Support your local democracy workers!  This is an essential mission in times like these.

I spent some time this week listening to congressional hearings about the infamous Cyber Ninjas election audit in Arizona.  There was a lot of crazy involved in the audit situation…but one of the most painful things, for me, was hearing the Arizona election officials talking about the death threats and intimidation they’ve received from their fellow Americans.  Jack Sellers, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, talked about Sheriff’s department vehicles being parked in front of his house all night due to specific threats directed at him.  Keep in mind that this man is a Republican, but he is being punished anyway for not going along with Trump’s Big Lie.

This same pattern is playing out in many places across the country.  In red states, Republican legislators and election officers who dare to uphold the results of the 2020 presidential race are being harassed and pressured to leave office.  And school board members are resigning because of the vicious attacks they are receiving over mask mandates.  We hear a lot about the squabbling in Congress, but there is a different battle taking place all over the nation. The Trumpist right wing has turned its assault on democracy local.

This strategy works to their advantage on multiple levels.  Number one, it pushes people unwilling to kowtow to Trump out of these jobs, and replaces them with loyal followers who will toe the line.  In the future, the actual vote counts in an election might not matter, if state legislatures and officers are happy to overturn the results.  Number two, it creates a chilling effect which keeps responsible community members from running for these positions.  Who wants to deal with this much stress and fear for doing hard work which is either low-paid or voluntary?

As a volunteer for our county Democratic party, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of our local school board members.  These are regular, everyday Moms, former teachers, immigrants who live and work in our community.  They are not people with a Secret Service detail.  They cannot and should not have to deal with constant threats to their safety.  Fortunately, in the area where I live–as far as I can tell–the situation is not that dire, but many others are not so lucky.

So what can we do?  As always, just throwing up our hands and getting angry about terrible Youtube videos is not the answer.  I’m forever on my soapbox about how we need to be involved in local politics, but this is especially true now.

If you have the courage, time and resources, running for or volunteering for one of these positions is a beautiful thing.  The right is currently working on getting its very special Trump-approved candidates to fill these slots.  We need good, sane people to push back on this.

That is not realistic for everyone, however.  For those of us who cannot run, we need to find ways to show support for our local helpers of democracy.  One way is to show up to meetings.  Often, the majority of the community actually supports things like mask mandates, but the minority which opposes them is loud and aggressive about it–and they are the ones who show up and speak out (or scream out, more accurately).

Another way is to show support on social media.  This may seem like a small thing, but again, if you visit the social media accounts of your school district or city council or state legislators, you will often find that the comments are dominated by a flood of trolling and negativity–even for someone who just a few days ago may have won the community’s vote!  If they are doing something you agree with, leave a thank you note of support.  If we let the trolls take over, it gives the false impression that the community is opposed to popular policies.

And of course, around election time, support the campaigns of those who are trying to do the right thing.  Donate if you can, volunteer if you are able to.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not going to get national media coverage, but it’s actions like this, putting in the work day after day, election after election, that will save our democracy.

To the democracy workers–thank you for what you do.  We’ve got your back.

My last post came from a place of pessimism, but that isn’t the full story. If I want to be truthful, I need to write about the flipside, the things which are keeping me active and keeping me going. Most of all, it’s the people I’ve met–wonderfully stubborn, gutsy people who don’t give up and continue fighting. They have reminded me of the way I used to care and the way I still care.

More than that, the groups I’ve become involved with aren’t just idealistic, they’re also pragmatic and they bring results. Change happens. Some examples of what has become reality: The Bus Project is responsible for Oregon’s shiny new motor voter law, which makes sure that anyone with a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote–this at a time when voter rights are suppressed in other parts of the country. They have also pioneered the Fresh Start Initiative, which expunges minor marijuana-related infractions from criminal records. Because if marijuana is now legal in Oregon anyway, what’s the point of these incidents haunting individuals for years to come? This initiative not only passed the Oregon legislature–Representative Earl Blumenauer is now planning to turn it into a U.S. Congress bill.

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending even more time with the awesome folks at Oregon Climate, who are working to implement an innovative carbon fee & dividend plan. They had a bill in both the House and Senate in our last state legislative session, and have succeeded in passing multiple carbon pricing city council resolutions. Pretty impressive when you realize that they started out as a couple of friends talking about climate change in their living room.

And since I’m giving a shoutout to worthwhile organizations anyway, let me mention the Oregon Working Families Party and Fair Shot Oregon, both advocating for a $15 minimum wage. Thanks to them, the minimum wage issue is expected to be on the ballot in 2016.

I can tune out all the nonsense that is being spouted in national politics when I focus on the activists getting stuff accomplished locally. Local political engagement is hard work, and it doesn’t get the glamour or the media attention that the nationwide spectacle does, but it’s where things really get done. It’s more than worth the time and effort.

Finally, this post is a bit of an apology along with an explanation. My involvement with these local organizations is the reason for my posts becoming more infrequent lately. Between my full time day job and my spare time political activities, my schedule has become a little squeezed. I’m definitely not giving up on the blog, because I love writing, but may not be here as frequently as I have before. Sorry and a very grateful thank you to the people who have continued to visit 😉