Portrait of a Campaign Season

Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes

IT WAS December 2016 and the mood was dismal. The manifestation of the devils of our nature loomed. This devil, one of our own design, was allowed by the evil of some and the passivity of most. Fear and shock prevailed. Yet something stirred. The stakes felt higher than before. The mood changed – not hopeful – but resolute. We would not go gently, no matter what, and we wouldn’t watch our friends suffer while we sat silent.

It was about this time that I met Lisa Parshley, a political neophyte with sincerity and something in her eyes that told me she was the real deal. We spoke for an hour or so at that first meeting, covering her background, history, politics… but I only needed about ten minutes to know that I wanted to help her win. Her spirit – to overcome obstacles, persevere, to be kind yet firm  – it was what our city needed.

As we built her campaign and the team formed and grew, other campaigns formed around us and we quickly saw that Lisa wasn’t running on an island. Progressives were standing up, stepping up, and ready to support each other and win (or lose) together. We knew that the money might not be on our side, but we knew we had people. We had each other, and love and respect.

We began having coordinated campaign meetings where we would commiserate, plan, and give support and solidarity. We shared data and volunteers and coordinated our field operations. We knew where every campaign was, had been, and where they were going next.  It’s been said it was the first coordinated campaign of its kind here at this level.

Across the board, we had opponents who practiced the politics of old: dismiss, distort, distract, dismay. Dismiss the facts and say whatever you want because a lie repeated enough times becomes truth. Distort your image to fit whatever you think you need to be on that day. Distract people from your lack of real solutions by making grand promises. Dismay people into resignation to mediocrity.

Together we forged a new path. We created a new politics: embrace, enlighten, engage, empower. Embrace each other across our differences and promote fellowship among people across affinities. Enlighten and educate people  – promote smart choices, not emotional ones. Engage people, bringing them into the process from goal-setting to design to action to revision. Empower people to take leadership and hold electeds and executives accountable.

Let me be clear. This isn’t a rant on how I feel politics should be. This is a recounting of what we did. We took the resistance and organized it and mobilized it, and it’s going to lead us to victory. We may not win them all tonight – we could – but we’ll definitely win some, and then we’ll keep building. I’m allowing myself hope for the first time in a long time because of this amazing community of advocates and activists who aren’t going to stop pushing.

Into the future I go, conscious of an invisible grace pervading and making light my limbs.

Your “Moral Victory” Is an Extension of Your Privilege

Jon Ossoff was supposed to be the savior of us all. His campaign was the first major shot across the bow in the Trump Resistance and a first strike toward steering Congress back to the left and away from the forces of evil. He was hand-picked (from out of district), well groomed, and well-funded (a $30million loss). They turned him into the best moderate Republican candidate money can buy. And they lost, not by much but an L is an L.

Then I started to see columns and talking heads claiming a moral victory in the race. They had gained ground in a district where Rs usually win by 20%… They gained ground…etc.

Whatever. That’s a lot of excuses.

Ultimately, when we’re talking about elections where things like human rights, women’s right to choose what they do with their bodies, and black lives are on the line, there’s no carving out a victory. It’s a loss for the people who will suffer under leaders who think they’re less than.

People of color can’t entertain a fantasy where this was somehow a progress for them. They’ve been told a lie about progress and change since slavery ended, and Philando Castile’s murderer was set free a couple days ago.Justice doesn’t exist on a spectrum

Justice is one of the few things in this universe that doesn’t exist on a spectrum. We are just society or we aren’t. We win or we lose. We live or we die. There’s no moral victory to be had when our society lacks morality. When moderate whites are arguing amongst themselves on the internet about a legislative race in Louisiana instead of lighting the torches and storming the castle for Philando and Charleena

When moderate whites are arguing amongst themselves on the internet about a legislative race in Georgia instead of lighting the torches and storming the castle for Philando and Charleena there can be no claim of morality. You’ve got work to do.

 

Obamacare v. Trumpcare

A few big differences:

ObamaCare expanded Medicaid to cover 11 million people who weren’t covered before. TrumpCare gets rid of that expansion. So right off the bat millions of people will lose their coverage.

ObamaCare contained an individual mandate. TrumpCare removes it but allows insurance companies to charge you a 30% penalty for lapses in coverage. This seems totally nefarious. They’re not getting rid of the mandate at all, they’re shifting enforcement to corporations. All those penalties that would have gone into public coffers will now go to the insurance companies.

ObamaCare required large employers to provide affordable insurance to their employees. TrumpCare eliminates the employer mandate. Pretty straightforward, millions more will lose coverage.

ObamaCare distributed subsidies based on income. TrumpCare distributes subsidies by age. Age-based distribution is arbitrary and won’t help people who need it the most.

ObamaCare included tax credits for out-of-pocket expenses. TrumpCare eliminates those credits. Another big hit on low-income people who can’t afford those expenses.

ObamaCare capped the amount insurance companies can deduct from taxes for top level executives’ salaries. TrumpCare allows them to write off the entire amount of their executive’s salaries. The Obamacare cap was $500,000. This lifting of the cap incentivizes higher pay for corporate executives.

TrumpCare prevents Medicaid from funding Planned Parenthood, a potential $500 million loss of funding because they provide abortion services. Although ZERO federal funds go to abortion services, as mandated by the Hyde Amendment. The actual language states “abortion providers” but you don’t have to be a science rocket to know who they’re talking about. This is a direct assault on Planned Parenthood and a big reason we need to get active and fight Trumpcare.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING

COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

#VoteHimOut

What’s Next?

The sort of gatherings we saw across the country yesterday typically would shake a new presidential administration. Even your least favorite former president would set an agenda to reach out and build bridges, knowing that their power is a careful and precise balance and they can’t ignore half the people, but have to be responsive.

We can’t count on this administration to do that. The man at the top might be literally incapable of empathy or introspection. We know he doesn’t listen to advisors much, and so even reasonable voices around him will likely be ignored. We actually have to assume the worst.

I think we should keep all of our options on the table. There are particular issues that should be hard lines in the sand. We should define those now, and hold every elected official to them, by any means necessary…

…a Muslim registry is completely out of the question and while going down and signing up for it in solidarity is a nice gesture, and I’ll do that too, this is one issue where we get out our torches and pitchforks and go shut things down until they buckle…

…same with any sort of legislation or policy that renders people “illegals” or takes a hardline white-nationalist stance against immigrants or any people of color….

…abortion rights, the limiting of birth control, or women’s rights to choose. This isn’t just about access to healthcare, this is about subjugating over half of our population…

…any governmental move, especially on the local level, that targets a group of people based on their socio-economic status, ie, anti-homeless laws, regressive taxes, and including inaction on providing simple basic needs when the solutions are apparent…

These are just few of my lines I will hold, that I’d urge you to help me hold, whatever it takes.

What else?

Love is the Greatest Resistance

It’s been hard to watch, but sometimes you have to look your enemy in the eye, square your shoulders and steel yourself. Resistance is a word thrown around a lot these days, and it has been in my head a lot also.

Resistance happens in a thousand micro-decisions we make every day. It happens in our small actions. It happens when we stand with our neighbors when they’re struggling or targeted. When we treat people with love. In his speech, DJT said he’s going to put America First. MY first act of resistance is to choose to put Love First, and challenge you to join me. And love is an action, not just an idea.

Resistance begins in each of us. Decide to resist and you create the spark. Then find a way to cultivate that spark. You might gather your friends to make care packages for the warming center, volunteer for a local candidate who will fight for justice, pick an elected official and meet with them, tell them what you expect of them, and hold them to it. Get creative, get engaged, and build a movement.

Don’t let the fog and the spectacle of national politics distract you. Local and direct action is the quickest and most impactful way to make a difference. We don’t need to wait for someone on the national or state level to save us. Help is NOT on the way. It’s just us. Whatever way you choose to resist, I support you. We’re all in this together. I love you.

THINK LOCAL. ACT LOCAL

A couple weeks ago in a piece titled “A New Way Forward For Olympia” I wrote about changing our system of government so that our city is split into districts, and our City Manager is elected and accountable to the people. That got me thinking about other things I’d like us to work on. In no particular order…

BETTER POLICING

  • Body & dash cameras with full video and audio placed in public record
  • Civilian Oversight
  • Implicit Bias & cultural awareness training
  • Downtown Walking Patrol & Substation
  • Require Bachelor’s degree or above for all new officer hires

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Refocus our strategy hyper-locally, targeting our strengths, and promoting local manufacturing
  • Plan and Implement far-reaching marketing campaign for Downtown highlighting local businesses, music, theater, stand-up comedy, etc
  • Value-added experience: every visitor should DO three things when here – buy from a shop, eat a meal, see a show.

EQUALITY & JUSTICE

  • Audit all city code to make language inclusive to all, with special regard to sex and gender
  • Conduct study of city departments with regard to diversity and develop steps to address weak points
  • Make catcalling and street harassment a hate crime
  • Annual justice & equality summit hosted by the city featuring speeches and workshops
  • Restorative justice programs that divert people from jails

POVERTY

  • Ban payday lending within the city
  • Ban the Box
  • Homeless Bill of Rights
  • Safety Net/Employment programs
  • Incentives and bonuses to housing developers who build projects affordable to mixed incomes

HEALTH

A Third of Olympia Residents Can’t Afford to Live Here

Average rents surge past $1,000 per month in Thurston County

Using VERY round numbers:

Olympia has a poverty rate of about 20%. That’s about 10k people at or below poverty. For an individual, poverty is $12k. A household of 2 it’s $15.5k. To make enough money to reach the benchmark that supposes a sustainable household budget, 1/3 of your income toward living expenses (which is supposed to include utilities as well), you’d need to take home $36k to afford $1k/month – just to afford the rent.

VERY roughly, about 33% of households cannot reasonably afford $1k a month in rent.

We need to address this now, otherwise we’re never going to make a dent in homelessness.

We need empathetic and innovative leadership at City Hall. If our current City Manager can’t execute, and our current council can’t lead on this, then it’s time to make some changes.