We need to talk.
I’m going to say this as kindly as I can, but I want to be clear: American democracy is vulnerable. It’s going to take extraordinary measures to right the ship. And those measures include you.
If you’ve followed AoCC for any length of time, you know that we support relaxing. Cultivating resilience through self care and rest is an important practice. But “relax” and “stop” are not the same thing. I’m alarmed by the number of people who believe they can relax (read: stop engaging) because our nation has a Democratic leadership.
Our democracy is vulnerable
The previous administration poked holes in our Constitution and left our nation more divided. It proved that a sitting president can do and say almost anything without immediate consequences. These vulnerabilities will take time, focus, and work to resolve.
In addition to the previous administration’s legacy, our nation faces daunting issues.
- the world’s second highest carbon dioxide production
- a pandemic ravaging our vulnerable communities
- 32% of Americans unable to afford basic expenses
- deep social and racial inequity
- a staggering number of people without homes, without health care, without jobs
It’s not all bad. That’s why we include a long list of good news in every Checklist.
Please do not assume the work will get done. Or that it’s time to sit things out. If you’re among those surviving this pandemic, more is being asked of you.
Three things you can do
1. Get current.
Visit https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials (and Google) to confirm who your elected officials are and how to contact them:
- US Senators (two)
- US House Representative (one)
- Secretary of State (or equivalent voting authority)
- State legislators (two)
- County commission
- County sheriff
- City council
- Chief of police
2. Modify your mindset
Whether you support or agree with the people in the list above is not important. Remember that their job is to represent you. You pay their salaries. As a citizen, your job is to tell them what you want.
If you are a Democrat represented by a Democratic official, you’re not absolved from communicating your priorities because you assume they agree. Democratic leaders are elected by major donors, influenced by powerful lobbies, and have priorities besides yours.
In Oregon, for example, we have a moderate Democratic senator who has been known to vote more conservatively than one might assume. It’s my job as his constituent to advocate for the country I want and call him to task when I think he isn’t doing enough.
It’s not just my Senator. You might be surprised to know that a recent House decision left out certain essential workers for vaccination despite the risks it poses to them and the people they serve. The $15/hour wage bump was taken off the pandemic relief bill (it was restored on 2/9/21, but it will be up for a vote next!) ICE leadership is rushing deportations while Biden’s 100-day moratorium is challenged in court. Democrats are overseeing these decisions now. You must communicate your priorities so they can represent you.
If you’re represented by a Republican, you’re not absolved from calling, assuming they won’t listen or care. Tokyo Sand from Political Charge made a great point in a recent article: the ACA still exists because people called Republicans in Congress.
“There was no reason to believe any Republican Senator would vote against their party after the GOP had been fighting for 8 long years to tear the Affordable Healthcare Act down. Yet Congress was drowning in calls and emails and visits from voters.”
Those calls led to Republicans abandoning their plans. The federal legislation still stands because people called their Republican representatives. Over the past four years, I’ve written my Republican legislator in the Oregon House. He personally responds and often respectfully agrees with my priorities. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
3. (Re)Commit to do the work
Here at AoCC, we’re committed to our vision of a kind and thriving nation.
Our team can do the hard work of collecting actions for democracy and equality, writing up clear scripts, and backing it all up with good research, but we cannot make you call. What’s essential to a thriving democracy is you.
So, we’re asking you today to commit to an hour each week to make your priorities known to those elected to represent you. Then you really can relax and enjoy the good feelings that come from doing your part.
Jen Hofmann and the AoCC team