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Weaponizing Your Vote

Dear All, Today’s plan had been to write about swapping our obsession with beating Trump for a focus on down ballot and Congressional contests we can impact now.Then in the blink of an eye, an evil incarnation of American exceptionalism shattered a languid summer day. Within 13 hours, two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio ended the lives of 29 people who were killed because they happened to be shopping at an El Paso Walmart or about to go into a popular Dayton neighborhood bar named Ned Peppers. 

We may be horrified and heartbroken. But anger has replaced shock. The learned sense of inevitability that fuels our collective consciousness is written in the names of Newtown and Parkland and the endless list of towns synonymous with senseless slaughter. 

Still, reports that the El Paso shooter posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed — complaining of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” shortly before the massacre, seemed a macabre coda to Donald Trump’s latest escalation of hate speech targeting The Squad and some of America’s largest cities (which, ironically, are enjoying a golden age.) And, although the chilling Trump rally chant “Send her back” has receded for the time being, a new study ominously reports that hate crimes are spiking across the country.

Meanwhile, as the hate monger who occupies the Oval Office broadcasts his re-election strategy to exacerbate divisions by demonizing Democrats as anti-American socialists, the party faithful seem mired in analysis paralysis. One moment we’re fixated on parsing what an impeachment inquiry means, the next we’re engaged in a Democratic primary version of a circular firing squad. We all know that Democrats have a propensity to eat their young, as evidenced by the fractious dogfight debates last week. But, when an iconic Democratic ex-President who sits on a 95% party approval rating gets caught in the crossfire, no one wins — except the party of Trump. 

So, if you want a case for chilling out during this stage of the race to 2020, take note: At a comparable point in the 2008 presidential primary cycle, Barack Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton by 23 points in the race for the Democratic nomination. During the 2012 cycle, long shot Herman Cain who peddled the 9-9-9 tax plan, led the GOP field and was polling only 10 points behind Obama. I’ll spare you my defense of the long primary process, except to say that the marathon can be a critical crucible. It made Obama a better candidate and dispensed with lightweight Cain.

Still, with no televised debates for another six weeks, what better time to focus on the down ballot races, especially for control of state houses. That’s where the country’s political direction for the next decade will be determined; where we can write the future by re-writing laws on gun safety, voter suppression, women’s reproductive rights and maintaining our democracy with a small “d.”

Plus, taking back state houses represents our last chance until 2031 to tip the redistricting scales in our favor. Based on the upcoming 2020 Census, all 435 seats in Congress will be reapportioned. Every state will undergo redistricting and, in 37 states, state legislatures control that process. That means between now and 2021, we have to win as many state elections as possible to maximize our odds for fairer maps. If you want to suss out which state contests need your help, Sister District has a proven track record of building and sustaining Democratic majorities:

Sister District: https://sisterdistrict.com/

For example, come November, Virginia is on the cusp of flipping both chambers of its State Legislature blue. Donald Trump is on the record as saying he can stop the revival of the blue wave in the Old Dominion State. But the 31st Street Organization, a Swing Left chapter, is fielding a slate of 6 “vigorous Democrats in winnable races against hardline Republicans" to prove Trump wrong. The grassroots group is working to capitalize on its strategy that helped nine out of twelve candidates prevail last November. If you want to chip in to support their efforts, here’s the link: Prove Trump Wrong in Virginia: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/31ststprovetrumpwrong?refcode=J

As a bonus, Lisa Herrick, founder of the 31st Street Organization shares the secret sauce of their success in a 5-minute video that’s a testament to the power of grassroots activism. If you think one “distraught” political rookie can’t make a difference, watch the video on their website: 31st Street Organization: https://www.31ststreet.org/

So, until the Democratic primary really revs up starting in January, I’ll stay informed but I’ll keep my powder dry. As a diehard supporter of Candidate ABT (Anybody But Trump,) I will eventually work my heart out for her or him. In the meantime, there are plenty of Democrats who need help. Heck, as this piece in the New Yorker attests, Democrats even have a fifty-fifty shot at breaking their 20-year losing streak in Mississippi and winning the Governor’s mansion.  

Please help crowdsource our efforts. If you have a local or state race you’d like to promote, please let me know. I’ll be drumming up support for candidates and their contests, especially lower-profile ones, that can help rejuvenate the Democratic Party. 

Until then, if you want to do something positive in the wake of the carnage in Texas and Ohio, consider helping two people whose lives were forever changed by the scourge of gun violence. 

First, Congresswoman Lucy McBath, who represents Georgia’s 6th District, a seat she won last November by just 1%. McBath became an advocate for social justice following the fatal shooting of her son Jordan, who was killed for playing loud music. McBath is also a two-time breast cancer survivor who is fighting for access to affordable health care. Designated as a DCCC Frontline candidate, she faces a tough re-election battle.

Donate to Lucy McBath’s 2020 re-election campaign here.  Finally, former astronaut Mark Kelley has a real chance at unseating Republican Martha McSally for an Arizona Senate seat, a key race in Democratic efforts to recapture the Senate. Since his wife, Gabby Giffords barely survived being shot, Kelley also has been a tireless gun safety advocate.

Donate to Mark Kelley’s 2020 Senate campaign here. Like most everything else, the road to meaningful gun safety starts at the ballot box.

Onward, Jane

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