Even more places to be Activist: Activism update

Several of us who started our activism in November or December or January are feeling a bit burnt out.  That is perfectly normal.  We’re going to keep pushing through, however.  We’ve been able to stem some, but not all, of the worst things the new administration has tried to do.  Things are moving ever onward.  There’s still a lot to do.

What provides me the most hope, however, is the huge amount of change within the activism community as time goes on.  Here’s my view of the greater national movements in the context of the university town where I live:

When we started, the activism movement in town was the local democrats (disorganized, unfocused, etc.), the pro-Bernie democratic socialists (less disorganized, but extremely small and a bit paranoid), the campus democrats (I got kicked out of their first meeting for asking if they had an agenda and have not been back), and a local faith-based group that helps with immigrant concerns (very organized, but not ready for Trump).

Now the local democrats have outgrown their meeting room and have had to move to a bigger space.  Their meetings are more likely to follow an agenda.  They’ve fixed their broken mailing list.  They’ve had a local meet-and-greet in which they invited all of the local progressive groups in the area to discuss what they do and what their needs are.  They send out a monthly mailer with information on upcoming events, and there are now upcoming events.  They’re still mainly focused on voter registration and working with the local faith-based immigrant protection group, but those are especially important concerns.  Most of the active people in this organization are baby boomers.

The democratic socialists have also grown.  They’ve started having monthly meetings again.  We don’t interface with them much, but they do send out helpful newsletters.

I suspect the campus dems are still very anti-anybody-who-wants-to-do-anything-besides-complain because nobody has heard from them.  Which is a shame, because 8 years ago they were a really strong organization.  Maybe when their current leadership graduates there will be some change.

The interfaith group has been gearing up for ICE raids and similar things.  They’ve been working with a related group in a major city to set up procedures and training for raids.  (My DH has been helping them a lot with the technical aspects– at some point in the future he will provide a post here about how to best provide mass alerts in a way that the government can’t use to capture people.  It is not an easy problem.)

We have some new groups.  One of my colleagues started a town Indivisible group and it has grown rapidly.  Their meetings are focused and organized.  They have a great weekly newsletter that has federal, state,  and local action items on it, as well as an active twitter feed that keeps getting blocked and unblocked by our state rep.  Indivisible works well with our state group (technically the Indivisible group run by the most liberal city in our state) and the federal group.  It is a fantastic organization, at least in our state.  This group seems to have drawn mostly professionals and a few really amazing college students.  They generally meet in the evening or on weekends.  They’ve been central in pressing our representatives for town-halls, making sure people are at local protests, and so on.  They’re looking for principled moderate Republican candidates to primary our tea-party jerks.

Action Group Network, Barack Obama’s group, hasn’t made inroads into our town yet.  Their emails aren’t the best either and I can’t really figure out how to tell you how to subscribe to their mailing list, despite the fact that I’m on it.

A recent addition has been meetup’s activism group #resist.  In our town, this one seems to be run by SAHP– they tend to meet during the day.  They email a lot but they’re not very organized, they’re pretty unfocused, and their meetings get derailed with long philosophical discussions about things like the Overton window (at least, according to the emails they send, we haven’t been to a meeting).

My sister has been seeing similar changes in her big city.  When she started everything was in disarray.  The Dems were a joke.  Nobody knew what anybody else was doing.  They’re still not as organized as the liberal city in our state, but there’s a new head to her local dems and the local activism groups have had a leaders meeting (put together by my sister) and know who each other are.

In addition to the local groups, there are now some really amazing new online places to get info.  My favorite of these is 5calls.  It is doing such a great job that many of the weekly newsletters we subscribe to will just link to them.  Swing Left provides information about flippable districts and will email you about candidates who could use your donations– like for replacement elections that happen out of cycle.  Here’s information on legislation happening in your state.

Another change has been that instead of just asking for more donations if you donate, places like the ACLU or Brennan Center for Justice etc. will email with updates on what is going on and requests for action.

I am hopeful because I have seen how the resistance is growing and changing.  It’s organizing.  More people are getting involved.  We have momentum going.  The snowball is getting bigger.

And I know if you’ve been doing this since January or before, it may be hard to keep up that pace.  I know I’m no longer calling 4 days a week every week and I don’t always call on Monday like I used to.  My life is busy with work and home.  But I do make my calls.  And I’m getting much more involved in state politics too– both of our state representatives have been consistently voting against university interests because nobody has been paying attention.  That is going to change.  And it’s going to change because I know I’m not the only one paying attention now.

So again, what can you do?

Check out the local groups in your area– chances are there’s a lot more to choose from than there was back when you last checked.  Even if you don’t attend meetings, you can get on mailing lists.  You can donate. You can be aware of what is going on.  You can join this movement and add your voice.  Because we’re a lot louder in chorus than we are individually.  And it’s easier than ever to join a choir.

And if you don’t have a local group in your area, you can start one.  I can tell you that setting up an indivisible group is pretty easy.  The parent organization will set up your webpage, twitter, secure communication, etc. and provide training for how to run meetings and so on.  It is work, but it’s directed and efficient.  Setting up a #resist group is easy as well, though without the structure from the parent organization it may be harder to sustain, but maybe not!

Or, if you want to help a current organization, you can make a big difference there as well.  Once she finally got in touch with DH (months after he’d emailed), the head of our local dems figured out that yes, their email list was broken and hadn’t processed anybody who had emailed to join since November, and yes meeting the other activist organizations in town was a great idea for a meeting, and so on.  Small fixes can make big changes.  That’s what organizing is all about.

What does the activism organizational landscape in your town look like?  What groups have I missed that people should look up in your state?   Where do you get your information? What else have I missed? 

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15 Responses to “Even more places to be Activist: Activism update”

  1. Katherine Says:

    I’m in the 6th district so most of what we’re doing is all about getting Ossoff elected. We have at least three or four (that I know of) Indivisible groups within this same district. I haven’t been to any meetings – childcare is my biggest obstacle – but I would very much like to attend some. Our Democratic party meetings don’t seem to have near as much participation or momentum as the indivisible groups. Of course, that’s just my opinion, as all of my participation is limited to social media. I’m a big fan of Moms Demand Action – we’re trying to get our governor to veto campus carry via calls and mail to his office. I used to go protest outside of our Representative’s office, but looked up our policy and found out I could get fired for doing so, even on my lunch break. In terms of the upcoming #flipthe6th election, we fought to get another early voting place, even if it’s only open for one week. The only one in my county (the district spans three counties) is about 30 minutes away and outside of the district. The powers that be had no problem setting up early voting in the other heavily Republican leaning areas.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I donated to Ossoff because of swingleft!

      Good luck on campus carry– our state reps supported it despite the university being in their district because we weren’t paying attention. But people are paying attention now.

      Voting access is so important. The amount of voter suppression that is going on is insane.

      Thank you for your fight!

      That’s terrible that you can get fired for protesting.

  2. monsterzero Says:

    5calls.org is pretty awesome and I have been using it almost every day! Unfortunately I have not been doing much else activism. I’m an introvert, but something tells me that we must have some groups in the bay area, right?

  3. chacha1 Says:

    But first: Bannon is off the NSC. I haven’t seen a substantive follow-up yet but HELLA WOOT.

    SBTB updated on activism just the other day. :-)

    As previously indicated, I am not in a place right now where I feel I can give my personal time. So I am throwing money at organizations/people I trust to represent.

    The list so far includes National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, Audubon, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris. (Next on the list: Environmental Defense Fund and PBS.) Almost all of these send action emails which make joining petitions and sending letters very easy.

    Also sent money to a broke friend whose family is going to Italy this summer (on someone else’s dime) but who needed a boost to pay for a passport renewal.

    I am not on Twitter and I don’t watch TV news. I read BBC.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, and CNN.com. I am on Facebook for about ten minutes a day and try to post informative news articles, then check in with my friends. I follow my Rep. Ted Lieu and some other progressives including Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Al Franken, also AltNationalParks.

    Other than that, I am just doing what I do. Have not been able to write much this year, so I’m reading a lot.

  4. Crone Says:

    Thank you for this post. I have felt overwhelmed recently, helpless, and losing hope. The ACA is still under heavy attack, the seat on the Supreme Court is not headed to a good ending for anyone who believes in equality rights, 45 remains (the vp option is as bad just differently), N. Korea will soon be tossing bombs at west coast USA and Japan, and I can hear 45’s base cheering them on. SO, thank you for the encouragement. As small fixed income I wish I had more money to share but am appreciative of those who can and are doing so. I am calling and writing….. just feel futile right now. BUT NOT GOING TO QUIT!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thank you for not quitting! And thank you for calling and writing!

      If we weren’t resisting, things would be going even worse right now than they actually are. We are making a big difference, even if it is not as much of one as we would have hoped. We’re growing and pushing back and getting stronger. Keep fighting!

      And one reason I keep fighting is because I suspect that if I give up, then that means everyone else like me is also giving up. And I don’t want that, so I’m going to keep going in the hopes that they feel the same way too. We’re in this together.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    Wow, meetings of local organizations! I dislike the political meetings I’ve been to (neighborhood association, campus staff organization) because they’re generally full of people whining about things that don’t bother me. I only go for the speakers. (And maybe the donuts.) So I have no clue what’s going on around here. (Admittedly, there are currently plenty of things to complain about that do bother me these days, so maybe it would be okay.) Very interesting read.

    And marches don’t sound any fun either, though I’m thinking of trying one. (I’ve only been to one in the past, one on Martin Luther King’s birthday, but then several of the speakers were all “We should quit complaining and quit acting entitled and get off our asses!” and I didn’t really feel right cheering, “Yes, you people should quit complaining…” so I never did it again.)

    I like that 5 Calls site and will start checking it out. Other favorites:
    100 Disruptions – one action item every day for the first 100 days (except yesterday and today when they’re taking a break!)
    TX-10 Indivisible – this is my favorite local one (though not quite perfect–they have a different rep than mine, but same senators and same issues) – they have lots of actions

    A few years ago I started signing petitions, and I still get most of my information from the groups that sponsor those. I looked through my recent e-mails and copied down organizations that have sent me petitions; I’ve separated out the environmental ones (so many!) below.

    Daily Kos – progressive, very biased (and they are just as happy to make fun of people as to talk about issues), but has a lot of headlines that keep me somewhat in the know
    ACLU – civil liberties
    Win Without War – pro-diplomacy
    Sum Of Us – “fighting for people over profits”
    CREDO – progressive issues (I think they have cell phones, too, but I use Republic Wireless)
    Fair World Project – fair trade (decent working conditions and salaries)
    Other98 – economic justice
    Economic Policy Institute – economic justice
    Demand Progress – progressive issues
    Consumer’s Union – consumer protections
    Democracy for America – fair voting
    Public Citizen – pro democracy, anti corporate greed
    Union of Concerned Scientists – various issues with a focus on strategies that actually work
    Change.org – random petitions of every kind

    Environmental Organizations
    350.org – against climate change
    Food & Water Watch – pro food safety, anti GMO (and the chemical use that accompanies it)
    Center for Biological Diversity – environmental issues
    Friends of the Earth – environmental issues
    The Nature Conservancy – environmental issues
    Environmental Defense Fund – environmental issues
    League of Conservation Voters – environmental issues
    Organic Consumers Association – “health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy”
    NRDC – environmental issues
    Rainforest Action Network – rainforest conservation
    Just Label It – anti-GMO

    There are also some politicians I follow. Sometimes they have information and petitions. I follow some progressives I like. But I also follow Trump (because he occasionally has questionnaires and it is a genuine pleasure to give mostly answers he will hate, though the bias in the survey writing is horrifying). And I follow my own reps (though I usually can’t stand reading more than a couple of headlines in their newsletters before I delete them in disgust). But one should know thine enemy. I like to use their own words and talk about things they claim to care about like jobs, family values and other morality issues, low taxes/governmental costs, and local government.
    Elizabeth Warren
    Jeff Merkley
    Bernie Sanders (actually I think I just get stuff from him via friends and other organizations)

    Since the election, I’ve also subscribed to some video series for more information:
    Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
    Vlog Brothers – https://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers – fast-talking* rational guys who explain well.
    * not a euphemism–they literally talk fast, which I actually really, really like

    And sometimes my friends post things on Facebook.

    On petitions: Once you sign a petition, the organization sends you regular e-mails with a) news on the issues it covers, b) additional petitions, and c) requests for funding help. You can always unsubscribe, but you can never request petitions only! I now get several tens of messages a day, most of which I just delete, but I generally sign several petitions a day (though Sunday evening eases up) and I sometimes click on a link to read more about an issue.

  6. bogart Says:

    I don’t have much to add, but I agree with your general sense that (a) organization is much better and activism much higher than it was prior to 11/8, and (b) it is worth persisting. I am continuing with a blend of throwing money, time, and words of various flavors at the numerous problems. OTOH in a frightening display of selfish privilege I did just take the family to Canada over spring break because I am not above leaving if things get bad and wanted all of us to start to get a feeling of the lay of the land up that way (destination: BC, which has the downside of being closer to North Korea than my east coast locale; what we learned: the go-bag should include plenty of Gore-tex. Also that it is possible to buy in Canada the kind of huge Jawbreaker candy that I remember from my childhood and not those silly little things sold today).

    I have started using resistbot (pops up quickly via google if you are interested) to send faxes to my Senators — not sure it is really as good as calling, but it is easy and less annoying for my introverted self. I have, though, restored to my phone the direct-dial widgets for their DC numbers that I removed before traversing the border back into the US. Also, reading Sarah Kendzior on twitter and via blog (ditto on google) which is enough to make anyone not sleep at night, but … she makes what seem to me a bunch of good points.

  7. Cloud Says:

    This post makes me happy, because I think the best possible outcome from this nightmare is that it changes the politics in places like where you are. One thing I regret is that we didn’t fight the Tea Party when they happened. They were never truly representative of a lot of the places they took on Congress. But, I’m glad we’re fighting now. It is good news that the local Democrats in your area are getting more organized and good news if some more reasonable Republicans start primarying the Tea Partiers.

    I have all Democrat reps, although my district is a bit swingy. I call or email them to support a firm line and to thank them for their actions, mostly. I have a personal windmill I tilt against in that I send a fax to the House Oversight committee every week asking them to investigate the egregious conflicts of interest in this administration. I pick one or two instances from the news each week to highlight. I’d call, but their voice mailbox is always full. I suspect that is on purpose.

    I also emailed Paul Ryan (via speaker.gov) about Nunes. I am glad to see he’s recused himself now. I like to think the outcry had something to do with that.

    And I’ve been donating to Jon Ossoff and one of the Dem candidates in Issa’s district (which is just north of mine). I’ll probably show up at my local March for Science, despite the issues the national march has had and despite the fact that it is on my anniversary.

    I will keep plodding on, because my mantra is to do what I’d wish I’d done if things get worse. Right now, speaking up is low risk and relatively easy for me. If we all keep doing it now, we’ll hopefully never get to the point where speaking up is risky for people like me. (I know it is already risky for some people, which only tells me that people like me should speak up!)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I wish Evan McMullan was better at organizing, because I know Indivisible would LOVE to work with local groups that share his views and want to remain Republicans. But right now I think many of them are floundering not knowing what to do–feeling disenfranchised and disgusted but also not feeling like they have a political home.

      Our uni is having a March for Science. DC2 and DH are both going to wear labcoats. :) A romantic date for you!

      I agree with you on feeling like I need to know that I’ve done what I could. I feel so guilty about not doing anything before. I could have made my voice heard on so many issues, but I didn’t. And I agree that we need to speak up for those who can’t! Not just for the “First they came for…” reasons (though those are important), but also because it is the Right Thing To Do.

      Thank you for all your work!


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