The Next Two Years Start Now

Dear fellow Democrats. I know that right now you are still in mourning. Many of you are just now starting to come out the shock that was last week’s elections. Others have been taking to the streets and getting your voice heard. I am not here to tell you how you should be handling these results. Everyone deals with loss in their own way, and as long as you are staying safe, and not engaging in violent behavior, then you do you.

You are allowed to grieve.

And that is why I hate to ask this of you, but I feel as if I must: It is also time to start working. America needs you more than ever right now to be prepared to work together to a degree never seen before in national politics. Anyone who thinks that the only thing left to do is sit back until 2018 and hope for a better congress will be in for a rude awakening when things don’t just magically get better on their own.

In January, the Republicans are set to take hold of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch (Projected: House 240:195; Senate 51:48*), and gain a massive edge in taking over the Supreme Court which is still holding onto a vacant seat, but there are still important steps that we can take now to soften the blow.

1. Louisiana Senate Race
Why should I care?
Currently the Senate is sitting at 51-48. The missing seat belongs to Louisiana who has a special run off in December between its two top candidates. A win here for Democrats would not tie the house, but it would mean one less seat we need to win in what is looking like a tough 2018 for Democrats (There are 23 Democrat seats up for re-election, and only 8 Republican seats). If we want any hope of getting back a lead in two years, it starts now with Louisiana.

Who are the players?
Foster Campbell (D)
John Kennedy (R)

How to help?
Reach out and volunteer, or donate to Foster Campbell’s campaign. There are just over 3 weeks left until this election, and he needs every bit of help he can get in this uphill battle.

2. Supreme Court Vacancy
Why should I care?
The average tenure of a modern Supreme Court justice is 26 years and growing. Whomever is appointed will likely still be making decisions during the 2044 elections. This impacts past social progress as well as any future challenges to our freedoms. There is no other issue with more significant long term implications on the table at the moment.

Who are the players?
The US Senate
President Obama
President-elect Trump

How to help?
There are three very different scenarios that could play out over the next couple months. They vary in likelihood, but it is worth being aware of all of them.

I) The first, and probably least likely scenario is a recess appointment. There is a lot of debate on this method, and it would almost certainly be contested, but if the Senate decides to take a recess of at least 10 days (say from Dec 24th through January 3rd), the President is within his constitutional rights to make a recess appointment. This would be a temporary fix, but temporary in this sense means until the end of the NEXT session, which is better than nothing, and gives us time to regroup for a permanent option.

II) Another unlikely situation, although much less contestable, would be for Obama to work with the new Senate when they take office on January 3rd, 2017. This gives Obama just under three weeks to convince the new session of congress to appoint his nominee. If the previously discussed Louisiana race could turn out blue AND if the committee pushes it to a vote, only one Republican senator would be needed to confirm Obama’s nominee (with Biden’s tie breaking vote). This would go a long way to improve the animosity felt across America right now, and is also the most desirable outcome for rebuilding. To help with this, you should be contacting your Senators, ESPECIALLY if they are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and push them to find a compromise. Republicans in Congress held our country hostage this past year, and we need them to show some good faith that they still want to represent all of America.

III) Unfortunately, the most likely of all scenarios is with a Trump nominated appointee. If this happens, we need to push our representatives (again, Senators) to do everything they can to prevent an extreme view on the court. I know that the Republicans refused to listen to reason and even hear our nominee, but they were also in power, a luxury that we do not have. The truth is that it is very unlikely that we could withstand two years of blocking a nominee, even if we wanted to be petty. However, we still can use the power we do have to fight for a fair and moderate appointee. Even with Louisiana, we would still need two republicans to vote against their party to prevent any votes on a nomination; This leaves us with only one option, the filibuster route, but it has to be used wisely and not at every juncture. This option should be withheld for unacceptable nominees to the Supreme Court. This means we need to be very vigilant against any potential appointments, and be vocal to our Senators that we expect them to take the same stand.

3. Democratic National Committee
Why should I care?
Democrats can argue all day about how much of an impact the actions of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile had on the Primary and in turn the General Elections, but it won’t accomplish a damn thing. Regardless, we can all agree that it was not handled appropriately, and that trust for the party is at an all-time low. This needs to be addressed, and it needs to be done in a public way with the entire party feeling as if they are included.

Who are the players?
Keith Ellison (US Congressman MN-5)
Howard Dean (Chair from 2005-2009; 2004 Presidential Candidate)
Martin O’Malley (former Gov. of MD; 2016 Presidential Candidate)
Democratic leaders across America

How to help?
Get informed. Do your research on everyone who is running, and then look up who your state party leaders are and reach out to them. The DNC chair is elected by a few hundred Democratic leaders (and gender balanced counterparts) across America. State party leaders, chairs and vice chairs from dozens of committees you probably have never even heard of, and Democratic leaders in Congress, all will meet in a couple months to vote on the issue, and this can’t be something we let happen without discussion. Both Howard Dean and Martin O’Malley represent a more traditional approach to the Democratic party. Their plans will most likely include attempting to revive the party to its former state, but will do little to address the major concerns of those who felt disenfranchised by the past DNC committee. This is where Keith Ellison stands above the rest. Ellison is a devout progressive who not only cares about the traditional platforms of Democratic party, but also about making the changes needed to push us to where we need to be. He is innovative and has an increasingly rare ability to look at where things are headed (He was laughed at on TV in 2015 for trying to tell people to take Trump as a serious threat. He was also the second person in Congress to endorse Bernie Sanders). He is against the TPP, NAFTA, Citizen United, and is for Universal Healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and student loan reform. He is also the only currently proposed candidate who is from the Midwest, an area that the Democratic party drastically under performed in this past election and should probably look into bringing back into the fold.

4. Don’t Stop
Why should I care?
I think the fact that you are still reading this shows that you already do.

Who are the players?
You!

How to help?
Donate. Volunteer. Encourage discussion! We can’t sit back and hope the future fixes itself for us. We need to take control of it now. And I mean Right Now. Start by making a pledge for the next two years. You set the terms, but make it and stand by it. It could be something as simple as donating $10 a month to a candidate, cause, or party that you want to support. Or maybe, just maybe, you decide here and now you are going to stop waiting and take action. Commit to volunteering two hours a month to a local campaign or organization, because that is where it starts. Reach out to some local groups that are going to be severely impacted by this election and ask them how you can help. And if they don’t need you, ask someone else. I guarantee you there is a need for you out there right now, and I am asking you to seek it out. Encourage your friends to do the same. Be vocal about your action, and share your experiences. Tag your story with #twoyearplan and if you are comfortable, share it publicly so that we can be reminded that we are not alone, and that we are here to support each other.

We have the rare chance to influence the next generation of politics, and no one to blame but ourselves if we let that slip away.

(Cover Image: Michael Paul Olson; Lumnivore

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To My Friends and Family who Voted for Trump

Dear loved ones with opposing views. I know this is not an easy time for you right now either. You have probably been called racist, sexist, bigoted, ignorant, or a slew of other profanities not worth repeating.

I know some of you very closely. I know you are filled with love, hope, and truly want a better country just as much as the rest of us, and to be called such things may not only seem out of line, but it is hurtful. And I know it isn’t fair to you. Having somewhat conservative values, or wanting to shake up the system doesn’t mean you should automatically be branded a racist, and I want to fix that. I want to help bring us back together, but I need your help with a couple of things.

First, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. Trump has said some awful things. His recording describing sexual assault, calling immigrants rapists, and mocking disabled people are just a few of the many inappropriate things he has done these last few months.

I know that you, my loving, caring, rational loved ones, didn’t vote for him because he said these things. That these were not the positions you stood behind, but the sad truth is, for some it was. You can see it in extreme cases, but it is there. The previously quiet and voiceless extremists, the KKK, the neo-nazis, and just your garden variety closeted racist, they think they have found a voice in Trump. And the sad reality, even if you believe he doesn’t stand for that himself, he has yet to stand in opposition of it. And we need him to. We need you to constantly hold him to the high moral standards that you yourself uphold. For whatever reason you voted for him, it wasn’t to support hatred, so don’t let it stand.

Next, we really need you to stop it with the posts calling the losers “whiny.” Stop complaining about safe spaces and people being easily offended. If you don’t need them, don’t use them, but there is something you need to understand. Yesterday, less than 24 hours after Trump won, racists have vandalized school grounds and public spaces, homophobes have chased, mocked, threatened, and even violently attacked members of the LGBT community. Women across the country continue to feel that the rest of the country thinks of them as objects. This not an opinion, this is reality. And in the recent domination of every branch of government, these people now feel like they have no one to hear their concerns. So I ask you, prove them wrong.

Trump was elected to become President of the United States by the so-called “silent majority,” and I’m asking you to stop being silent. America needs you to stand up against racism and sexism. I know you are against those things, so please stop defending them. Stop shaming those who feel neglected. Stop telling people to get over it when they are experiencing something you can’t even fathom.

I know how hard this can be. And with the protests and high tension that will surely grow over the next few months, it is probably only going to get even harder. But I implore you to remember, just like how some racists voting for Trump doesn’t make you a racist, please don’t lump everyone against him together too. Most of us are scared of what we have to lose. You don’t have to agree with why we are scared, but please don’t invalidate this feeling. I know that to simply describe the tension in our country as ‘palpable’ right now might be a bit of understatement, but we need clear minds on both sides if there is ever a chance of getting through this in one piece.

So here it is. The deal I propose. I can’t promise I won’t complain, that I won’t speak out against our new President or Congress, or that I won’t join rallies when I feel they are warranted, but I do promise you this: I promise to analyze each and every idea proposed with an open and rational mind, and to NOT protest or complain just for the sake of dissonance, but I need you to promise something as well. I need you to promise to continue to fight for equality.

In his victory speech Trump promised to “be President for all of Americans,” and I need you, as his level headed base, to hold him to this. It’s up to those who put him in power to remind him of his word.

Your majority is no longer silenced; the world is listening. Now make sure you use that power for making this a better place for all humankind, and help us leave this as best a place as we can for our next generation.

What is at Stake on Tuesday

So I’ve been relatively quiet on posting about the upcoming election lately. Really, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to put everything down in a neat nice way, but..

I can’t. Nice doesn’t seem to be a word that applies to any aspect of this election. Everywhere I look is just hate. Trump’s a racist, Clinton’s a liar, Johnson doesn’t know which way is up, Stein is an anti-vaxxer, etc. etc. etc…

My God. I thought Memes reached their insufferable limit when that stupid Minions movie was coming out, but seriously, you have all outdone yourselves these past few weeks.

Now, it is no secret that I have always been an adamant supporter of Sanders. In my opinion, he had the most progressive and honest platform, and could have started a completely new generation of politics in America. He was treated unfairly, the party that claimed to be impartial worked against him, and he was robbed of an honest chance. It is unacceptable.

But that is not what Tuesday is about.

If you try and make Tuesday about Sanders or the Primary, you are failing. You’re failing the movement, you’re failing your fellow citizens, and you’re failing the generations that will come after you.

At this point in the election, there are four things you can do. You can vote for Hillary. You can vote for Trump. You can vote Third Party. Or you can stay home.

Please do not stay home. Even if you can’t stand any of the people at the top of the ballot, we need your input down the ticket. There is so much more at stake here than merely who is set to be president. 469 members of Congress will be chosen in 4 days. Thousands of others for state and local positions. These things matter. Your vote matters. Whatever you do, don’t throw that away.

Now, many of my friends I have heard are planning on voting third party. I get it. Some of you feel burned (no pun intended), some feel they can’t, under good conscience, vote for either candidate, and some were planning on voting third party all along. For the past few months, all you have heard is people telling you that you are throwing away your vote, that you’re blind if you think your candidate has a chance, that a vote for a third party is a vote for [insert opposing front-runner here], and from day one you’ve been treated like you don’t know what you are doing. That is completely unfair, and I am sorry. Truly I am. I am not telling you to change your mind, but I do ask that you make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. At this point in the election, neither Stein nor Johnson have even a remote chance of winning. They have already lost. However, there are reasons to vote third party. Perhaps you want them to get to 5% of the vote so that we can start getting funding to other parties. If that’s the case, then take a look at the state you are in. If you’re in Texas and left wing, then vote your heart out. Conservative and living in California? Why not throw some votes to Johnson. But if you are in a state where a vote may actually make the difference (I’m looking at you friends in New Hampshire…) please make sure you are making the right choice. The term ‘protest vote’ has been thrown around a lot this election. Some saying that’s their goal, others saying it doesn’t exist. Well, it does exist, but a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is not one. In order for it to be a protest vote, both other options would have to be equally as bad. Now many people can argue about who is worse, but if you truly think there is no difference between Clinton and Trump, you’re just being obstinate. Stop that. There are many differences. If this is your thought for voting, then at least do me the favor of reading what I have to say below. 

To those who are planning on voting for Trump, you probably fit into one of two categories.

To those who are anti-establishment, are screaming about a rigged system, and want to see politics as we know it burned to the ground: If you have ever once said the words “Make America Great Again” without three coats of irony, or if you see Trump as the man who is going to “shake up Washington,” you have been duped. Trump is a business man first and foremost. He may be trying to take the reins from the government, but it is just so he can hold onto them for himself. He does not have your interest in mind, and there is no time in the history of America where things were “Great.”

However, if you are a Conservative, or if you believe in the policies that are more right wing, then it makes sense that you might vote for him because he is the only shot at getting any of your ideas addressed. But stop defending him. You don’t need to agree with someone, or even like someone for that matter, to vote for them. He is exhaustively deplorable as a human being. The things he has done and said about minorities, women, practically anyone who doesn’t fall in line behind him, are awful. They are awful for a decent civilized human being, but more so, for a President, they are unforgivable. So stop defending him as a person because it weakens your argument and it encourages that behavior both in him and in others who look up to him. Simply admit you have conservative values and are voting him out of default because that is the only (some-what) acceptable reason.

And then there is Clinton. I have never voted for Clinton. I voted for Obama in ’08, and caucused for Sanders in ’16, both on voting day and again at the district level. I do not support all of her policies, both domestic and abroad, but she is also not the evil entity that her opposition has laid out. To all my progressive friends out there who were all about Bernie when he was around. Don’t you think if half the accusations against her were worth discussing, Bernie would have put more emphasis on them? Especially as things got heated towards the end? Yes, the way the DNC and Clinton campaign handled the whole primary system is an embarrassment to the democratic process, but you can’t fix the system by bowing out of the discussion.

Regardless, I doubt anything I or anyone else can say about Clinton at this point will really change your mind about her. Her image is poisoned for many of you, so instead of trying to undo what you have clearly already accepted as truth, please decide if any of the following are important to you:

Women’s Rights
Immigration
Healthcare Reform
LGBT Equality
Racial Disparities
Gun Violence
Freedom of Speech
Overreach of Religion
Hate Speech
Minimum Wage Increases
College Tuition

Many, if not all, of these Clinton has a stronger stance on than Trump. But more importantly, if we are able to get ANY of these passed in the next 20 years, there will be a fight, and that fight will almost certainly be brought to the Supreme Court.

This Tuesday is not only about deciding if Clinton is better or worse than Trump. It’s not only about what she may or may not get done in the next 4-8 years. It’s about what direction we are trying to head in for the next few decades.

There has been a lot of talk about Clinton not being progressive enough for many Democrats. What do you think will happen if we put forth a Conservative court? The House of Representatives will almost certainly remain Conservative, and the Senate will most likely bend the same direction as the president along with the Supreme Court. This means that if the country allows Trump to take office, he could be doing so with a Republican controlled Congress, and allowed to set up the most Conservative Supreme Court in modern history.

How easy do you think it will be to continue to make progress in this country if that happens?

This isn’t just about Trump or Clinton. This is about laying the foundation for what is to come, and we cannot afford to take a chance on our future.

Clinton was not my first choice, but she is still hands down the most qualified presidential candidate on the ballot. Trump said so when he wasn’t running. Weld (Johnson’s running mate) said so DAYS ago. Sanders has said so. It is a near unanimous belief in the political field for both Republicans and Democrats alike. With Supreme Court openings (one currently, and maybe even three or four more in the next eight years), a more liberal congress, and a mandate from the people showing her support, Clinton could end up being one of the most impactful and influential Presidents of not only the past century, but in American history.

So I ask you this one last question. Do you want to be part of the group that stands in opposition to the only chance of progress we have just to make a statement? or do you want to move on from the wrongs made, and be a part of finding a solution by standing with Her? Being with her doesn’t have to mean blindly following, or even necessarily ignoring past mistakes; instead it allows for you to be part of the discussion of improving our country. Because right now, that is the only statement that really matters.

For me there is really no discussion or choice left to be had. I easily stand with the only clear choice for progressive values. #HillYes #ImWithHer