President Obama famously said, “Don’t boo! Vote!” And that was good advice, as far as it went. But it didn’t go far enough, especially given the recent events in the Republican-controlled impeachment “trial.” Democracy is not a spectator sport. We can’t just sit back and watch as some benevolent philosopher queen runs things. In fact, Occult Librarian says that the reason that Goddesses and Gods such as Athena and Apollo favor democracy isn’t because it’s an efficient form of government. They favor it because it forces humans to take responsibility for themselves and to grow and develop. We can’t wait for the cavalry to save us – we ARE the cavalry.
I say, don’t just get mad. Get to work. If you, too, were angry, disgusted, and sick to your stomach watching Senate Republicans trash the rule of law and rush to anoint Trump – Trump! the worst human being many of us have ever seen! – a king, then don’t just boo and don’t just vote. Do everything you can to throw those bums out. Don’t just get mad. Get to work.
So what can you do?
Well first, to give President Obama his due, you can vote. If you’ve already registered at your current address, you can check to make sure that you haven’t been “accidentally” purged. Because voter suppression is a standard Republican dirty trick. If you aren’t registered to vote at your current address, you can get registered right away. Some states have early and arbitrary deadlines, so the sooner the better. And some require forms of identification that can take a bit of time and effort to obtain. For example, if you’ve moved, you may need a driver’s license with your new, current address, so you have to get that before registering to vote. Get online or on the phone, find out what you need to do, and make it a priority.
And, today is a good day to take Election Day off from work so you can vote, drive others to the polls, or do some of the other kinds of volunteer work discussed below. Mark it on your calendar and make it a priority. Election day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Be there.
Second, vote early if you can. Many states will allow you to cast your vote before the actual election day. Some require an excuse – for example showing that you’ll be out of town on the day of the election – and some don’t require any excuse at all. Some allow you to vote early by mail and some require you to come to the registrar’s office. There are two important reasons why you should find out your state’s rules and then vote early. The first reason is that when you vote early, you help to cut down the line on election day. Long lines often discourage people from voting, especially young people, people with children, working people, and people with disabilities. Every person who votes early helps to cut down the long lines, ensuring that more typically-Democratic voters can vote. The second reason is that voting early ensures that you get to vote. Even if you’re sick on election day, or under a crunch at work, or get stuck in traffic, you’ll have made sure that your voice counts.
Third, you can register other people to vote. The more people who can vote, the better. This is particularly true when you register young people, women, people of color, working people, etc.
In most states, the League of Women Voters and/or your local Democratic Party can hook you up with whatever training you may need. (For example, in Virginia, you watch a YouTube video and certify online that you watched it.) Those groups likely already have voter registration drives planned and would love to have more volunteers – and they’ll likely send you out with someone who’s done this before, at least until you feel comfortable. In Arlington, Virginia, for example, the League goes into high schools to register young people and into apartments and condos to register as many people as possible, especially people new to the area. Similarly, the Arlington Dems register voters outside of metro stops, at farmer’ markets, at the county fair, etc. This is fun, non-confrontational work; you’re sitting at a table or booth and people who want to register come up to you. My experience is that lots of people will say, “I’m registered, but thank you for what you’re doing.”
I also usually carry a few blank forms in an envelope in my purse so that when I get to chatting with someone (a barista, the woman at the nail salon, a new neighbor who just moved to the area) and find out that they’re not registered I can hand them the form right then. Sure, you can give people a web address and maybe they’ll remember to go there when they get home or maybe they’ll get busy and forget. Handing them the form is better.
Fourth, you can select one or more other ways to get more involved. The possibilities are almost endless and you can find something that matches your available time, your interests, and your abilities. Here are a few ideas; please list others in comments.
A number of groups, such as Postcards to Voters, Swing Left, and probably a group in your state , focus on writing postcards and letters to voters. You can buy postcards at the post office (already stamped) or you can buy them from a group such as Postcards to Voters (fun designs) and then buy postcard stamps from the post office. The organization will give you addresses of likely Dem voters (sans names, so you’ll write to “Dear Voter” or “Dear American” and you’ll sign just your first name or something such as “Your Fellow American”) and suggested messages. You decide how many cards you want to write over the next few days (5 or 500, it’s up to you). You can write to support a specific campaign, even in another state. No need to wait for the Fall; there are special elections going on all over the country all of the time. Or, you can write to support more general voter turnout. For example, I’ve been writing to Florida voters to encourage them to sign up for their state’s Vote by Mail program, which cuts down on long lines (see above) and has been shown to help elect Democrats.
You can write on your own: sitting in front of tv, at the bus stop, or by your altar while burning incense to Columbia and using magically-charged ink. Or, you can get together with others at increasingly-popular Postcard Parties. One person (this can rotate) provides postcards, pens, possible messages, and some beverages and snacks. Others show up to write postcards, socialize, and trade information. By the way, local candidates are often more than happy to show up at these parties to meet voters, answer questions, and be photographed filling out a few postcards. So if you’re hosting or attending one, don’t be shy about calling up your town council member or candidate for the board of education and inviting them to come along.
As we get closer to the actual election, a number of groups, including your local Democratic party and the various campaigns, will be looking for people willing to do phone banking. You can just go to the party’s or campaign’s website and sign up. This method is especially useful in places where lots of people live in apartments and condos that won’t let people into the building to canvass by knocking doors. Like a lot of things I bet you’ve encountered in your life, this can seem scary at first but gets easier as you go along.
You can often do this from the comfort of your own home (while you fold laundry, stir the soup, clean out your junk drawer) or you can go to a phone bank center where you’ll be doing it with others. You’ll be given an electronic list of phone numbers for likely Dem voters and a script for you to read. The script usually reminds voters of the date and place for them to vote. Ninety percent of the time, you’re going to get voicemail. Some organizations want you to leave a message if you don’t get a live person while others prefer that you just mark down that you didn’t get anyone so they can have someone else call later. I’ve done a lot of this over the years and have encountered a total of maybe 5 or 6 unpleasant people. I just say, “Thanks, have a great day,” hang up, and go to the next number.
Other groups do text banking, which, as you might imagine, is quite similar to phone banking, except that you’re sending texts instead of making phone calls. You can sign up for this the same way.
Research shows that one of the most effective ways to turn out the vote is physical canvassing. This is where you go door-to-door (usually to the homes of likely Dem voters), knock, talk to the people at the house, and leave some literature. This is often associated with a particular campaign (for example, I have a friend who’s canvassing now to encourage voters to vote for Elizabeth Warren in the primary), but local Dem parties do some of this as well, usually closer to the election. There’s usually a short training before people go out in groups of two. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and get in your steps for the day. And, again, it gets easier as you get more experienced.
You can also consider some very low-effort measures. Donate some money. Put a sign in your yard, either supporting a particular candidate or simply noting that Hate Has No Place Here. If you contact the campaign or your local Democratic party, they may even deliver the sign to your yard. Or, put a bumper sticker on your car. Put a button on your jacket. Again, the button can just say “Vote!” or it can show your support for a particular candidate. These are easy, one-time-and-done steps. Especially in red and purple areas, they let others know that they are not alone. I have a friend who decided to move to our neighborhood only after she saw Democratic signs in yards during the last election.
Consider joining your local Democratic party and attending their meetings. Not only will you help to strengthen the party overall, but you’ll find out about all kinds of volunteer opportunities – some of which are one-shot deals that may be easier to work into your busy life than regular commitments. Examples include putting signs outside polling places the night before the election, driving a candidate around while she canvasses, doing some data entry after the election, etc. Remember that the Democratic party is made up of people. Some local organizations are great and some are rather moribund. Some are delighted to get new members and some aren’t as welcoming as they could be. Some are very focused on direct action and some are as big on socializing as they are on working. You’ll never know until you try.
There are also literally hundreds of issue-oriented groups that engage in political work to support issues (and candidates) that range from the environment, to reproductive freedom, to the First Amendment, to statehood for DC, to reforms to our voting system, to improving local schools, etc., etc., etc. Pick a cause and get involved.
Finally, consider running for office yourself. There are a number of groups that specifically train and support women who are considering running for office. We women often tell ourselves that we aren’t experienced enough, don’t have the right background, wouldn’t be able to do the public speaking involved, etc. Take a look at some of the absolutely idiotic white men who are in elected office right now and get over yourself. Pick a local office, especially if the Democrats haven’t even run a challenger in a while, and give it a go. Even if you don’t win (the first time), you’ll make the Republicans spend time, energy, money, and political capital that won’t then go to other Republicans. (For example, a Republican with no challenger usually uses the money in his campaign chest (as well as his time showing up at events) to “help” other Republicans running for office. They then owe him a favor. If that Republican has to spend his money and time fighting a Democratic challenger in his own district, that will hurt the other Republicans he would have “helped.”) You’ll build infrastructure (connections, volunteers, knowledge) that will be useful to you next time or to the next person to run. And, you’ll likely pull the Overton Window back towards the left. I’ve watched Republicans here in Virginia suddenly start to sound a lot more moderate when they have a Democratic challenger.
Oh, and do political magic. Groups such as Bind Trump do regular magical workings. Smaller groups all over the world are doing political magic as well. You can, too. And you can add magic to any of the steps discussed above. Ground and center before you knock on a door to canvass. Cast a glamour when you get up to speak before a crowd. Do an attraction spell when you’re setting up your voter registration stall at the farmers’ market. You get the idea.
If you’re not mad at what’s going on in America, you’re not paying attention. But if all you do is get mad, Trump wins. So, don’t just get mad. Get to work.