Ugh Do I Have to Be Nice?

So recently I posted on a local Facebook group, because I was hosting a phone banking event for a candidate I’m supporting in the Democratic primary. Quite quickly there was a laughing reaction to my post, and a comment that said “good luck with that!”. I sensed, despite emotion being lost in social media, that the comment was likely meant sarcastically. I was dumbfounded as to why. I confirmed if it was indeed sarcastic and it was immediately confirmed. I wanted to post redacted print screens, but the admin of the group deleted my post. I’ve messaged them to confirm they did this, but it seems that they did. I so wish they hadn’t.

When I posted the phone banking event, I didn’t expect a bunch of people to sign up, but I also didn’t expect people to be rude about it. I’m on twitter and facebook enough to have dealt with my fair share of trolls and bots, but this is supposed to be a local group.  I follow the same group account on Twitter, and although I will admit I haven’t seen national politics coming from that account or page, I do see stuff about the community. It seems I misjudged the point of the page.  I thought the page on Facebook, and the account on Twitter, was meant to be a way to bring people in the community together. I thought it was a way to help us get to know each other, and maybe enable us to do what we can to make our community as good as it can be. To help us all thrive.

For me, being a member of a community means doing my part, and that includes participating in my democracy. I consider it my civic duty. To me it is the ultimate act of patriotism. The more citizens participate in our democracy, the more our democracy will represent the interests of our community. 

After the other person on the post started posting back, I started writing a knee-jerk response, and then I took a step back.  Not only would I reflect badly on the campaign I’m volunteering for, I wouldn’t make the situation better.  I’m annoyed this is the first response I got.  I would have so preferred no response, to that. Instead, I expressed that I was sorry they felt the need to insult me, and I wished them well.

They then started posting Trump/MAGA stuff and that re-affirmed my decision not to make it worse. It’s not just that the Trump/MAGA crowd is most commonly about racism and claiming everyone is out to get them and their way of life. It’s also that there was no need to go down that petty of a path. How does any of that build up our community or bring us closer together? I was trying to bring us closer together. I was not forcing my candidate on anyone. I was posting for those interested. Those not interested could have just ignored the post. I would have welcomed a respectful debate on any issue we might disagree on, but that wasn’t on the table here.

I didn’t share one of my political blog posts, or a meme. I posted a local event that I thought other people in my local community might be interested in. I wasn’t selling anything. I was volunteering my time, and inviting others to join. 

Being a liberal Democratic voter, I am used to getting called a snowflake, a smash-up between liberal and the R word (I don’t get how this makes anyone a better person, smashing up the R word with anything), and I get labeled with some sort of allegiance to a “deep state”/do-nothing Democratic Party.  Ironically, a “Do-Nothing” Congress has a specific meaning that most aren’t aware of (The ‘do-nothing Congress’ graduates to the ‘do-nothing-much Congress’: 12/20/2016) It’s not all of Congress, in the current session, and voters need to check that. Right now, the Senate is the problem, thanks to Mitch McConnell and every Senator not standing up to his corruption.

When it comes to volunteering for a campaign, or spending time paying attention to politics, our representatives, campaigns for office, and our elections, I just think this country needs to really consider our individual responsibility. I believe we get what we put into our democracy.  If we want our government to work better, we might just have to do some work ourselves.

Right now is the primary season for the Presidential elections.  If you are registered with a political party, this is your chance to have a say in who will run for President in your party. This is it. You can support candidates who you believe will represent your community for the better. 

I believe that sitting on the sidelines, painting all politicians and elected officials as bad people, is lazy. Our democracy takes more work than to moan and complain, from the cheap seats. It requires that we are part of it. We are meant to be an informed member of the electorate. We are meant to pay attention to how our representatives are representing us. We are supposed to call them and contact them and tell them how we want them to vote. We are supposed to challenge them. We are supposed to show up to town halls, and if they don’t hold town halls insist that they do. We should write, call, email, and get on social media. If we are up to it, we should run for office.

I will absolutely vote for the Democratic nominee, but more than that I will volunteer for them, I will campaign for them, and I will not sit on the sidelines, because our democracy demands that we all work for it. It’s up to us to make it as good as it can be, and the more that we participate, the more that we are involved, the more our democracy can deliver for us all. 

I believe it is a privilege that I have, this freedom to elect representatives who are bound to serve my interest. I believe it is my civic duty to make sure they do, and if they don’t, it’s my responsibility to call them out, and support a challenger if they don’t do right by my community. I cherish this right, this privilege, and this opportunity, to have a say in how my government works. I wish more would join me.

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
—George Jean Nathan

Who is Going to Fix the Potholes?

Early this year, candidates started announcing their intentions to run for the Democratic nomination for President, in the 2020 election. At first, I rolled my eyes. It’s that reflexive disdain for politics, that people often feel. The thing is, I have a B.S. in political science. I love this stuff. Nevertheless, I was annoyed that people were announcing so early. It’s like when the grocery store has Halloween candy in August. Do we have to start so early?

Then I started seeing what a stellar list of candidates there were, and the level of debate that was forming. Elizabeth Warren is a huge reason for this, and she’s not even my first pick. She’s put forward so much policy, she has made her candidacy the one to beat, on merit. She is the gold standard candidate, as far as I’m concern. She has plans and a platform, for her Presidency. Every candidate should be aiming for that bar.

The reason I rolled my eyes, at first, wasn’t the candidates. They weren’t the problem. It was because I don’t want the 2020 Democratic primary to drown out the election we have before that. If anyone is confused at what I’m talking about, I mean the 2019 election. If anyone is wondering what freaking election there is in 2019, you are not alone.

According to this – In the U.S., Almost No One Votes in Local Elections only about 15% – 30% vote in local elections. I live in Rochester, NY, and I usually see returns around 31% in a good year. 

Understand that this is a percentage of registered voters. There is a significant amount of our population, that is eligible to vote and are not registered. People complain about potholes, and they complain about corruption, but when we look to blame the politicians, we might want to save some blame for ourselves.

This country is a baby, compared to a lot of other countries. When we talk about the promise of our country, our potential, we are really talking about proving our democracy can work. We have yet to do that. We have yet to successfully guarantee that our democracy protects our citizens equally, and cares for the common good in a measured and real way. Part of that is because we are not doing our jobs as citizens. The entire idea of representation, when our forefathers were forming this nation, was to ensure that the people would tell the representatives how to represent their interests. It was never meant to run on auto-pilot.

Last year, we got a really good bump in turnout. We elected a record number of women to Congress and we made strides in state elections. I’m not just talking about Democrats. I’m talking about the country. We made strides in getting people to turn out and vote; to participate in our democracy.

Despite that, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Democracy is not a one-time thing, and we can’t just think we did pretty good showing up for that one vote, and now things should get better. Democracy is incumbent upon a participating citizenry. It is our civic duty, to ensure that laws are upheld It is also our job to ensure that representatives are accountable, transparent, and working for us, the people. 

There is a good check list of things, every citizen should be doing, if they are to be upholding their personal civic duty: 

1. Be Registered to Vote 

    • This includes periodically checking and confirming that you registration is in good standing.
    • If you need any information about registering, checking your registration, polling place, or to see who is on your ballot, google your county’s Board of Elections (BOE). For instance, I live in Monroe County, New York. I would google “Monroe County Board of Elections, New York” and I would get their website. From there I can call them or just search the site for what I need. 
    • Election laws are different in each state. It is important to register as early as possible, because some states have deadlines. Some might require ID. Look this stuff up now, so you know it and can plan accordingly. 
    • If you’re a super nerd (like me) you can go here on election night to see the returns, as they come in. They will be unofficial until the BOE certifies the results, which happens after election night. 

2. Identify Your Representatives 

    • President and Congress is good, but this is important at all levels of government. Put their contact info in your phone, if you want to be super dialed in 
    • Some apps will looks this stuff up for you, like https://www.countable.us/ and https://ballotpedia.org 
    • Local officials you can look up by going to your county, city and town websites, or calling them and asking them to tell you. Remember they work for you. Remember, they are good people and be nice to them. (Sincerely, someone who used to work for the BOE) 

3. Pay Attention to Your Representatives 

    • Pay attention to the news, or check the appropriate government sites, to see how your officials are voting on legislation. 
    • If you want your rep to propose legislation or vote a certain way, contact them. Otherwise, the only people talking to them, will be lobbyists, and the lobbyists will write them checks to get them re-elected. The only way to combat that, is a bunch of citizens calling them, to respectfully state, that they will vote them out, if they do not vote in the interest of the community. 
    • Use apps like https://resist.bot/ and https://www.countable.us/ to stay in touch, by sending them emails on issues that are important to you. 
    • If you really need their help on something, call their office and ask if you can make an appointment. If they are in Congress, remember that they split their time with being local and in DC, so it might be some time before you can get an appointment. Remember that whether you like your rep or not, their aides are government workers. Be kind to them, and remember they are just doing their job. 

4. Vote 

    • This should be number 1, but it comes after you do 1-3. 
    • Go with friends, volunteer to help elderly get to the polls, encourage fellow citizens to remember to vote. 
    • Support every citizen’s inalienable right to vote. Fight any voter suppression in your state. Every vote should count, and every vote should count equal to every other vote. 

5. Rinse and Repeat, All Year, Every Year 

I’m actually excited about the 2020 Democratic candidates (most of them). I think debate is good and challenging each other to be better is good. I think hearing different ideas is good. I think diverse plans and people, are good. 

I still want us to focus on the election at hand, and right now, that is the 2019 local election. The wins we have, in 2019, will build local coalitions across this country, for the 2020 election. Every year, we end up stronger or weaker, by the outcome of the previous year’s election. This is true for each political party, and it’s true for the country. 

I think our country will deliver on the promise of our democracy, when we can consistently get real turnout. I want to say 100% but I know people will call me naïve and a dreamer. If I say 90% some will say that is still too high to expect, but I think it’s necessary. Let’s at least try to improve on the last election at the same level. If 30% is the best we do for local elections, let’s shoot for 40% this year. Is that a lot? I would argue it’s not, but I also want 100%. Let’s say it would be a huge improvement. 

I commit to getting out the vote this year, and encouraging better voter turnout, even though is a local election year. I hope you will too. At least commit to the basics of civic duty, if you agree with me. Be registered, know your state’s election laws, know the candidates, and vote. 

Then maybe we can fix some of these damn pot holes, literally and proverbially.