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.

I suppose it’s a good sign of a lively political debate happening in this country.  Multiple groups are currently working to call a constitutional convention, as set out in Article V of the Constitution.  However, they are trying to do this in the alternative, never-before-used way–rather than having two-thirds of the Congress approve a constitutional amendment and send it to the states (which is unlikely in our divided political climate), they want to convince two-thirds of the state legislatures to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.  Once 34 states approve such a resolution, this would trigger the convention and, theoretically, a 28th Amendment to the Constitution could be voted on.  But which 28th Amendment? 

On one side, we have the conservatives, represented by the Compact for America, an organization led by Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute.  Their 28th Amendment idea is that old conservative refrain–a Balanced Budget Amendment, severely restricting the Federal government’s ability to spend money.  How close are they to achieving that goal?  That depends on how you look at it.  When the Michigan legislature voted yes on a constitutional convention resolution last month, Michigan did in fact become the 34th state to do so.  Problem is, 12 of the states which had previously agreed to hop on the convention train have since rescinded those resolutions.  It is now left to the constitutional experts to bicker it out with each other about the legal dilemma–is a state allowed to change its mind after it has petitioned Congress for a convention?  I would think so, but not everyone agrees.

It should also be said that the Tea Party itself, as much as they love the idea of a balanced budget, is divided on this issue.  Many people–on all political sides–fear a runaway constitutional convention, at which all kinds of “interesting” rules and laws could be approved by a limited collection of states.

On the other side, there is a push for a 28th Amendment prompted by the awful Citizens United and McClutcheon Supreme Court rulings.  This 28th Amendment would overturn Citizens United, make clear that corporations are not people, and limit how much money an individual can give to candidates in an election.  This effort is being organized by, among other groups, Money Out Voters In.  There is a 28th Amendment roadshow travelling around the country right now, and they will be visiting the local Occupy chapter here in Portland in May.  As far as progress in the state legislatures–16 of the more predictably progressive states have passed the resolution for a convention focused on this specific amendment.  That’s fewer states than went for the balanced budget amendment, but then again, there’s been less waffling and rescinding of votes on this one. 

So which 28th Amendment do we prefer?  While it may sound weird, personally, I wouldn’t mind both of them getting passed.  Day after day, I become more convinced that we must limit the power of both government and large corporations, especially as the two have turned into such close BFFs.  However, realistically speaking?  Any version of the 28th Amendment is a long shot.  I doubt that either side will succeed in making a convention happen, and we are likely stuck with the partisan stalemate we have now in our government.