SB 10: A good bill gone bad

Action deadline: ASAP – We had hoped that state Senate Bill 10 would end money bail in California. Unfortunately, by the time it was passed by both houses of the state legislature, it codified many of the problems it was originally intended to cure.

Money bail keeps one in three people in jail after arrest because they can’t afford to pay bail – in California that averages $50,000! – or instead pay a big, nonrefundable bond to a private bail bond company. In other words, bail disproportionately keeps the poor and people of color in jail. The State Senate passed SB 10 but at the last minute, the Assembly amended the bill in ways to let local courts create their own systems to decide who can or can’t be released. Those systems can’t impose monetary conditions for release, but it’s easy to imagine situations in which local prejudices favor and disfavor the same people as under the current system. As San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi says, “this is not the bail reform California needs.” And with mere days to go in the legislative session, the Senate approved the amended version of SB 10.

What you can do:

MOST IMPORTANT: Tell Jerry Brown to veto SB 10.

Call: (916) 445-2841
email: leg.unit@gov.ca.gov
Tweet: @JerryBrownGov

What to say:

My name is _______________, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am calling to urge Governor Brown to VETO SB 10. I support abolishing cash bail in California, but the amendments to SB 10 have changed it so that it isn’t real bail reform any more. It allows pretrial detention so that people who are arrested can be held without due process for nearly 2 weeks. It let judges decide who stays in jail based on their subjective determination, instead of giving them an objective risk assessment tool. Please VETO this bill, and tell the legislature that you want real bail reform instead.

Then, if you still have time: Please tell your state representatives that you’re disappointed that they voted for phony bail reform rather than the real thing.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m disappointed that you voted yes on SB 10. I support the abolition of cash bail in California, but the amendments to SB 10 in the Assembly let judges decide who stays in jail based on their subjective determination, instead of giving them an objective risk assessment tool. They allow pretrial detention so that people who are arrested can be held without due process for nearly 2 weeks. This isn’t real bail reform and you should have voted NO on SB 10.

Graphic: © ACLU of Northern California

Swalwell’s Swell Town Hall

On August 11, 2018, Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) spoke to an enthusiastic audience at his “How Can I Help? A Campaign Town Hall & Midterm Election Kickoff.” The purpose was to get the audience geared up for the upcoming midterms, particularly upcoming House races. To facilitate engagement in these efforts, Rep. Swalwell is opening an office in Dublin where people can take action to help with Democratic races. The space will have areas for phone and text banking and also for writing postcards. On the weekends, the office will serve as a coordination point for events out in the field, such as canvassing. Located at the IBEW Local 595 (6250 Village Pkwy, Dublin), the space is scheduled to open on September 4. Rep. Swalwell encouraged the audience to use this space to work toward getting the candidate(s) of their choice elected.  He recommended that everyone pick one or two candidates that they really want to help get elected, as it’s easier to focus on a small number, and you’ll feel more accomplished if your candidates win!

During the Q&A period, someone asked about election security and whether our ballots were going to be secure. Rep. Swalwell said that although election security is very important, the concerns should not be sensationalized, as it may cause some folks to sit out the election because they will think their votes won’t matter. Instead, he said, we should focus on getting everyone out to vote rather than worry about hacking.

An audience member also asked Rep. Swalwell if he’d be willing to co-sign House Joint Resolution 48, which would overturn Citizens United. Both Representative DeSaulnier and Lee have co-signed it already, and Swalwell said he is supportive and will look into co-signing.

Overall, it was a motivating gathering full of people eager to help take back Congress.  All CA-15 residents should consider joining Rep. Swalwell’s office on this fight!

Excited to join Indivisible East Bay’s CA-15 team? Email us to get started!

Photograph by Janine Costanzo

 

Manafort. Cohen. Trump? Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

OMG! We witnessed on Tuesday August 21, in little more than an hour, a confluence of events that a political thriller screenwriter would reject as too far-fetched. But the head-spinning news was true, and, if you’re Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen or Donald Trump, the truth was astonishingly bad.

At almost exactly the same moment, in two courthouses only a few hours drive from each other, two of Trump’s key associates were found guilty on multiple counts for federal crimes.

In Virginia, at the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a jury found the defendant guilty on eight counts of tax fraud and bank fraud. Since this was the first jury conviction in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, you might think this would be the worst news of the day for Trump and his base and enablers.

You’d be wrong.

At the same time as the Manafort jury delivered the guilty verdicts, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen stood in a federal courtroom in New York City and pled guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, and, most critically for potential impact on Trump, a count of having violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Trump isn’t named, but Cohen’s court filing refers to “Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.” The violation refers to payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to prevent them from going public with their salacious stories in the weeks before the 2016 election.

Tuesday’s events echo one of Doonesbury’s most memorable comic strips about Watergate:

Doonesbury.jpg

While no one expects Trump to admit it, the day’s events put the lie to any notion that the Mueller investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” or “hoax.” Quite the contrary.

We can’t overstate the shattering implications of what went down on Aug. 21. For starters, Cohen stated under oath in open court that “Individual-1” (evidently He Whose Name May Not Be Spoken, but who we all know is Donald J. Trump) conspired with him to commit a federal crime. Cohen further said that the charge linked to McDougal was done “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” In normal times, this alone would be sufficient to initiate impeachment proceedings. Sadly, these are not normal times. Rather, these are times when a gutless GOP-controlled Congress won’t even think the “I” word for fear of Trump and his base turning on them.

Meanwhile, 69-year old Manafort faces a sentence that legal experts estimate from seven to 10 years, and a second trial on separate Russia-related charges due to start next month. The pressure for him to cut a deal for leniency in exchange for info about Trump appears immense.

Which is why Aug. 21 shoved us a huge step closer to the precipice of a constitutional crisis! Trump could pardon Manafort and/or Cohen. Most likely? A pardon of Manafort to try to keep his former campaign manager from “flipping.” And Manafort’s steadfast refusal (preceding his convictions) to bargain with prosecutors suggests he is counting on a pardon. Conversely, appearing on the Today show the Day After, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis stated that his client would not accept Trump’s pardon, elaborating that Cohen “. . . considers a pardon from someone who acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept.”

Trump’s pardon of a key witness would be a serious, crisis-precipitating obstruction of justice; an attempt to impede the investigation into crimes his co-conspirator has plead guilty to, crimes that may have altered the outcome of the election and thus call into question the legitimacy of his victory.

This is one of the “red lines” on the list issued by MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups, that will trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • Firing Mueller
  • Pardons of key witnesses
  • Actions that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s current supervisor, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Doonesbury comic strip © Garry Trudeau
Photo-montage of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, and Paul Manafort © Getty Images

Ted Landau contributed to this article. Ted is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

 

Still resisting after all these years

By Janis Hashe

At 91, Herta Weinstein would be entitled to leave resistingto other people. But asked what motivated her to get out on the streets with Indivisible East Bay, she responds with one word: Trump.

Like so many, Weinstein says she was taken unawares by the election of someone clearly unfit for the office of president. I went into a clinical depression,she says. But then I realized the way to get out of this was to get active.

A friend had gotten hold of the Indivisible Handbook, and shared it with Weinstein. I felt the Democratic party had shown themselves to be ineffectual,she says, but this approach was so clever, to adopt the methods of the enemy,by which she means the Tea Party. She attended an organizing meeting at the Sports Basement, but realized big meetings, where she has trouble hearing and seating can be difficult, were not for her. She signed up for the email list and began volunteering for things she knew she could do, such as visiting Sen. Dianne Feinsteins San Francisco office in support of the ACA. Visitors to the IEB booth at the July 4th El Cerrito WorldOne Festival found Weinstein greeting them and providing information about IEB activities.

Escaping Vienna and Becoming American

Weinstein was born in Vienna in 1927. By the time Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, she was 11, and her family knew they had to get out. What had taken the Nazis years to do in Germany, was taking six months in Austria. They knew what to do,she says. Fortunately, her family was aware of the collaborative effort between Great Britain and the Jewish Refugees Committee, (just known as The Joint,or The Committee,’” says Weinstein), and her parents got her, their only child, onto the famous Kindertransport, taking Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied countries. I was willing to go,Weinstein relates. It seemed like an adventure to me.She was also fortunate to have an uncle already living in Great Britain, who took her in immediately when she arrived.

But her parents were still in Vienna. It was a very anxious time. They had applied to go to the U.S., but it was a long, uncertain wait,Weinstein explains. In May 1939, her parents joined 1,000 other refugees onboard the St. Louis out of Hamburg, bound for Cuba. But the ship was turned back before it could make port. Again, fortune intervened. The Committeenegotiated a joint deal between Great Britain, France, Holland and Belgium to accept the refugees. Weinsteins parents were assigned to Britain, and she reunited with them.

Later that same year, the family was allowed to emigrate to the United States — and ended up in Stockton, California. That, as Weinstein notes wryly, was maximum culture shock. The United States was not yet at war, and her European Jewish family was not welcomed. No one there was really paying attention until Pearl Harbor,she says. Weinstein finished high school in three and a half years and was accepted to UC Berkeley. Her parents relocated to San Francisco, finally scraping together $1,000 for a down payment on a row house in the Sunset District.

Weinstein decided on pre-med at Berkeley. At that time, there were maybe seven or eight women in a class of 75, of which only one woman was Jewish, she says. She went on to a residency at USF, and began practicing as a psychiatrist in 1955.

The Intervening Years

While leading a busy life establishing her practice, getting married and having two children, Weinstein moved with her family to Berkeley in 1966. She supported the ACLU and the League of Women Voters, but as she puts it, I have not been a lifetime activist.By the 1980s, her children grown, I was enjoying my freedom,she says. She and her husband, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration, traveled a lot. In 1988, at age 60, she began training as a yoga instructor at Berkeleys Yoga Room.

But in 1998, her husband died, and she retired from practice after more than 40 years. She was also recovering from two hip replacement surgeries. Yet she persevered in her teacher training, returning to it when she could. Her teacher told her, I admire the way you keep coming back.Eventually, at 70, she began teaching three classes a week, something she continues today, primarily at senior centers, adapting the practice for less-mobile participants with the help of an assistant.

Weinstein had a friend, who, as she says, was an activist for everything,and when 2013 arrived, Weinstein got involved in the successful Berkeley vs. Big Sodacampaign, which ended with the passage of Measure D, imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. I found out I could not do canvassing,she jokes. I was holding the younger people up.But she could drive around and deliver yard signs — signs, she says, that became much more plentiful after a large donation from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Herta Weinstein interview by Janis Hashe 100_0599 640

Never Too Old to Resist

Then, the 2016 presidential election sent shock waves across the country. Weinstein was still recovering from a knee replacement surgery. That didnt stop her. After her initial contact with Indivisible East Bay, she credits IEB organizer Linh Nguyen with helping her stay in touch with activities she can do.

Today, after a five-month recovery from a second knee replacement, she says she feels better than she has in years. I can do office visits. I can do a demonstration. I can still yell!she laughs.

Asked about writing postcards, she agrees thats another possibility, but objects to the length of the messages. No one reads that much and its too much to write,she states firmly. Get to the point!

She urges IEB and all Indivisible groups to make more active efforts to recruit senior citizens. Find things that less-mobile, less-computer-savvy people can do,she recommends. Give them opportunities to become involved.

Asked about a potential Blue Wave,she stresses continued vigilance and unity among Resistance groups. Taking back Congress is the most important thing right now. When there was some initial success early on, many people credited Indivisible, but there were other people and groups involved,she says. I see them beginning to work together and that is a great development.

The Trump administrations anti-immigrant actions have fired her up. This is my issue now,she proclaims. Anyone who has heard her story understands exactly why.

Janis Hashe is a freelance writer/editor/teacher/theatre person. She has been politically active in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and now Richmond. Her deepest personal commitments include fighting climate change, ending factory farming and overturning Citizens United.

Photographs by Janis Hashe

Go Time on Two Good Bills

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – ASAP! 

Great news! Thanks to your help in making calls, two good California bills that Indivisible East Bay supported, AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), passed out of committee and are scheduled to be voted on by the full state senate. Read our prior articles for more info and background, see list below.    

  • AB 2188: Deadline: August 30 – Ads on social media are not always what they seem and many of them have been doing some serious damage to our democratic process. Free speech should be public. Make everyone show their names and faces if they’re paying to change our minds.  The vote for this bill will not be held until August 30.
  • UPDATE Aug. 26, 2018: IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT OCCURRED WITH THIS BILL, BUT FOR NOW WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING ANY ACTION. AB 3115: Deadline: ASAP – IEB supported AB 3115’s passage in the Assembly because it gives people with criminal convictions who still have the right to vote a chance to become participating citizens again. 

Please call your California State Senator ASAP: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

UPDATE 8/26/18: DO NOT USE THIS PORTION OF THE SCRIPT: Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

  • District 7, (Contra Costa) Senator Steve Glazer, (916) 651-4007
  • District 9 (Alameda & Contra Costa), Senator Nancy Skinner, (916) 651-4009
  • District 10 (Alameda & Santa Clara), Senator Bob Wieckowski, (916) 651-4010
  • District 11 (San Francisco): Senator Scott Wiener, (415) 557-1300
  • District 15 (San Jose area): Senator Jim Beall, (916) 651-4015
  • Tell your friends in other districts to call their senators. Search here or see list at this link.

We’ve been busy – and so have you, making calls and following these important bills. Read our articles:

 

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

Tracking down Senator Feinstein

On the morning of August 11, 2018, IEB members tracked down Senator Dianne Feinstein at a campaign office-warming for San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani. It was a very cozy event of the kind Sen. Feinstein clearly (and understandably) prefers to open town halls — though during her remarks she did say something about envying Supervisor Stefani’s ability to get out and meet her constituents in her small district, compared to a whole state. That was a little galling from someone whom we’ve barely seen try to meet with the general public.

But the event was also kind of sweet in its way. Along with Sen. Feinstein, several SF women politicians came out to support Supervisor Stefani, including Mayor London Breed and State Treasurer Candidate Fiona Ma. Senator Feinstein led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday Your Honor the Mayor” and all of the younger women appeared genuinely starstruck to be there with one of their role models, whom a couple of them jokingly compared to Taylor Swift. Certainly, it was heartwarming to see this group of women come together to support each other and marvel at how much has changed — and how much has stayed the same — since Sen. Feinstein was the second woman (first elected) on the SF Board of Supervisors.

But the real reason we were there was to talk to Sen. Feinstein about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We politely cornered her near the exit, shook her hand, and thanked her for everything she was doing, all her letters and tweets. We told her we were also working hard to fight the Kavanaugh nomination. As she edged away up the stairs, we told her we wanted to see action from the Democrats. She stopped, turned back to us and said that they would take action, but that we couldn’t win. As we looked at her, dismayed, she reframed the statement: Democrats in the Senate need Republicans to vote with them, and that to get that, we probably need some new information to come out. We agreed and told her we were working on both of those things too.

It’s clear that she hasn’t given up, and that she will keep up the fight to the best of her ability no matter what, but it’s also clear that she needs our calls and encouragement to build her strength and resolve. Because if we don’t win this fight, it won’t be because it was impossible; it will be because it was very hard and too many of us gave up. We need to make her believe that we can win, and we need to believe it ourselves because that’s the only way we have a chance.

Please contact both senators today and say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for everything you’ve done to protect the Supreme Court. Please keep fighting the Kavanaugh nomination and rallying your constituents. We are winning the battle for public opinion. Most Americans support reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the ACA. We need to keep showing more of them that Kavanaugh threatens those things, and keep showing vulnerable Republicans how much they have to lose.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

 

Town Hall on Securing Our Elections

By Ted Landau

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 61st Town Hall since taking office, he focused on a single critical and timely issue: Securing Our Elections. Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Russian interference with the 2016 election, the integrity of our voting process has never been under greater threat. The purpose of the Town Hall, held in Walnut Creek on August 13, 2018, was to consider what we should do about this — for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

The Town Hall began with a brief slide show presentation followed by opening statements by Rep. DeSaulnier and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Next, three election experts, Dr. David Jefferson, Professor Philip Stark and Mark Kumleben, joined the panel discussion. Taking questions from the jam-packed audience of about 300, they delivered both good and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news: Here in California, attempts to “break in” to our election hardware continue unabated. Efforts to employ social media as a means to disrupt our elections also remain ongoing. We need to be more vigilant than ever if we expect to safeguard our election process. And unfortunately, with Trump at the helm and his GOP enablers downplaying Russian interference and blocking the Democrats’ attempt to increase election security funding, we can’t depend on much help from the federal government.

The good news: DeSaulnier continues to work to get Washington to act. He is currently the co-sponsor of at least 5 bills to improve election security (such as the aptly named Election Security Act, H.R. 5011). While none of these bills has made it to the GOP-controlled floor as yet, this is a start. If you live in CA-11, DeSaulnier’s district, thank him and urge him to keep pushing! Meanwhile, Secretary of State Padilla claimed that no one has yet succeeded in “hacking” California voting equipment. To help keep things that way, the state has allocated over $134 million dollars to upgrade our voting machines and to provide additional election protections. One caution came from Professor Stark, who pointed out that just because you’ve found no evidence of hacking, that doesn’t guarantee none has taken place; hackers may have succeeded in preventing your ability to detect them.

So what should we be doing? The panelists agreed on several key recommendations:

  • Paper ballots are essential. Electronic voting, online voting, whatever: they’re all bad. Only paper ballots allow us to reliably track, audit and verify the authenticity and accuracy of the vote. Accept no substitute. Further, no voting machines should be connected to the Internet; it’s too much of a risk. California has gotten the message: it keeps its machines offline and uses only paper ballots unless people with disabilities need an accessible voting machine. As for the rest of the country, while the Constitution prohibits most federal regulation of the electoral process, it allows for the federal government to require states to use paper ballots. We should demand that they do so!
  • Beware of bots. As discussed primarily by Mr. Kumleben, bots are mini-programs designed to imitate humans on social media. We can’t outlaw them but we should be aware of them. They can create an illusion of consensus or popularity that can unduly influence people’s perceptions and thus how they vote. Always be skeptical of what you read and view online — especially from unfamiliar sources! We should also demand that politicians reveal not only where their campaign money comes from but where it goes. If they’re spending money on bots, the voters should know!
  • Gerrymandering and voter suppression are rooted in white supremacy; their goal is to inhibit minorities from voting or having their vote matter. That was the strong assertion made by the Secretary of State to open this topic, which drew applause from the audience. The ideal goal should be for every eligible person to vote — and to do so within fairly-drawn districts. Again, California has led the way here with its recent bipartisan redistricting. All states should move in this direction.
  • Make the move to open source: non-proprietary software that anyone can see, explore and even modify. As elucidated by Dr. Jefferson and Professor Stark, most voting machines in use today run on proprietary software, owned entirely by the same companies that manufacture voting machine hardware. Even though election officials “purchase” voting equipment, they are prohibited from viewing or modifying the machine’s software source code. This leads to a quasi-monopoly that costs the government dearly. If voting machines were instead truly owned by the public and ran on open source software, it could reduce election costs by a factor of five, leading many experts to urge that we should push for a move to open source. While it is not a panacea for security concerns, and while it’s controversial (because, among other things, it is open to modification), open source makes the process much more transparent and accountable. Yet again, California is ahead of the curve. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles counties are planning to transition to open source. Other districts are expected to follow.

Several additional points of interest were raised by the panel:

  • You may not be aware of this, but a significant change is coming to the voting process in California, perhaps as early as 2020 in Contra Costa County, as a result of the Voter’s Choice Act. Most significantly, the law provides a new voting option, intended to facilitate in-person voting: No longer will you be restricted to vote only on election day at just one specified polling location. Instead, for the 11 days prior to an election, you will be able to vote at any of numerous “vote centers” located throughout the county. If you currently use a mail-in ballot, you already can come close to achieving this flexibility. You don’t have to mail your ballot in, risking problems with postal delivery or interference en route. You can drop it off at a city hall or, on election day, at a polling location.
  • Here is a truly cool tip revealed by Secretary of State Padilla: Did you know you can check the status of your vote after an election — and even get a history of your previous votes? To do so, start here.
  • Professor Stark explained the benefits of “risk-limiting” audits. These are partial audits that, combined with statistical analyses, determine when a full audit of a vote is needed. This allows the county to save time and money that would otherwise be wasted on full audits when they have little or no chance of changing the results. Expect to see the implementation of these audits here in California.

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Ted Landau is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

Canvassing with Indivisible Northern Nevada

At the Indivisible East Bay July All Member Meeting, two of our colleagues from Indivisible Northern Nevada gave a presentation about their efforts identifying issues that matter to voters in the Reno area as part of the campaign to get out the vote to unseat Senator Dean Heller, identified as one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators. They were so inspiring that in early August, 2018, a group of IEB members traveled to Reno to attend the 2018 Lake Tahoe Summit and to canvass and register voters in northern Nevada with our Indivisible colleagues. 

Our Indivisible Northern Nevada hosts, all women, greeted us at the picnic tables at Reno’s Idlewild Park with coffee, orange juice, and three kinds of pastries all laid out on a floral tablecloth. After an enthusiastic welcome, some wrangling of the MiniVan app, and a little roleplaying, we were ready to talk to some voters. The goal was to identify issues the voters cared about and decide what, if any, further contact to plan with them. We split into pairs; my partner Ruth happened to live nearby so we decided to start in her neighborhood, which made it very easy to find the addresses that popped up on my phone. 

The first person we talked to was a stocky man with a sunburn who came out around the side of his house smoking a cigar. As planned, we asked him what issues he was thinking about in the upcoming election. He said he was pretty happy with how things were going for him, and would stay happy as long as his taxes were low. We probably could have said “thank you for your time” right then and there and taken him off the list. But he was polite and reasonably friendly, if a little smug, so we pressed a little further, asking what he thought of the state of Reno’s infrastructure and about recent changes to the federal tax code. He said he got a $10K tax cut and that if Reno outgrew its infrastructure he’d just move somewhere else. Then his wife came out to tell him his mom was on the phone and we were able to make a graceful exit.

Our next experience was happier. We talked to a young woman just out of nursing school who came to the door in a bathrobe with a towel on her head, yet was happy to chat with the strangers at the door about her top issues: student debt and cost of living. With her busy life, she didn’t know anything about the candidates for Senate or other upcoming elections, but she promised to educate herself by November, and to vote. After consulting in the car, we decided that we didn’t need to send anyone back to talk to her more about the issues and we marked her “GOTV” so that someone would call or visit to remind her to vote.

After a few unanswered knocks, we came to a house that seemed to have no door. The front of the house was a row of garages and at closer inspection there was a door at the back of one of them. We ventured inside to knock, and retreated back to the driveway. Just when we were giving up and turning to leave, a white-haired woman who looked to be in her seventies opened the door. She said she hadn’t really thought about the issues or which ones were most important to her. When we suggested some common answers like health care, jobs and the economy, or the environment, she said that “all those things must be important to anyone who’s alive” but didn’t really offer anything further.  She talked about a need for balance and cooperation in government and seemed mildly enthusiastic about the fact that so many women are getting involved and running for office right now. Back in the car, we decided that she probably could use another conversation to make her feel that her vote mattered and to be sure she knew which candidates agreed with her on the issues and would bring balance to Washington: we marked her “MAYBE.”

Even our Trumpiest door knock was calm and cordial, probably in part because we identified ourselves as non-partisan and asked for information rather than giving it. A middle-aged woman on crutches told us that she thought things were “finally on the right track” now that Trump was in office. We felt sad for her, suspecting that she is one of those supporters who is actually hurt by the president’s policies, but got a certain amount of satisfaction out of emphatically taking her off our list for future visits.

At our next stop, we met a man whose top issue was immigration. He said straight off that we definitely need “some” immigration to get people to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do. He also said that people who enter the country without permission are “breaking the law” and should face consequences, and should need to prove that they haven’t come to do harm. But he was kind of wavering on whether it was okay to lock them all up in detention for fleeing violence or seeking a better life for their families. We marked him down as a strong MAYBE, almost envying the interesting conversation in store for the volunteer who comes back to engage him further about the facts around immigration and how to vote in alignment with his beliefs.

Our last conversation of the day was with a young father whose front yard was full of children’s toys, and who was the only non-white person we came across in that neighborhood. It was a short visit both because he was obviously busy and because it was pretty clear right away that he was a strong progressive informed on the issues and in favor of Medicare for all. We marked him “GOTV” and both sort of regretted that we didn’t at least ask if he wanted to volunteer; but it hadn’t occurred to us until after the moment had passed.

The group reconvened back at the park to discuss our experiences and talk about what we want to do better next time. The canvassers were energized, feeling good about people’s responses to getting questions about their opinions and priorities rather than being asked to support a candidate or fed a party line. Some also expressed a sense that out of all these voters who had registered as non-partisan, more were leaning leftward than rightward on the issues.

As for our goals to do better next time, we all thought we needed some more strategies to draw out relatively uninformed people in naming their top issues. And we noted our inclination to spend perhaps too many of our valuable canvasing minutes having long conversations with enthusiastic progressives, but decided there was value in that too both for our own morale and theirs.

Certainly my own morale was lifted by the trip, especially meeting the Indivisible Nevadans who fed us, opened their guestrooms to us, and taught us how to make connections with their neighbors and community.

If you’d like to join next time please fill out this form.

Indivisible We Wrote!

By Charlotte McGoldrick

Indivisible East Bay’ers and friends packed our August 2018 postcard party, companionably writing 433 postcards and 14 letters, and all in time for lunch!

  • 240 postcards are headed to CA-1 voters in support of Audrey Denney, an agriculturalist and educator running for Congress against Republican incumbent Doug LaMalfa
  • 158 postcards are going to CA-21 voters in support of TJ Cox, an engineer and Central Valley small businessman running for Congress against Republican incumbent David Valadao
  • 25 postcards went to Senators Feinstein and Harris to ask them to keep fighting against Trump’s horrible, no-good presidential power-loving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh
  • 10 postcards went to voters for Julie Goldberg, an educator running for a New York state senate seat, through Postcards to Voters
  • We also sent 14 letters to Democratic voters in Georgia through Vote Forward, another great organization that specifically targets voters who are unlikely to vote, with the goal of boosting voter turnout through the power of the pen. 

We loved seeing lots of new faces this weekend (including several under one-year old – children are always welcome)! Thank you to everyone who turned out to flip Congress blue. Couldn’t make this one? Itching to write to more voters? Great, let’s keep this going. Stay tuned for announcements about our upcoming postcard parties, always listed in our newsletter, on our Facebook page, and on our upcoming events webpage.

Postcard party August

And Mary McFarland of East Bay for TJ Cox is hosting a post-carding party on Friday, August 17, from 4:00-6:00 pm in Alameda. If you’d like to attend, please email Mary. Can’t make it? Check out other events here.

200+ postcards in support of Audrey Denney in CA-1
This is what 240 postcards in support of Audrey Denney in CA-1 looks like!

Learn more about activist postcard-ing at our article The Pen (plus .35 stamp) Is Mightier Than Yelling At Your TV. Have other questions? Want to let us know about your own postcarding events? Email us or contact @heidirand on Slack.  

Photos by Heidi Rand

Meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff in Oakland

By George McRae

A group of mainly Indivisible East Bay members met for a great Q&A on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at the Oakland Public Library with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd and Field Representative Abby Ellis.

Top of list: the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Feinstein has been adamant and doing what she can to open up all the hidden files on Kavanaugh, while Senator Grassley is pushing to start hearings the Tuesday after Labor Day, so when the Supreme Court meets the first Monday in October (the Court’s traditional giddy-up) they’ll have a full house of nine. Discussion revolved around the National Archives not being able to even produce the requested documentation by at least the middle of October. The issue of Kavanaugh perjuring himself when he was being vetted for the D.C. District Court was discussed and it was clarified that those documents are in the pile at the Archives.

What to do about it?? Call Senator Feinstein’s and also Senator Harris’s offices REPEATEDLY! Yes, emailing over and over – daily, if not hourly – is vital. Seriously. The Senators’ staffs keep track of numbers of contacts per zip code per issue and calls, faxes, emails are weighted EQUALLY. Senator Feinstein asks for and is given daily reports on numbers for and against issues, and the zip codes where the comments are from. So if she gets ten thousand calls supporting Kavanaugh, that’s what she gets. If, on the other hand, she gets ten thousand calls against Kavanaugh, then that’s what she gets! She is shown the high volume reports daily. The staff stressed that they are NOT hearing from US about Kavanaugh, and the lack of calls is a mystery. [Ed. note: see our current actions, posted here, and call every day. The Kavanaugh actions listed are all still timely]

We discussed that many people think they don’t have to call because they know that the Senators are opposed to Kavanaugh already, or know their public position on another issue, but again, THEY NEED to hear from us even so! In addition, they really need to hear our thanks when they are doing a good job! It encourages them to keep going in getting the work done on the issues we strongly support.

IEB meeting with Sen. Feinstein staff Aug. 13, 2018

We discussed the tariff war, and the destruction it is bringing to our state as well as to the rest of the country. Sean specifically mentioned harm from the tariffs on Chinese goods that have provoked Chinese retaliation in the form of tariffs on agricultural exports and said that small, medium and even large farms are looking at this coming Labor Day as the day to decide whether they can live or die as businesses. Sean also said that such harm is galvanizing even GOP Senators from states with a large agricultural base.

We touched on some international issues, including a discussion about Israel, Turkey, and Iranian nuclear proliferation. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is very concerned about problems that Netanyahu is causing, and about the threat of global economic collapse due to the ongoing economic crisis in Turkey.

Finally, we asked the Senator’s position on universal health care, and as we’ve heard from Sean before, the question is how to pay for it, and the Senator’s main concern is to make sure that everyone is covered first.

 

George McRae works as a theater professional, an audio-describer for blind and visually impaired people, and standardized patient for healthcare educators. Oh, he also keeps bees. 

Photographs by George McRae