This weekend, I was part of an email exchange in my state Democratic Party. Aaaaand…it never fails. Somebody started bitching that someone wasn’t attending enough meetings. Someone else called the complainer disrespectful, and off we went. The initial topic of the email thread–trying to make meeting information more accessible on the party website–got completely lost, and wasn’t addressed again until much later.

On that same day, I attended training to be an election observer in my county. Our trainer’s warning could not have been more stark. For the first time ever, he told us, he believed that intentional disruptions to the election process were likely. Disruptions like intimidation of voters, protests in front of election offices, even rioting. We received safety instructions for what to do if we were threatened by violent MAGAs during our shift.

(By the way, if you have a chance to volunteer to be an election observer in your local area, do it! It’s more important than ever.)

It’s a cliche to say that working with Democrats is a bit like herding cats…but it’s a cliche because it’s true. Our meetings always take way longer than expected, because we don’t just bicker about the issues we’re voting on, we bicker endlessly about what the voting process should be. Our party is full of lively and big personalities, which is part of what makes it so much fun. And no, we don’t fall in line easily.

That is all well and good, but it’s also true that we really are in a battle for our democracy. For the first time since I arrived in this country, I’m genuinely worried that our election system will not survive the next couple of cycles–that we will see political violence, that MAGA candidates will refuse to concede, and state legislatures will overturn election results.

So we can’t afford the petty in-fighting. Yes, people on our own side will disagree with us, and yes, people can be difficult to work with. That is not relevant right now. We need to set that aside and focus on what matters–supporting our candidates and making sure they’re elected, putting our message out there, and getting out the vote, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for any voter suppression shenanigans.

The extreme right-wing is organizing and preparing for its assault on our institutions and our republic. Will we be able to unite and oppose this assault, or will we continue hurling finger-wagging emails at each other?

Eyes on the prize, Democrats!

In case anyone is wondering why, in a time of inflation, endless mass shootings and baby formula shortages, the January 6th commission still matters?

It matters because this could happen again. A precedent was set in 2020 that the candidate who loses an election does not need to accept the results, and a peaceful transfer of power doesn’t need to take place. The candidate can simply say he still won, and send a bunch of his angry supporters into the Capitol, threatening to hang the legislators they think should vote differently.

This time the attempt to assassinate legislators and execute a coup was stopped–thank goodness. But what if it’s tried again the next election, and the one after that?

I grew up in an authoritarian regime, in which elections still took place, but the results didn’t matter. The candidates were selected ahead of time. I would really hate to see the United States turn into that kind of place. There need to be consequences for the Jan 6th insurrection.

When the 2016 election results were announced, I was devastated. I was angry and sad. Trump wasn’t just anathema to everything I believed in–he seemed like a danger to everything I loved about America.

But I never once allowed myself to believe fantasies about Hillary getting reinstated halfway through the term, or conspiracy theories about the election results getting overturned. Not only because overturning the results of a legitimate election would be wrong, but because this just…was not…reality. And I knew that allowing myself to believe in fairy tales would only bring me pain and suffering in the end, when they turned out not to be true.

So instead I worked my butt off to promote my ideas and values on the local and state level, and volunteered as much as I could during the midterms and presidential election. It was sometimes discouraging and hard, but it was the only way to really make a difference and move things forward.

It’s rough–I know!–but the only thing to do when you’ve lost an election is to work to get the vote out and persuade voters that your ideas are the ones that will help them. Anybody telling you about a quick and easy solution is trying to sell you something. And threatening violence is truly the lazy person’s way out. “We can’t have our way, so we’ll have to shoot you.” Guess what: that only makes things worse, and more complicated. And it does not bring other people over to your side.

Please, don’t buy what the Russian bots are selling you. It will only make your life, and all of our lives, more difficult.

More than ever before, it is crucial that we get record turnout for Election 2020 and that all of those votes count. But with so many voters voting with absentee/mail-in ballots this year for the first time, I think it’s really important to help people avoid the types of mistakes that invalidate absentee ballots. It…

How To Make Absolutely Sure Your Vote Counts This November — Political⚡Charge

Super important info from a fellow blogger!!

All kinds of thoughts pop into our heads when we’re awake at 3 am.  Lately, I’ve been waking up at 3 am a lot.  Maybe it’s the pandemic.  Maybe my body is hinting at me that I shouldn’t be having that beer right before bed….but that’s a different story.

A few nights ago, a particularly disturbing thought came to me and wouldn’t let me get back to sleep for a long time.  In the light of day, it seems insane.  I hope it’s insane.  But I need to get it out of my system.

So, we all know that Donald Trump has a…shall we say…chummy relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin.  What if it becomes clear to Trump that he’s about to lose the election…or he does lose the election in November…and he decides to make a deal with Putin to stage some kind of terrorist attack in America?

It’s already obvious from his response to the COVID pandemic that Trump would not be too concerned about a large loss of life of his fellow Americans…especially if those Americans lived in one of those blue cities that don’t like him.  In fact, he would be thrilled if this happened in a place like Seattle, or Chicago, or maybe San Francisco, where Nancy Pelosi is from.  He is that petty of a man.  I don’t even think he would try to hide his joy.

And in the meantime–this would give him the perfect excuse to postpone the election, or postpone the upcoming transition of power.  You know he would jump on that opportunity.  It would be a national security emergency, after all!  And he will keep America safe, like nobody else!

Another advantage of working with Putin is that Trump could get around the Pentagon.  Our military has its own problems, but at this point he has pissed off enough generals and soldiers with his name-calling and his stupidity that I don’t think they would let this kind of coup slide.  If he made a deal with a foreign leader, though, they would never need to know what was going on.

And, of course, Vladimir would be more than happy to do anything that weakens and injures America.  And how hilarious would it be if the country’s own President invited him to do it?  I can hear all the Russian bots LOL’ing about it now…

Feel free to tell me I’m completely bonkers.  In fact, I hope that you will.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope I’m crazy.  Please talk me off this ledge, because this is making sense to me, and I’m kind of scared thinking about it.

And let me note that this is what Trump’s presidency has done to me.  I hate conspiracy theories.  I hate conspiracy theory spouting people.  But I have turned into a conspiracy theorist myself, because I cannot trust this President.  I do not believe for one second that he has this country’s well-being in mind.  He only cares about his own ego and about being a celebrity, and he doesn’t care what he destroys as long as he can use that destruction to feed his insecure spirit, even if only for a brief moment.

So, let’s hope for a return to sanity in this country very soon…before my mind goes completely.  And…please tell me I’m crazy.

2020 has just started and I am already crazy busy.  Part of my time is spent volunteering for my local Democratic party and various climate organizations, but a large chunk of time is going to my fave candidate in the 2020 Dem primaries, Elizabeth Warren.

(And did I mention that I also have a full-time job and a marriage to maintain?  Ha!)

There are many reasons why I like Elizabeth.  My top two issues in this election are getting universal health care established in America, as well as doing something about the climate crisis.  Elizabeth has great plans for both of those issues.  In fact, she has highly detailed plans for just about every problem one can think of on her website.  It’s one of the things I love about her, although I also realize that being wonky can be the kiss of death when it comes to the American public.  Sadly, our culture likes one-liners and simple slogans, not complex thoughts about our complex world.  Too bad for us.

If you’re serious about getting single payer health care in America, the two candidates you are left with are Elizabeth and Bernie.  I considered both of them for a while.  In the end, I went with Elizabeth because she seems like she would be better at working with others to get things done.  Also…I just have to say that my experience with the Bernie movement has been extremely negative, both in 2016 and now as a Warren supporter.  I have friends who are die-hard Bernie supporters and are also wonderful people, but especially online, Bernie supporters can be some of the worst trolls you can run into, short of actual Trumpsters.  The Warren campaign and volunteer family is an extremely supportive and positive place.  I recently took a break from using Facebook and have mostly been hanging out on the All In For Warren site, and it has been great.  No name calling, no bashing of other candidates.  Bernie and Liz are close enough policy-wise that the animosity seems really counterproductive.  It feels like the supporters of the two progressive candidates should have each other’s backs in this process, but of course that is not the case.  If Liz leaves the race, Bernie would be my logical number two choice, but while I could happily support the candidate himself, I’m kind of dreading joining his movement.

And yes, the fact that Elizabeth is a woman does matter to me.  I still have not given up on what is possibly a delusional pipe dream of getting a female President.  I have my doubts about seeing one in my lifetime, but I will certainly keep fighting for it as long as I am alive.

So where I have been spending a lot of my time is in the Warren campaign’s e-mail inbox, as part of her team of correspondence volunteers.  Now there’s a volunteer job which truly fits my introvert personality.  The amusing part of working for Elizabeth Warren is that you get to see both “I hate you because you’re a disgusting Commie who wants to force government health care on us” and “I hate you because you are not a true progressive” opinions.  It’s quite a ride.  There’s also lots of excitement and encouragement, and lots of moving stories from people dealing with the daily battle of trying to survive in this country.

All in all, totally worth giving up some of my evenings and Saturday mornings for.  And things are only going to get busier!  Cheers all, and talk to you again soon.

 

 

 

 

Well, the 2020 election season is starting to fire up, and here comes the predictable chorus saying the same thing we always hear.  When it comes to people who actually want to transform the system we live in–people who support things like a single payer health care system, a higher minimum wage, affordable college…

You want free stuff!

Lazy moochers.  You want a handout, don’t you?  You want to be given something for nothing.

Let me just stop this tired old song before it even gets started.  I’m not a moocher.  I’m certainly not lazy.  I drag myself out of bed and work my ass off every single day.  I don’t want a handout–I just want what I’m rightfully owed for my hard work.  A decent wage.  The ability to see the doctor if I’m sick.  A roof over my head.  Working people should be able to have access to these basics.

Conservatives twist this into the idea of class envy.  If you want these things, it must be because you’re envious of what other people have and want to take that away.  I don’t envy the rich their lifestyle.  I certainly don’t envy Donald his garish, gold-covered absurdity of an existence.  I’m not asking for what belongs to anybody else–I’m asking for what is already mine.  The fruit of my hard labor.

Most Americans I know are like that.  I’ve known a couple of people over the course of my life who I could genuinely describe as moochers, but they were a small minority.  The majority of people I know in this country work themselves to the point of burnout and exhaustion, and they get screwed over in return.  It amazes me that so many of these working class Americans still support Trump.  The man has done his best to weasel away even more from them–everything from overtime pay to the ability to file a workers compensation claim for an on-the-job injury, and he certainly hasn’t helped with the tax situation.  Yet they continue to love the guy who robs them of what little they have.

So no, I’m not interested in “free stuff.”  But hey, getting treated with some dignity by the country I’m investing my life and work into?  Now that actually sounds like a good deal….

Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

2016 was a very special year and it deserves a very special sendoff.  Here is my recipe for Dec 31st:

For the ritual soundtrack, I’m going to turn on some nostalgic Prince.  Your tastes may vary–you are welcome to instead try some Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Sharon Jones, or any of the many talented musicians who left the planet this year.

Sadly, I don’t have a cauldron, so instead I’m going to find a large pot and put it on the stove.  Bring water to a boil in the pot and then toss in the following ingredients:

–the hair of a Trump voter

–eye of Pepe the frog

–my now useless I’m With Her sticker

–my now useless Bill of Rights

–a photo of Justin Bieber…who is still alive

–a few chopped up pieces of the root of division and prejudice

Be sure to stir the pot, and then dance around it, muttering dark incantations and chanting:  “Things will only get worse!  Things will only get worse!”

Repeat as many times as needed.  Keep the pot for next year–I’m sure we’ll be doing the same thing in 2017….

“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.