Yesterday, I wrote about the lack of energy, focus or even desperation in the environmental movement, despite there being a range of strategies to rally around, strategies that could actually address the climate catastrophe and despite the ongoing reports of the acceleration of the advance of climate change.
Oddly, I also had just received an email from Les Lakind, a long time activist, former Retake board member and friend. The note expressed his concern about the lack of action in opposition to GOP voter suppression efforts in state after state. He worried that we’d wake up in Nov 2022 with the GOP in control of the House and the Senate and all kinds of repressive legislation in place to challenge even a clear election victory in 2024. His note went to a number of other activists and the email thread that followed was instructive and is offered below. But first a few introductory remarks.
Yesterday, I mused—fretted would be more accurate–about how progressives and environmentalists seem to be living in some kind of protective coating, protecting us from continuing reports of the terrifying acceleration of climate disasters and the implications for our future, so Les’ commentary on our inaction in relation to voter suppression and worse from the GOP resonated. I thought we should continue this conversation today and so below, I provide first, Les’ initial email and then the subsequent reactions of some of those who received the email.
I think it may be time to convene the troops for an action focused Zoom conversation. No one is stepping forward, so why not New Mexicans? If a 13 year old girl can initiate an international movement all by herself, perhaps a small group of New Mexicans with the right message and the right action can catch the interest and imagination of those in other states.
We can’t wait until the game is over to start playing a part. And we are in the ninth inning friends. Time to step up. So, check out the thinking below and look for more on this next week.
From Les Lakind & Friends
We all know the current situation regarding S1 and John Lewis Voting rights Act.
Manchin, and Sinima somewhat, are getting lots of pressure. What pressure can be added that may be immediate, and more effective than all the hang ups I’m getting, calling voters in West Virginia
I’m thinking of a coordinated, nationwide fast, led preferably by the social justice, voting rights, and youth led movements, like Sunrise, YUCCA, March for Our Lives, The Poor People’s Campaign, Fair Fight, BLM, Indiginous rights groups, labor, etc. There could be different fasts for different people – total; water only; juice fasts; maybe like lent for some who just give up something dear. It could be for different lengths – a day for some, or til Manchin relents for others. This could be started when these bills are closer to being introduced, which is soon. Not as dramatic as self immolation, but safer.
I think the nationwide publicity of tens of thousands of us fasting would be considerable – in public, in private, in groups, in churches and municipal buildings. On Manchin’s front lawn.
It could be specific, so Manchin doesn’t lose face. A carve out, like has been done for the judiciary, for democracy bills. Keep the filibuster for everything else if that’s what we need to do.
With a level voting playing field, we can get that stuff done when we get a bigger margin in the Senate. I don’t necessarily buy the inevitability of a Republican comeback in ’22 if voting rights are protected, particularly in statewide races. Who knows what will happen when Trump starts facing the legal system, or when he starts public speaking again and what crazy Q blather he’ll say. Who knows what allies he will turn on, or how crazy the Republican primaries get.
I’d welcome your thoughts on this, but if this idea makes sense, I am not connected enough to the above-mentioned groups to pass this on, but some of you may have fewer degrees of separation. So feel free to respond with ideas, but if you think this has merit, please pass it up the chain.
Leslie and all:
I agree with your key point: moving Manchin (and to a degree Sinema and others) is necessary to pass Voting Rights and so much more. As to what will move Manchin to good deeds versus piss him off and make him dig in his heels further, what will tempt him and what will repel him, I don’t have a good sense. But… I know someone who does. Will Carter works in WV in a role similar to what I’ve been doing in NM, and with the rise in importance of Manchin’s mood, he’s become a clearinghouse for people and groups from around the nation wanting to weigh in on this complex terrain. I think it tremendously important to consult with West Virginians and hear them out before taking any action aimed at motivating West Virginians. To move Manchin, we’ll need the right message and the right messengers.
If anyone is interested in pursuing such a conversation, I can make the introduction.
PS: I get the sense that Biden knows exactly who he’s dealing with in the Senate, knows McConnell and Manchin and the other key players well, and has a plan to get Manchin to sign on to infrastructure. I hope it’s a good plan and it works! Infrastructure is relatively easy, as it’s a problem money can often solve, i.e. offer federal funds to build a few more interstate highways or federally funded research institutions in WV and buy Manchin’s vote the old fashioned way. Voting rights is less straightforward. But without Voting Rights, we can’t dependably win elections…
Excellent advice. Starting call programs in WV and AZ without really understanding the dynamics and the message that might most influence Manchin and Sinema can do more harm than good. Also agree with your evaluation of Biden’s abilitywith infrastructure vs Voting Rights to play things the old fashioned way. So, Leslie, if you’d like to have a joint call with Will Carter, I’d be happy to support you.
JIm, I also wonder if you have any thoughts or are aware of any efforts being made to put more pressure on the six Republican’s who voted for the January 6th Commission. We only need two to off-set Manchin and Sinema on voting rights and I believe Romney isalready closer to wanting to avoid the destruction of Democracy than Manchin is.
Leslie et al,
We need a mass action, but I don’t think a hunger strike will work. How many people would participate? And it puts more pressure on the participants than the targets. A national strike shutting down as much of the economy as possible, or a boycott. I think those would put more pressure on Manchin, Sinema, etc.
Bruce included an excerpt from the blog he posted Saturday morning. But rather than cite the excerpt, we provide his full blog below, after the thread of comments.
Fasting is a high calling, and a way of showing outwardly a deep inner hunger for justice that will not be denied. I support anyone who feels that calling. I don’t think it begins with a national organizing effort. Gather up how ever many can travel together, invite everyone you meet as you caravan to the steps of the Capitol, send out a press release, and start the fast. May the road rise up to meet you. Remember this (maybe) Goethe quote?
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”Goethe
Your right fasting is a high calling. But I seriously doubt that a few hundred, even a few thousand, people fasting on the steps of the Capitol will accomplish what needs to be accomplished. And, it will take longer than we have time for to get to where the Senate might take it seriously. We need something that will be effective in the next 30 to 60 days.
You are certainly right about making calls. There are several good organizations that offer instructions and automatic calling systems for calls to constituents in AZ and WV. I did it just last week. No need to reinvent the wheel. If people are interested, we can forward information about how to get involved.
John House, President, RepresentUs New Mexico
Bruce is absolutely correct about the timing. On a national webinar call conducted by the national organization Indivisible earlier this week with more than 1,000 attending, Leah Greenberg, one of the two founders and leaders of the organization, said that if the For the People Act doesn’t pass before the August recess, it will probably mean game over. Indivisible has launched an intense grassroots initiative called Deadline for Democracy to try to make that happen.
RepresentUs New Mexico will be working on this effort with several local Indivisible groups in Santa Fe and Albuquerque to try to organize events in both cities during the June-July recess as part of the national initiative. Want to help and participate? Let me know. For this one, we will need to muster the troops.
John HouseRepresentUs New Mexico
And thank you Leslie for launching this discussion and for others who are participating in the discussion.
Ironically, yesterday I was working on a blog for today (just published, link below) in which I expressed the same level of exasperation at the lack of a focused strategy to actually move the needle where it needs to go in relation to the climate crisis. Just as we are fiddling while Democratic BIPOC voters ballots are burning, we are doing as little of substance in relation to climate….at all levels from international down to our collective home towns. I want to find out more about Indivisible’s initiative, I think the idea for a discussion with Will Carter. I agree it would be best if the movement were launched and led by the BIPOC and youth communities. And I agree that for voting rights, we need to move quickly and the levers of power are in AZ and WV.
But I’d also like to float the idea that for the most part the folks on this thread have influence in NM, not WV or AZ and might it be best to use that leverage to advance something bold here in NM. Over the past month, I’ve interviewed 25 NM state legislators and it is clear that every path to progress on any issue starts and ends on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse, with MLG. Two years ago, YUCCA led a sit in at the Governor’s office leading to the arrest of some adult allies. I’m not suggesting that, but I wonder if some kind of sustained, highly visible action at the Roundhouse or at the mansion. But that is just a thought. I like the dialog being generated here, as long as it doesn’t just linger at the conversation stage.
To that end, I am asking Leslie and the others who have commented and who may do so later today, if it would be ok to copy and paste this discussion into a blog for tomorrow. It would be an excellent follow up to today’s post and would reach a larger audience.
Again, thanks to all. I so agree that whether we are talking voting rights or climate, we are behaving as if there is no crisis and have been for far too long. And I’d be interested in your collective reaction to the post below.
Paul, Co-Founder, Retake Our Democracy
And from Bruce Berlin, his blog from yesterday.
The Struggle for the Soul of America:
A Call to Action, by Bruce Berlin
|In the late 1960’s, I protested against the Vietnam War. Along with millions of other Americans, I marched in New York and Washington against the War, and lobbied my congressman and senators to terminate it. Together we made a difference and helped end the war in southeast Asia.|
Since then, I’ve participated in many protests including against nuclear weapons and the Iraq War, as well as for Black Lives Matter and women’s rights. While these were all critically important causes, they all lacked one vital factor that made the anti-Vietnam War protest so effective: every American had a personal stake in ending the war.
While these other critical issues personally impacted large segments of the population, none of them had the potential to affect everyone like Vietnam did. We had a draft back then. So, anyone of draft age, a son, a father, a friend or neighbor, could have been called up and sent to fight a war that more and more Americans came to oppose as it dragged on for years.
Also, for the first time, the war was in our faces. The lead story on the nightly news was the War. We saw the body bags as they arrived home. We saw distraught parents, sobbing widows, bewildered children. The war and its toll were inescapable.
Today we are in a different kind of war. It’s not halfway around the world, or the lead story on television every night. But, like Vietnam, it does have the potential to dramatically affect all of our lives. Unfortunately, while that is true, most Americans have not been able to grasp that reality in the way a deadly war did.
Today the War Against Democracy is raging in our country. And while, if we lose, it will drastically affect our lives, most of us are not engaged in the fight. We read about the anti-democratic laws restricting our voting rights being enacted across the country and shake our heads. We are furious with the continuing Republican obstruction in Congress, where they won’t even investigate the attack on our government. We listen in disbelief as General Flynn calls for a coup to re-install Trump in the White House. Yet, for the most part, we go on with our lives doing little, if anything, to stop this madness.
I think to myself, if this were France, millions of people would be out in the streets. There would be a nationwide strike halting business as usual until something was done to ensure the government survives. Here, we write a check, call our congressperson, debate the issues, and go on about our daily lives. We allow Trump and his right-wing cohorts to get all the attention even though less than a third of the country supports him. We are the silent majority.
Why are we silent? First, we feel helpless and/or hopeless. We are so overwhelmed with bad news to the point where we cannot imagine what to do. Second, many of us are too comfortable. We don’t immediately feel the consequences of what is happening. We are too removed from the struggle and the oppression to be compelled to act until it is too late. And third, we don’t believe it can happen in the United States. Autocratic coups are what happens in third world countries, but not here.
The January 6th insurrection demonstrated it can happen here. And it is personal. We can lose our right to choose who governs our country. Yes, it’s true that in many ways our right to choose has already been narrowed down unfairly or practically eliminated by power brokers. Still, if we fail to prevent the destruction of what’s left of our democracy, our ability to work together to rebuild it will be severely crippled, if not destroyed entirely.
Make no mistake. Our country is in crisis. We are on the brink of disaster. It’s time to organize. Our power is in our numbers. Take to the streets. Call for a nationwide strike and/or boycott. If you want to save our democracy, the time to act is now.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.
Stay tuned. More coming next week.
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics
The challenge to making political reform our key issue is that most Americans’ eyes glaze over at the topic. Individuals and advocacy groups get excited about climate change, guns, student debt, abortion, etc. Campaign finance or redistricting or how many days before an election you get to vote absentee, are things policy wonks worry about. Even though the truth is that progress on climate, guns, debt, abortion and everything else depends crucially on these political rules.
Fortunately we have a vivid and recent example that can be used to get Americans worked up about the danger to our democratic system. This is the Capitol insurrection on January 6. But it is not being used effectively. James Carville did an interview with Vox recently and laid it out: “First of all, the Democratic Party can’t be more liberal than Sen. Joe Manchin. That’s the fact. We don’t have the votes. But I’ll say this, two of the most consequential political events in recent memory happened on the same day in January: the insurrection at the US Capitol and the Democrats winning those two seats in Georgia. Can’t overstate that.
But the Democrats can’t fuck it up. They have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day. They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people to write op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for god knows how long, and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party. They can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.
Hell, just imagine if it was a bunch of nonwhite people who stormed the Capitol. Imagine how Republicans would exploit that and make every news cycle about how the Dems are responsible for it. Every political debate would be about that. The Republicans would bludgeon the Democrats with it forever.
So whatever you think Republicans would do to us in that scenario, that’s exactly what the hell we need to do them.“
When McConnell and co used the filibuster to kill the Jan 6 Commission, it clearly jolted Joe Manchin. It’s the best opening to changing his position. Every Democratic elected official from the President to precinct captain should talk about Jan 6 and the Commission EVERY TIME THEY SPEAK IN PUBLIC. Every leader of every progressive advocacy group should do the same and make the point that protecting our democratic and voting processes is essential to progress on their pet issue. It should be like Cato starting every speech in the Roman Senate with “Carthage must be destroyed!” We need to coordinate and insist on this messaging.
Frankly, I’m willing to give the guys in DC until July 4th, then we’ve got to take serious action. Without a functional democracy, there’s no hope for progress on existential stuff like climate change. H.R. 1 is a first order matter. Here’s a lengthy quote from this week’s Electoral-Vote.com… https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Pres/Maps/Jun02.html#item-2
The Tulsa speech was Biden’s second in as many days. In his Memorial Day speech on Monday, he also had a fair bit to say, in particular sounding a warning about the future of democracy. Addressing a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, Biden declared: “Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world. What we do now, what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure.” For those who did not catch the reference, Biden is very clearly invoking the Gettysburg Address.
The President is not the only one who is concerned about the democracy. On Tuesday, over 100 university professors—members of departments of political science, communication, public policy, and international studies, among others, and all of them students of democracy—released a stark letter warning that the U.S.S. U.S.A. is in trouble. The opening paragraph pretty well sums it up:
We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.
The conclusion of the letter lays out the course of action that these folks would like to see:
We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.
In other words, pretty much everyone these days is calling out Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). For our part, we remain unconvinced that either of them are actually as committed to bipartisanship and/or to the filibuster as they claim to be. The likeliest outcome remains that they each play the roles they have crafted for themselves, and that they are eventually “forced” to surrender and join their Democratic colleagues in supporting H.R. 1 and H.R. 4.
That said, if Manchin and/or Sinema’s positions are genuine, then they have some serious thinking to do. Are their careers and/or their desire to save one element of Senate procedure that is being misused worth the potential costs?
PS A depressing side note: Already some Red states are drafting state-level voter suppression legislation as insurance again H.R. 1 passing. Recall that the Constitution only gives Congress the power to legislate Federal elections. State elections could still be manipulated. There could be some states with two different voter rolls, separate Federal and state elections, different poll-watching/vote-counting rules, different rules for recounts or invalidating results.
PPS While the AZ ballot ‘audit’ is all theater, flying under the radar is the fact that their Secretary of State has lost chain-of-custody of the voting machines themselves. Have AZ voting machines and vote-counting machines been tampered with by Cyber Ninjas? Will AZ be able to re-certify them or replace them or switch to paper ballots?