What We Can Do, 2019

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So what can you do in a case like that?
What can you do except sit on your hat
Or your toothbrush, or your grandmother
Or anything else that’s helpless?

— from “The Whale” by Burl Ives

In 2018 I posted a guide to candidates and organizations worth supporting for the midterm elections. I’ll be doing the same for the 2020 elections later next year, but for now, I want to recommend the following organizations worth supporting outside of any specific election cycle.

I support them all with monthly donations. If you aren’t currently supporting any political organizations on a regular basis, please consider doing so with one or more of these groups. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Maybe just what you spend on video streaming, or coffee, each month. As I’ve written before, it’s like voting: not so much about what any one vote can do, as what can happen if enough of us do it.

Here are my recommended organizations. (Please add your own suggestions to the comments!)

A good resource for supporting all the major contests at the federal level for a given election year. Right now, they’re highlighting the states that look to be battleground states for the Presidential and Senate elections, as well as the fight over gerrymandering.

Congress and the Oval Office are obvious targets for electoral action, but don’t forget the state legislatures. Decisions made at the state level can have profound effects on national politics (for example, through Congressional redistricting) and state legislatures can be the training ground for future candidates for Congress or above (*cough* Barack *cough*). The problem is that there are thousands of state legislative seats in America, so it’s not easy to find the critical, competitive ones. This is where Flippable comes in. They do the legwork so you can give your support to the most important legislative contests in any given year.

Polls show that the young are vastly more progressive than older people. Unfortunately, they also vote in smaller numbers than any other age group. NextGen America, an organization founded by Tom Steyer (his best and most important work for this country, in my opinion) is reaching out to young people in battleground states in order to get them to the polls.

This group arose from the March for Science, and is recruiting, training, and supporting scientists and STEM professionals to run for public office at all levels. Wouldn’t it be great to have more officeholders who have been trained to distinguish fact from fiction?

On the subject of STEM, this group recruits, organizes, and equips high tech professionals to help campaigns with technology. This can range from simply setting up a website and social feeds to creating digital ad campaigns to doing sophisticated data analysis of the voter rolls to more accurately target registration and get-out-vote efforts. One of their long term goals is to create software that can be reused by future campaigns. I’m excited not just about the good they’ll do, but over all the high tech professionals they’re going to activate politically (over 10,000 so far!) and all the work those individuals will go on to do in their lives, whether under the auspices of Tech For Campaigns or not.

In the aftermath of Trump’s inauguration, over 20,000 women contacted Emily’s List wanting to run for public office. (As compared to 900 in the entire 2015-16 election cycle.) That’s a lot of fresh blood at every level of government, and it means more women in politics in general, which can only be a good thing.

I spent some time looking for an anti-gun violence group to support, and with the help of this article on “How to Build an Anti-NRA”, decided on this one, because it’s

  • Big, with nearly 6 million members at the time of this post.
  • Populist and common-sensical in tone — just note the simple down-to-earth name — which is the best way to engage the American public.
  • Electorally aggressive, promising to compile NRA-like report cards and spend money to defeat gun nuts running for office.

GOP voter suppression probably swung a state or two in the last presidential election, and might even have decided the 2000 election. This group promises to bring the issue into the national consciousness, as well as campaign against candidates who support voter suppression efforts.

After Stacey Abrams lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election to the Republican Secretary of State, who used his office to suppress the minority and low-income vote to squeak out a narrow victory, she formed this organization to fight voter suppression not only in Georgia, but throughout the country.

One of the most dangerous voter suppression tactics is the imposition of a “voter ID” requirement, which adds an extra, unnecessary, and often onerous step to the voting process. Often, this is combined with steps to make getting an ID more difficult for minorities or the poor. One way to fight this is at the policy level, exposing voter ID laws for what they are, or at the electoral level, voting out the politicians who support them, but it equally important to simply help those voters who currently find themselves subject to such laws. That’s what this group does: help voters get their IDs, not just for voting but for the many other aspects of modern life that require them.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project works at the policy level, doing mathematical analysis that helps groups fight gerrymandering all over the country. Their blog is also a great source of information about where to devote our electoral resources.

And that’s my list, so far. Again, if you have any suggestions of your own, please send them to me or share them in the comments. And please: consider supporting one or more of these groups on a monthly basis.