This started as a Facebook post and got to the point where I could no longer countenance posting it as a status, so hello WordPress my old friend!
So we got together with some friends last night to drink, celebrate each incoming update from the ACLU, and call our reps, and it was GREAT. (I’m starting to think I should put “helps organize community events basically as an excuse to drink with friends and make them listen to her opinions on stuff” on my business cards.) Here’s some things I learned:
1. The Washington legislature has a system in place that allows you to comment on EVERY SINGLE BILL and have your comments sent to your state senator and representatives. Here’s the how-to. H/T to Jeff Petersen for mentioning this one! So remember that anti-protesting bill I mentioned last week, SB 5009? Or that anti-trans bathroom bill, HB 1011? Here’s a way to register your disapproval of those without ever having to pick up a phone.
To the best I can tell, the Alaska state legislature (Alaska being my home state and the place many of my readers are coming from) does not have a similar system to allow comment. However! The AK legislature’s site does list what bills are currently before the Senate and House, and where they are in the legislative process — prefiled vs. in committee, etc — and appears to have tools that will let you track specific pieces of legislation. (Plus they’ve got subject tags so you can find other legislation related to issues that are important to you! Like Anchorage Democrat Rep. Claman’s pro-contraceptive coverage bill, or the House Joint Resolution to repeal Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban.)
Seriously, one of the conclusions I’m coming to is that at most levels of government, they desperately want you to be involved and informed. The systems aren’t necessarily intuitive, but the information is usually out there if you (or people you know — hello, I’m a dramaturg!) are willing to dig it up.
2. Writing scripts takes a lot of energy, but once you’ve got the basic format down it starts to get easier. I crib a lot from The 65 (previously the We’re His Problem Now spreadsheet), but I’m learning quickly that the more specificity you can get, especially as you get down to a more local level, the better. Also, this should not have come as a surprise, but if you are holding a script written for a Democratic representative and have to try and adapt it for a Republican representative while you’re on the phone, you’re gonna have a bad time. Or at least I am.
3. Combining partying and civic engagement is great fun but for real you gotta make your calls early in the evening if you’re gonna do that. Having to leave consecutive voicemails for Dan Sullivan because I got cut off by fellow partiers in the first one was a little embarrassing. On the other hand, the impassioned off-script voicemail I left for Don Young about protecting refugee rights might be more effective than my normal polished calls.
4. The art of letter writing is not dead! And I should get back into it, not just admire other people. Especially if people from the Lower 48 are gonna keep flooding Lisa Murkowski’s voicemail. (Literally every single district office was unreachable. My pride in American civic engagement and delight that at least one of my senators is a reasonable Republican capable of governing with empathy and intelligence is somewhat tempered by my annoyance at non-Alaskans making it impossible for her actual constituents to talk to her.)
5. There are even more levels of government to petition than I thought. Time to start getting knowledgeable on what governors and mayors can do — governors in particular. If we’re moving into an era where “states rights” becomes a rallying cry of the left, understanding when and how to petition the governor’s mansion is likely to be important.
And mostly I learned I know a lot of amazing, compassionate, determined people. A lot of people had never called their reps at all before, and even though we all hate phones and were nervous about the prospect, we rolled up our sleeves and did our research and got involved.
I woke up this morning, after this long, late night of political engagement, to chatter on Twitter about things like unnamed White House aides saying that one week in, they’re already getting tired of the chaos The Donald has brought about. Or, relatedly, things like how it’s increasingly clear that Steve Bannon really is directing policy and might be influencing its implementation (GOSH WHO COULD EVER HAVE PREDICTED THAT THAT CLICKBAIT ANTI-SEMITIC PUPPETEER WOULD SPIT ON OUR CONSTITUTION AND TRY TO ENFORCE A MUSLIM BAN IN THE MOST DRACONIAN AND BLATANTLY RACIST OF WAYS, BESIDES LIKE, A WHOLE BUNCH OF US, sorry sorry okay back to the professional voice Anthea let’s try this again).
Anyway. Rumors have been flying since well before this week that the GOP will eventually remove Trump themselves, before he drags the whole Republican party into his conflagration. And alongside these rumors I’ve seen a lot of people arguing that his likely replacement, Mike Pence, is no better and might even be worse, because he knows enough about how to play the game to appear palatable while pushing through the same hateful agenda.
I don’t know what’s going happen. I don’t think any of us do, and I’m not sure it’s responsible to speculate. Is Pence worse than Trump? He certainly supports a whole lot of policies that scare the crap out of me as a woman with a uterus and a member of the LGBTQ community. There’s no question he’d be a president I’d oppose, in the same way I opposed G. W. Bush. And I would be — hell, already am — deeply worried about his ability to mobilize the Republican base in a way that would solidify the GOP’s grip on the government in 2018 and 2020. But would he be listening to an actual white supremacist Internet troll for policy positions? Would he be antagonizing our enemies and our allies internationally? Seems unlikely. But I don’t know.
Here’s what I think, though: I think that no matter who our Chief Executive is for the next four years, we as Democratic voters and progressives and liberals of every stripe have to be ready to be in this for the long haul. If Trump stays, we all already know he’s going to be outrageous. If something happens and Pence ends up in the Oval Office, we need to be ready to stay in the fight. The GOP ran on a platform that includes repealing healthcare reform, rejecting the Paris Agreements, and reversing the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision. That agenda doesn’t change, no matter who’s signing the executive orders, and if we oppose that agenda, our job doesn’t change either.
But. But but but. That job can be delightful. That job can be done while wearing pink, sharing beers, dancing to Janelle Monae and Beyonce and Springsteen, and laughing with your friends. In fact, if you ask me, that’s how we have to do this job. If we’re in this fight for the long haul, it has to be fun and make us happy if it’s going to be sustainable. (“How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind” is one of the best things I’ve read on this subject lately — H/T Esther Bergdahl for linking — and if you, like me, have been experiencing a lot of compassion fatigue and stress about your role in #theresistance in the last week, I highly recommend reading that.)
And we can do it on every level. Think global, act local. No, more locally than that. And even more locally than that. It starts with us and our friends in somebody’s living room, calling our city council and helping our neighbors, and it works upward from there.
So let’s have another round and get back to the phones, the emails, the letters, and the commenting systems. We’ve got a world to change.