Ask the grumpies: How can I help save the country when I hate talking to people and I live in Massachusetts [or substitute true blue state]

Introvert from MA asks:

I was talking with a friend and said that I feel guilty for being privileged, but after some discussion, I thought… maybe I really feel guilty for not living up to the responsibility that should come with my privilege.  I should do more political activism.  I have kind of accepted in my case phone calls just won’t happen– it gives me so much anxiety that I just avoid it.  I also honestly feel like activism in MA has very little point.  What can I do that will have an impact and doesn’t require me to get over my anxiety?  Also, I am doing fine financially but I’m not rich– so I do have some extra money, but not enough to make a huge difference in terms of donations to people.  Also, I should know this, but can you donate/volunteer to campaigns you’re not allowed to vote for?

Donate

So first, yes, if you are a US citizen you can donate to US campaigns outside your state at any level.  If you’re not a US citizen you can’t.  So if you have no time, you can donate to candidates outside your state.  If you don’t want to research *who* to vote for, SWING LEFT (link not sponsored, we just like them) is an easy place to direct dollars to– they’ve done all sorts of research on which states are flippable and will direct money accordingly.  I have done a lot of random $25 donations, basically any time something gets me riled up or I read a news story or someone I trust suggests a donation.

In terms of what else you can do to put that privilege to use in an impactful way:  It sounds to me like you are a perfect candidate for either postcards or letters.  I have done both of these.

Postcards

Postcards are used in several ways.  Currently, they have campaigns where they’re trying to get ahead of some massive voter purges in several states like Florida and Texas.  One of the things they’re doing is contacting registered democrats who have moved within-state to update their voter registration (they will followup with a pre-filled form) so that when the purge of people who don’t live at their current address (even if they’re still in the same precinct!) comes, they won’t be caught in it.  Other campaigns are reminding people to vote or asking them to vote for specific Democratic candidates.

Generally with Postcards to Voters (not sponsored, though we’ve given them money), you sign up to write some number of postcards– they recommend 5 when you’re starting out (I usually request 20 and then DH and I each do 10).  Then you text “hi” to Abby the bot (they’ll give you its number) and it will ask you what campaign you want to write postcards for.  Then they send you a link and an email to a page with instructions (including a script) and however many addresses you requested.  You are expected to mail your postcards within three days (so only request as many as you will be able to do– you can request again if you want).

You provide the postcards and the postage.  Currently the US postal service only has two options for postcard stamps– you can get shell coral reef stamps (not sponsored) to put on your own postcards, or you can buy pre-stamped postcards (not sponsored) from the post office with pretty stamp designs (usually flowers or birds).  For post-cards you have a ton of options.  The cheapest options are to get 100 packs from Amazon that say VOTE on them.  This set (amazon link) used to be the cheapest, and the designs are solid.  There’s a blank strip on the front that I like because you can put reminders about early voting dates or a webpage for the candidate on that part.  The one small problem is that you have to be careful with what kind of pen you use on that strip because it will smudge with some pens if you don’t let the ink dry first.  This other set (amazon link) is currently the cheapest per-card, but I haven’t used it yet.  People give it good reviews!  Post cards for voters has a ton of more expensive (and higher quality) options that are just adorable, but I will warn you that you will end up writing more if you choose one of their who/what/when etc. options like this cute one with owls (amazon link).  Options that limit what you can write on the picture side are likely to be less overwhelming, even if they’re not as cute.  All of these postcard sets on amazon have pictures of people’s actual post-cards from postcards to voters, so you can see what they tend to look like when they’re complete.  If you’d rather print your own postcards, they provide a number of great templates (not sponsored).

You do not put your full name (I sign with my first, but I’ve been at parties where people sign with a made-up first name, and sometimes DH doesn’t sign at all), and you don’t know the name of the person you’re sending to.  They give you a list of suggestions for who to address it to, and I’ve settled on VIP Voter because it nicely balances a short salutation (good for my wrist) and not sounding stupid.

You can mail these by taking them to a mailbox, the post-office, or just leaving them in your mailbox for your regular mail carrier to pick up.  I usually drop them off at the post-office on my way to work.

Letters

Another option is to send letters with vote forward.  These tend to be general letters not for any specific candidate sent to registered democrats reminding people to vote.  You will have people’s names and addresses.  Generally you’re writing by hand Dear Ms/Mr/etc. LASTNAME and signing and possibly filling in some other bit of information by hand, but the rest of the stuff is printed out.  Then you hand address the letters, using a PO Box return address that they give you.

You can request addresses at any time.  You use your own paper and envelopes and stamps and can choose any stamps you want.  The post office has put me on their philatelist mailing list.  Now I want all the stamps.  Currently they have SESAME STREET(!) (not sponsored)

Then you hold onto the letters until the time to send them… which is currently OCTOBER 27th for reminding people about the general election.  Personally I’m going to focus on postcards until this summer, but I will definitely be doing letters closer to the time period.  I may buy more stamps before then though.

Texting

If you’re ok with texting, Indivisible has a Texting team that you can join.  I personally hate GETTING texts from political campaigns, so I was a bit leery about joining up, BUT they have a 4 prong texting program for the candidates they’re targeting.  The first two texts sound AWFUL as an introvert– they’re “listening” and “persuading”.  But my sister convinced me to sign up to do “let people know that early voting has started” and “GOTV”.   We’ll see how those go… I’m a little intimidated about it.  Also, all the texting is done from your computer, not your phone and they won’t have your own phone number.  I’m not entirely sure how to get connected with this (it all seemed super secret when I was invited), but here’s their web form that I didn’t use.

Grumpy Nation:  Are you doing any of the above?  Do you have other suggestions for ways to get involved?

21 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: How can I help save the country when I hate talking to people and I live in Massachusetts [or substitute true blue state]”

  1. abe Says:

    This is so helpful! Thanks for giving me some options – Abe

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Though for those of you willing and able to pick up the phone: https://twitter.com/ElieNYC/status/1220559703899545600

    5calls.org and celeste_p on Twitter generally have scripts

  3. FF Says:

    Even if your own state is not a swing state or there are no down-ballot races that could use some help, it might be near swing states/districts. For example, Massachusetts is right next to New Hampshire and also not far from Maine, both of which are swing states. Large swathes of New York are also quiet reddish. In 2018, my congressional swing district (NY19) had lots of volunteers come in from Massachusetts to help flip the district. It’s considered a tossup again for 2020, so someone in western MA might consider heading over to NY for canvassing. In 2018, Swing Left organized trips/rides to swing districts, so you might want to see if your local group has anything planned. Or Indivisible. Also, I am pretty introverted, but if you canvass in person, you interact with only one or two people at a time face-to-face, which I find easier than speaking to strangers on the phone.

    I just checked the Swing Left website, and there are some upcoming letter writing sessions in Chicopee and Northampton, if you are nearby and interested. You can put in your zip code and learn about upcoming activities near you, wherever you are.

    You might also consider making a small donation to a candidate you like–the number of individual donations is used for debate eligibility and as a measure of grassroots support. So giving even $5 can help your preferred candidate. Or donating to people campaigning for local office–I think it’s much more difficult for them to raise campaign funds.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Lots of little states in New England!

    • EB Says:

      Let me put in a plug for canvassing, even if you are introverted. Canvassing door to door is the hardest role to recruit for, but it’s really crucial. I find it MUCH easier than telephoning. You typically only get to talk to someone every 10 minutes or so, and often you’re not trying to convince them of anything, only giving them absentee ballot applications or information on where/when they can early vote. You’re showing the people you talk to (who are often pre-identified as Democratic voters but who may not have voted recently) that they matter. In a presidential election, a bonus is that you’re walking around outdoors in beautiful Fall weather. I live in Illinois, which is not a swing state, but I go to Wisconsin or Michigan to canvass. The fellowship on the bus rides is another plus.

      • KH Says:

        Introvert de-lurking to second this. Pairing up with an experienced canvasser the first time really helped. It’s just one-on-one conversations, you have a script to (generally) follow, and it’s mostly providing information. It’s somewhat tiring for an introvert, but you CAN do it!

  4. af184793 Says:

    I’ve been asking similar questions and also talking to friends about what organizations are best to donate to. (Because of my dislike of phoning and canvasssing, I decided to take on a small overtime project at work this year, for which I get some extra money, and donate that. Sort of substituting my dollars for my time.) Stacey Abrams’ new organization, Fair Fight, looks like it’s doing really important work.

    It’s hard to believe that every donation counts in the era of millionaires and billionaires throwing their money around. But it’s true that in the smaller races they can help out a lot.

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Thanks for this post – I’ll be reviewing it when I have a bit more energy and brain to think about doing things again. Today is not a great day for it but I appreciate the ready resource. <3

  6. Cloud Says:

    I do postcards and I donate. If you don’t like the idea of donating to campaigns outside of your area, you can always donate to one of the organizations working to protect voting rights: Let America Vote (Jason Kander founded it) and Fair Fight (Stacey Abrams founded it) are two good options. I also like Mi Familia Vota, who are working to get more latinx folks registered and voting.

    I like writing postcards because doing something is better than stressing out and feeling hopeless! I will write for any race, because I think it is good to encourage the act of voting and because I think that if “our side” is seen as fighting everywhere it may change the calculus a bit for Republicans who think they’re in a safe seat.

    I will also put in a plug for emailing your Senators right now, even if it is just to say “thanks for fighting the good fight!” on Impeachment. We’re all fixated on calling because volume of calls can help make a point, but emails get read and I’ve read from reputable sources that they get tallied into volume counts on issues, too. Our Senators can point to the number of people contacting them to counteract arguments that no one cares. Also, they’re probably getting contacted by people mad about impeachment and it is nice to balance that.

  7. Carolyn Says:

    This is a great post! Some more possibilities to consider:
    — Local candidates can often use office help. You can give them a call and just ask if you can work behind the scenes in the office.
    — If canvassing or phone calling isn’t for you, perhaps you could provide childcare or other support for friends who do want to do it.
    — Write a letter to the editor about an issue or a candidate.
    — Ask your friends and family to make campaign donations instead of giving you birthday gifts.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    You can also focus on specific issues, not just candidates. You can donate or volunteer for groups that are working for good. You can share informative stories and inform people about misinformation. And you can try to better care for people and the planet: just being decent to the cashier and trying out vegetarian recipes can matter. Support and encourage others who are doing good work. (This week I plan to finish switching all my light bulbs to LEDs.)

  9. Anu Says:

    Btw, small correction to your note about political donations. You can make political donations if you are a US citizen or if you are a US permanent resident (green card holder). That’s an important exception to the rule about non-citizens not being allowed to make political donations. (I became a permanent resident shortly before the 2016 election so this was a personally important rule for me.) I am now a citizen and excited to vote in the upcoming elections (but not super-excited because like the OP I live in MA).
    https://www.fec.gov/updates/foreign-nationals/

  10. bookishbiker Says:

    I don’t see a mention for Sister District – an organization that pairs people from a blue area with an area that could use some extra attention/energy to shift the vote. I’ve participated in fund raisers, postcards, and text-banking (only contacting people who have also joined the local sister district list, usually asking for last-minute donations or phone banking efforts), all for candidates in two Virginia races (one won, one lost). It’s great to feel like my efforts are being organized for maxiumum impact.

  11. link love | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] up for voting by mail.  That sounds like something good to do while sipping on your quarantini.  Here’s info on how to get postcards and stamps and how to sign up.  (You can just stick them in your mailbox when you’re done for the postal worker to pick […]


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