Jim Hightower, a syndicated columnist, was head of the Texas Department of Agriculture from 1983-1991. His down-home, common-sense progressivism is at the Hightower Lowdown: https://hightowerlowdown.org/
Resistance is not enough by Jim Hightower
IN 2010, WHEN TEA-PARTY REPUBLICANS–fueled by million- aires unleashed by Citizens United–took over many state legislatures, they controlled once-every-decade Congressional redistricting. Ever since, the resulting gerrymandering has hamstrung many districts and progressive candidates. (In 2016, with not quite half the national vote, Republican Congressional candidates still took 55 percent of House seats.)
The 2018 and 2020 races for governors and state legislatures will establish how Congressional districts are drawn for the next decade and profoundly shape what We the People can achieve far into the future. So even while pushing back against the immediate threats of Trumpism, progressives must also build toward these critical, turning-point elections. And start now. Among other hurdles are the Koch brothers’ money and their Americans for Prosperity, which claims nearly 1,000 staff in 36 states and 3 million “activists.” At Movementvote.org, progressives can support national and local grassroots groups– many led by millennials and/or people of color–organizing for current resistance and future elections. The Movement Vote site says,”Each one of these groups does a lot with a little– and has a track record of success.”
What Else Can We Do?
Run for office
“RUN FOR OFFICE?! ARE YOU NUTS?,” you may be thinking at the image of being “colleague” to some of our current officials. “Why would I jump into the swamp?” Well, if we want to get the ugly out, good folks need to dive in–and win.
Win one for “the little ‘fellers.” The great progressive Paul Wellstone used to say he “wasn’t for the Rockefellers, he was for the little ‘fellers.’” Wellstone Action, founded after the untimely death of the senator and his wife Sheila, is advancing their work by offering trainings to aspiring movement leaders. In 13 years, they’ve trained thousands and guided many winning state and local campaigns. Wellstone Action (wellstone.org) teaches how to work on campaigns, launch ballot initiatives, do community organizing, use digital tools, and run for office. Camp Wellstone is “open to anyone interested in gaining practical skills in progressive political action.” In 2016, 55% of participants got scholarships.
Bridge the gender gap. EmergeAmerica proudly focuses on electing progressive women–and with good reason. At 19.1% women in the US House, the US ranks 104th in the world in the percentage of women in our national legislature–behind, among others, United Arab Emirates, China, and Pakistan.
Working in 17 states, Emerge’s (emergeamerica.org) seven-month (70-hour) programs have trained more than 2,000 women to run for office and with eye-popping results: 52% of Emerge graduates have run or been appointed to local boards or commissions, and of those who ran, 70% won, helping build the bench for future progressive wins. And 39% of Emerge alums are women of color.
She Should Run Incubator (incubator.sheshouldrun.org) provides less intensive online courses offering “thoughtful guidance and support” for women and girls.
Campaigns end, revolutions don’t. The group Our Revolution grows out of Bernie Sanders’ stunning, grassroots campaign for president. It provides Sanders-inspired activists with the “digital tools, organizing knowledge and grassroots support” to succeed. In 2016 OR-endorsed races won 59 of 106 candidate elections and 23 of 34 ballot initiatives. Since the election many people have filled out OR’s questionnaire.
With volunteers around the country eager to replicate that success, Our Revolution is coming to a neighborhood near you.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS you can bring to your local activism is your creativity. Bring folks together and–while you’re getting your point across–keep the juices flowing. Enjoy your time together. This work takes time, and it helps when you’re doing it with others. Some ideas:
Postcard campaigns. Postcards are an inexpensive way to let your voice be heard in both support and opposition.We love that Lady Parts Justice League’s #ThankBank project sent thousands of cards to independent abortion providers after the mass shooting attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015. Or, like the campaign to send the White House postcards addressed to “President Bannon,” you can flood people you want to pressure. Cards can be better than letters (envelopes often go through security) and get much more notice than online petitions. Gather friends, beverages, food and music for an evening literally addressing your issues together.
Movie nights. Films have long been a powerful way to help people understand issues, history, and context. Streaming services make it simple to host a movie-viewing party in the comfort of your own home. Social justice organizations often create discussion guides such as the one for Ava DuVernay’s 13TH from the Center of Concern (coc.org).
Living room conversations. The most effective way to understand different viewpoints is face-to-face conversation with folks who have different points of view. That may seem scary, so organizations like Living Room Conversations (livingroomconversations.org) are helping people get started. They’ve got guidelines and resources on their website for hosting meaningful conversations. It’s also an open-source project, which means you can contribute what you learn from your own events, too.
Potlucks with new friends. It’s also important to make time for breaking bread with allies outside “official “activist goings-on, so consider holding a potluck dinner. Local chapters of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which supports and organizes white people interested in issues of race in America, host potlucks all over the country, and they’ve shared resources to help get you started: showingupforracialjustice.org/house_meeting
Make art, not war. Got some extra creative juice? Use it to bring others along. Musicians and comedians, poets, and performers organize your people into a show to raise awareness and money for a cause. Visual artists and crafters can create work with great messages, like “Immigrants Welcome,””Black Lives Matter,” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” to support the resistance.Want to get folks together while making stuff? Work on a mural in your community.
Protest shouldn’t be boring. Tired of the same old rallies and marches? Spark up your resistance! Host a glitter bomb dance party, like the one LGBTQ activists threw outside VP Mike Pence’s DC home. People frustrated with New York City’s cabaret laws under Mayor Giuliani–he wanted to stop people from dancing!–once surrounded City Hall and did the hokey pokey. Artists at the Women’s March on Washington built their own human walls against misogyny–check it out at brickxbrick.org.