because if they have to knock you down again they can’t do it to someone else. It’s OK to build your hope up again through other emotions.

Bring everything that you are to the work of activism and creating change. Some people aren’t strong in hope. You may be strong in resilience, or fortitude, or consistency, or translating needs between communities, or empathizing, or the anger that bridges empathy to action, or logistics, or you may be a range of talents and emotions that you don’t know how to wrangle together. Each of those can make change even when hope runs low.

Trust yourself to do the work that makes change. Trust the strengths that you have to make change even if they don’t match a quote or memes or whatever it is. You’re not an inspirational quote, and you can’t do the work as if you are. That would be exhausting.

You’re a human being, inherently uneven, strong in some ways, weak in others. Even when you’re impacted by horrors every day, that full human can be resilient, can call upon hope for action one day, anger for effort the next, communicate and self-care the day after, resilience to do the work again, whatever beautiful combination in you works because it’s the way you work.

The work to change things needs effort from different people, with different backgrounds, with different combinations of strengths, some optimistic, some pessimistic, some reassuring, others needing reassurance, but all doing that work to apply the pressure needed to change what is happening.

Hope alone does not accomplish a goal. It needs to be fused to the work of change, as a thousand other emotions can be. It is OK if hope has escaped you for the moment. It is OK if you’re a person who doesn’t feel hope in the first place. There are so many valid emotions that can help people. Make sure you can sustain yourself, and then help others regardless of whether you do so out of hope or empathy or anger or whatever emotion allows you to translate what is happening and act on helping people.

Be a part of a community that can supply some of what you’re drained on in a healthy way, but never feel bad if you can’t meet the standard of an inspirational quote about hope. The quotes about effort and work and anger have a tendency not to survive or get shared or be prized in the ways quotes about hope can be.

Hope is important. It’s not the only important thing. If it’s missing from you, that means you’re human and reacting to what’s going on. Sometimes it’s missing from me, too. Sometimes it’s so hard to find. I still do the work of activism in the ways I can, and sometimes that produces more hope in me, and sometimes it doesn’t.

One thing it does do, though – it keeps me from buying into the illusion that we’re powerless. It shows me the ways in which we’ve eroded Trump, Pence, and Republicans, the ways we’ve given them less ground to stand on, the ways we’ve clarified their barbarity to a larger public. It makes the ways we’ve slowed them down clearer, the people who are safer because of someone’s work clearer, the routes toward helping people clearer.

We wouldn’t need resistance, resilience, persistence, or any of the other things we celebrate if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need self-care if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need to reach out and do this with wider communities if we were hopeful all the time. Hope is one thing, important and inspiring. It is not essential all the time. If you lost it, it is OK. Bring the rest of yourself to bear, and witness that the rest of who you are can be effective, can create change, can even restore your hope or allow it to be restored by others.

Don’t despair. Just do whatever step is next in the work to change things.

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Everyday Protest: What if You Can’t Organize a March?

What if you don’t know how to organize a march or write a calling campaign? What if you don’t know how to do the big things?

Here’s what’s important: that march and those calling campaigns would be nowhere without people taking actions to show up and do the daily work.

Call a Congressional office every day. It takes a few minutes, tops.

Get someone new to call with you. Encourage them, and stand by them if they’re nervous.

Change isn’t created by people doing large things. Those large actions are simply ways to harness and focus the daily actions. Those daily actions are a foundation that can shift governments. Those daily actions reinforce and reclaim norms. Large actions cannot exist without that foundation.

Scale is simply a matter of access, community, resources, organization. You can’t scale something up if it doesn’t exist to begin with. You need to make it exist to begin with. You need to take those daily actions. They are more important.

Trump and Republicans can defeat a single large action. Winning those is important, too, but what they can’t defeat is millions performing daily actions. They want to make you think you’re powerless and alone. They want to make you think your fate relies on one or two people.

They can defeat those people. What they can’t defeat is you, every day. And your friend, every day. And a family member, every day. And more and more every day.

If you put your expectations in a handful of people, Trump and his cronies can defeat and change your expectations if they defeat those people. If you put your expectations in yourself and your community, then they can’t defeat those expectations or change them. They can never escape those expectations then, and their being accountable to those expectations is only a matter of daily work and time.

They won’t win because they have power. They’ll only win if you don’t practice yours.

Whether you can organize a march or make a call, whether you can write a calling campaign or visit an office, whether you can speak publicly to hundreds or get one person you know to call, it’s just as important. There’s no difference between all those things. Scale can only be increased when there’s something consistent to increase.

Defeat Trump and Republicans every day, and they’ll be defeated in the big moments.

Only defeat them in the big moments, and we’ll fail to defeat them every day.

The daily, consistent work you do is what decides this. Decide it.

If what you read on this site is useful, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Don’t Want War with Iran? Call Your Congresspeople

I’m getting through to Congressional offices today. Call, please. There is a window to de-rail war with Iran, and it relies on pressure applied to Congress to avoid normalizing it.

Make it a priority. Don’t call as an afterthought. Mark it as something you do every day. It is important. Treat it as important.

Know what you want out of the conversation. Don’t call timidly. Have expectations. It’s their job to meet your expectations, not yours to lower them.

When they tell you they have no answers and can just take a message, remind them that Trump has talked about this for years, escalated the situation with Iran for months, and there’s an international incident that’s days old now. How is it that their office has no response from the Congressperson, let alone a plan of action to stop war? How much time do they need to do their job?

Ask them how they plan on paying for this. Charging it to future generations who will suffer the consequences is not a plan. Millennials already know that all this does is torpedo the opportunities of a generation.

Remind them that they’ve failed to win the other wars we’re engaged in. We retreated from Syria. Iraq is voting to kick American troops out. We have no long-lasting victory in Afghanistan. Iran is more powerful than those three countries put together.

Remind them that military families are exhausted. It’s been more than 15 years of countless tours. Remind them they haven’t taken care of the veterans from those 15+ years of war. They haven’t earned the right to declare another one.

Ask them if they know anything about Iran. Do they know its population? It’s 81 million people. That’s more than Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya put together at the times we became engaged with them.

Do they know Iran’s size? It’s 636,000 square miles. That’s more than three-and-a-half Iraqs put together.

Do they know the strength of its military? Iran’s military is ranked 13th in the world. That’s more powerful than Brazil, Israel, Australia, or North Korea.

Do they have a plan for how much worse this would make things in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan? Or is that the plan?

Do they have a plan beyond missile strikes and then see what happens?

How is it that Congressional offices don’t know the first thing about a war we might be diving into? It’s their job.

How is it the Congressperson has no response about escalations with Iran? Why are they failing to do their job?

Stop worrying about being polite. Call them out. Have expectations and do not allow them to be moved because someone is nice on the phone. They’re going to nice-on-the-phone us into a war, refugee crisis, and economic depression that will make the last 18 years of nonstop war feel like a relaxing breather. Be pissed. Demand answers to your questions. Ask why they fail to have those answers. Make it a priority. Get others to call with you. You only stop a war by stopping it, not by hoping someone else will.

Make Trump, Pence, and Republicans retreat on their make-believe, wannabe dictatorship and holy war playtime that would have real, inescapable repercussions. You can. It’s just a matter of whether you do.