At November’s Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting we spent more time eating than meeting. Several dozen members and guests gathered to enjoy tasty food and each other’s company for our potluck and post-election celebration.
We also fit in a bit of business — Governance Committee (GC) member and CA-11 team co-lead Ted led us in a round of applause for the momentous blue wave, and used the victories to inspire us to keep it up. Some actions Ted urged members to take were for now-resolved races, such as Mike Espy’s failed bid to win the Mississippi US Senate run-off election. And at the time the CA-21 congressional race was nail-bitingly close, though as we know now TJ Cox finally pulled ahead of Republican Valadao the day after the meeting, Monday Nov. 26, and by mid-day Wednesday TJ’s vote count had increased to the point that he declared victory! This race is particularly dear to IEB’s heart; many of us wrote countless postcards and canvassed for TJ, after our friends and allies in Team Blue Wave Contra Costa and East Bay for TJ showed us it could be done (despite the fact that the so-called experts didn’t think it was worth a try!)
Newsletter team co-lead and GC member Ann proudly read IEB’s statement endorsing CA-13 Representative Barbara Lee for Democratic Caucus Chair and announced IEB’s role in spurring other groups to endorse Lee for this important position. Sadly, Rep. Lee narrowly lost her bid for this position. We are deeply disappointed that her history of bravery, experience and wisdom was bypassed. But we remain hopeful that the new Chair, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, will be a strong supporter of progressive policies.
Looking ahead, Ted announced some upcoming events:
Indivisible National is sponsoring a National Day of Action on January 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress. As Indy points out, this is our movement’s first chance to speak with our united national voice about issues that are important to us. On that day, IEB is planning to hold gatherings outside the local offices of our three representatives: Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13, and Eric Swalwell (CA-15). Check the newsletter for further details.
Indivisible East Bay CA-11 team co-leads Kristen and Ted, and IEB member Tom, met with Congressperson Mark DeSaulnier and his D.C. Chief of Staff Betsy Marr before his Congressional Update Town Hall in Richmond on October 23. We updated DeSaulnier on CA-11 team members’ recent work helping elect Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, our involvement in pushing Sheriff Livingston to cancel the ICE contract, and our various Get Out The Vote actions in CA-21, Northern Nevada, and Arizona. DeSaulnier was impressed and immensely grateful, and Marr encouraged us to keep at it. DeSaulnier shared his unvarnished summary of the “goings-on” in D.C. with us, and we had a great back-and-forth on that.
Looking to the future, we asked about DeSaulnier’s priorities after the elections, and what he’d recommend for our post-midterm grassroots efforts. To our specific question about whether the Democrats would re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment that was killed by Newt Gingrich in the Clinton era, DeSaulnier agreed that it should be a priority. Wrapping up, DeSaulnier offered to meet with the CA-11 team after the midterms to check in and dive deeper into our post-election ideas. We will hold him to that!
About 70 people attended the 90-minute Town Hall. There was an underlying tone of optimism in the Representative’s presentation about the midterms. One of his post-election priorities is to work on overturning Citizens United, banning stock buybacks, strengthening anti-trust enforcement, and updating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN). The WARN Act of 1988 is a US labor law that protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.
IEB and CA-11 team member Janis Hashe asked two questions on what can be done about coal rail shipments through Richmond, and whether the interstate commerce clause can be utilized to help. DeSaulnier’s response was supportive, and he gave some suggestions. Obviously fascinated with the second question, he said he’d give it further thought.
It was satisfying to hear our Member of Congress espouse progressive values and be so responsive to his community.
Yep, last week sucked. And now we have the Honorable* justice** Kavanaugh. But there’s no crying in baseball, don’t give up at halftime, take a breath and come back out swinging. If you’ve ever said you’d contribute some day — that day is TODAY. The task is clear: we need to get control of at least one house of Congress on November 6. It’s time for EVERYONE to step up to canvass, phone, text, postcard, donate . . . all of the above . . . today and every day through November 6!
Here’s just some of what Indivisible East Bay members and friends, heroes all, did last week:
Canvassing in Sanger for TJ Cox:
IEB members Fiona and Carl, and CA-11 team co-lead Ted canvassed with SwingLeft in Sanger for TJ Cox, who’s running for Congress in CA-21. Read their report here. TJ is a charismatic and progressive Democrat running against incumbent Republican David Valadao. By day’s end, the entire group had knocked on 710 doors and had 174 targeted conversations, got 21 pledge cards and two vote-by-mail forms filled out, ending up with a 24% contact rate! The IEB trio even got three people to put up TJ Cox yard signs in very noticeable locations!
Canvassing in Reno and Manteca:
IEB member Mandeep writes: “I’ve also had an awesome time canvassing streets in Reno and Manteca, in addition to the phone canvassing I’ve been doing. I like looking people in the eye! Sure, most doors are not answered, and a few people are clearly right-leaning and don’t want to talk with you further (though even then, I’ve only had civil and polite exchanges) — but some folks are hungry for information on voting, how to get more involved, and are grateful that you’ve shown up at their door. Just a couple of these kinds of interactions in an afternoon of canvassing can really make your day, and make you feel it’s all worth it. And of course, it just intrinsically is, as in-person canvassing has been shown to be the NUMBER ONE way to have an effect on voters. And, as I say regularly — we happen just to have a country to save here. So yes — it matters. Always remember: the founders of your nation are smiling upon you as you walk the streets.”
Phone banking AND postcarding at Red-to-Blue HQ:
Double duty in Dublin! CA-15 Team co-lead LeAnn reports that it was “sitting on the floor room only” at the IBEW Hall in Dublin, where close to 50 highly motivated progressives filled up two rooms and the hallway during back-to-back postcarding and phone banking events on October 6. The union hall is being made available by CA-15 Representative Eric Swalwell and his staff to serve as the “Red-to-Blue” headquarters through the mid-term elections to organizations that want to help get out the vote in battleground districts across the country.
We wrote 400 postcards in support of Jessica Morse, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock in CA-4; the crowd was big enough that there was also an opportunity to write an additional 50 cards for Harley Rouda, running in CA-48 against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
Phone banking overlapped with the postcarding and carried on into the afternoon; several die-hards opted to participate in both! IEB Governance Committee members Nick, Linh, and Ward joined a host of others to phone bank for Jessica Morse or for Andrew Janz, who’s running against Devin Nunes in CA-22, or for Iowa candidates J.D. Scholten (IA-4) and Deidre DeJear (Secretary of State).
Phone banking for Arizona Democrats:
Fifteen phone bankers gathered in Richmond, spreading out around the home and beautiful garden of CA-11 Team co-lead Kristen and phone bank superstar Tom.
A lot of new people were trained to use Hubdialer and quickly got to work talking to Arizonans, helping identify supporters of Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema and down-ticket Dems, and hitting the phone bank jackpot once in a while to sign up a volunteer. When we were using the system we did an average of 1,500 dials and had a 20% contact rate. Our partners, the AZ Democratic Party, would love to get more folks involved in calling to Arizona. Sign up here or email email@example.com
Phone banking in Oakland for Issue Voters of Northern Nevada:
An enthusiastic crowd of 25 gathered at former CA-13 team lead Janine’s in Rockridge to call into areas around Reno. IEB phone bankers had whipped through the original database of Non-Partisan Voters in Reno and we were now able to expand to areas that our partner organization, Issue Voters of Northern Nevada, hadn’t expected to reach. Callers were able to either congregate (sometimes good for morale after a difficult or successful call) or spread out into more quiet areas. We called in the neighborhood of 1,200 households and reached the usual one in ten, or around 120 people. Our work making calls helps IVNN’s canvassing: they can target people we identify as “persuadables” who are still making up their minds, rather than knocking on every door, and canvassers will also be aware in advance of voters’ top issues that will motivate them to go to the polls.
Writing postcards to low-turnout Nevada voters:
And more help for Nevada! More than 30 IEB members and friends at our postcard party in El Cerrito wrote more than 350 postcards to a carefully targeted list of voters registered as “non-partisan” who didn’t vote in 2016. Scripts created by Issue Voters of Northern Nevada politely but firmly urged the addressees to vote, including: “If we don’t vote, we can’t complain. Make sure your voice is heard this year: VOTE!”
The party started shortly after the Kava-nauseous vote occurred, and we were all grateful to be among kindred souls taking direct action to fight back. Almost double the number of RSVPs showed up and IEB’s outreach team co-lead Toni worked miracles to provide more addresses to the eager writers.
Here’s what you can do in the days ahead:
Canvassing and phone banking are the top two most effective ways to contact voters and make the Blue Wave happen. We need your help!
Can’t canvass yourself? Donate to support one of the great groups listed above. You can even sponsor a canvasser in CA-21 by donating to Valley Forward, which helps employ people living in the district.
Six hours of driving and six hours of canvassing? Yes! And it was even more fun than we expected. We left Oakland before 5 AM on Saturday October 6, heading south toward Sanger, CA. Bagels, coffee, and great conversation made for a delightful three hour drive. A millennial, a Gen Xer, and a baby boomer cruising toward the sunrise; intensely agreeing on politics while sharing music, pop culture, and social science insights.
Almost before we knew it we’d arrived in Sanger. While SwingLeft’s cheerful and super efficient organizers Stacey, Sharon and Norberto were giving us a quick update and walk through of the Political Data Inc. (PDI) app, who should show up but TJ Cox, the candidate we were there to canvass for! He spoke with us briefly and told us why he’s running for Congress: to help this neglected district get the attention and resources it deserves. CA-21 has a high poverty rate with many residents on Medicaid. TJ was especially proud that a foundation he started has built health clinics all over the valley, including the United Health Clinic in Sanger. When we were out canvassing, many of the people we talked to were surprised and moved to find out that TJ was the force behind the Clinic’s creation.
You’d be shocked (not really!) to learn that David Valadao, the incumbent Republican Member of Congress against whom TJ is running, has voted with 45 over 98% of the time. Valadao has consistently voted against his district’s interests, including voting against the ACA, voting for cuts to Medicare, and failing to follow through with the discharge petition to protect DREAMers.
The three of us canvassed together from 9 AM to 3 in the afternoon, talking mainly to Democrats and to those who “declined to state” a preference on their voter registration. That’s because at this point in the election cycle, it’s much more about getting out the vote than persuading people to change their preference. While it was jarring to meet so many people who professed to have no knowledge of the election, it also felt productive. Nearly everyone was friendly and talking about TJ was easy. Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but we feel confident that we made a difference — that at least some of the people we spoke with will turn up at the polls because of us.
After lunch, the canvassing went a bit slower — not only because we were hauling around bellies full of excellent Mexican food, but because fewer people were home (or willing to answer the door). We left campaign literature with personalized post-it notes at every house. By day’s end, SwingLeft canvassers had knocked on 710 doors and had 174 targeted conversations — plus many more contacts with potential voters. Our trio even got three people to put up TJ Cox yard signs in very noticeable locations!
As the temperature approached 80 degrees (still unusually cool in the Valley), we wrapped it up, debriefed with the SwingLeft team, and headed for home. The drive back was even better than the drive out: after several weeks of the excruciating-to-watch Kavanaugh hearings, the satisfaction of having done something positive was cathartic.
Can’t get out to canvass yourself? Donate to support one of the great groups listed above. You can even sponsor a canvasser in CA-21 by donating to Valley Forward, which helps employ people living in the district.
Read Ted’s recent article about why he spends his time canvassing, and his article about canvassing for TJ Cox in Mendota before the primary.
I confess. I’m obsessed with following the forecasts for the November 6 midterm elections. For the past several months I’ve been regularly checking FiveThirtyEight’s “2018 House Forecast” and “Who Is Winning the Race for Congress” poll results — sometimes as often as two or three times a minute just to make sure I have the latest results. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I immediately reach for my phone to check the latest news and FiveThirtyEight.com’s forecasts.
Why do I do this? Because the outcome is so consequential. When November 7 arrives, the last thing I want is to have that sinking feeling I had in 2016. But I also realize that just checking the latest forecasts, no matter how often I do it, is not enough. I need to do something more. Every day I wonder how I can best make a difference between now and November 6 — something that may help me sleep a little better at night. For me, the answer is: canvassing.
That’s why I’ve registered to canvass on October 6 in Sanger in support of TJ Cox, running for Congress in District 21. TJ is a charismatic and progressive Democrat running against incumbent Republican David Valadao.
Last March, I joined a few other IEB’ers on a weekend trip to canvass for TJ in Mendota. It was an enriching experience. During our initial training, TJ himself showed up to give us a pep talk. When we finally set out to canvass we were joined by close to 30 volunteers, mostly from the Bay Area.
Most Mendota residents work in the local agricultural industry. It’s a close-knit community that cares very much about family. As I walked around with my canvassing partner Rae, we were struck by how warm and friendly everyone was. We also noticed that many of garages were open, being cleaned and decorated with balloons. From making small talk, we learned that these parents were using the garages to host birthday parties for their children.
On the canvassing trail, we knocked on doors to verify who lived there. We read the script from our smartphones. After being initially reluctant (and possibly suspicious), the residents opened up to us. Most didn’t know who TJ Cox was. After we explained his positions, the vast majority expressed willingness to vote for him.
My memories of that weekend in Mendota are images of shy smiles from the very old to the very young, an invitation from a family to come back to enjoy homemade tamales during the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and of people who work hard and want opportunities for their children. These are good memories of a successful week-end of canvassing.
Join me on October 6 in Sanger and you can have that same positive experience while helping get a worthy progressive elected. Want to carpool? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m known for finding good food wherever I travel so you can look forward to a delicious lunch experience on Sunday, like this excellent Mexican restaurant we discovered in Mendota.
Canvassing and phone banking are the top two most effective ways to contact voters and make the Blue Wave happen. We need your help! What you can do:
Sign up to get our weekly list of phone banks and canvassing trips
Learn the who, what, and why of canvassing and phone banking at our September 30 All Member Meeting at Sports Basement, Berkeley, from 1-3 PM. Hear from experts and sign up to help. We’ll also have demonstrations to demystify and show you how! Come, bring friends and spread the word. RSVP and details here.
Check out opportunities to canvass, phone or text bank, write postcards, and more, with these great organizations IEB works in coalition with:
Can’t canvass yourself? Donate to support one of the great groups listed above. You can even sponsor a canvasser in CA-21 by donating to Valley Forward, which helps employ people living in the district.
Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer.
It’s not just about getting out the vote on November 6, 2018. Yes, that’s critical. But there’s more than one front in our ongoing battle against Trump and his minions, so we gotta walk and chew gum at the same time! As important as the election — and with very long term implications — is the fight over control of our federal judiciary. A shocking statistic: Congress has already confirmed more of Trump’s nominations to appellate judgeships (24) in his first term than any other president going back to Reagan!
Right now, perched at the top of our judicial concerns sits the Supreme Court. The Republican-controlled Senate is pushing hard to get Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s uber-conservative nominee, confirmed as soon as possible. Hearings are scheduled to start on September 4 — with most pundits predicting that success is almost certain.
The good news is that “almost certain” means “not 100% certain.” This fight is still winnable … if we act like it!
All of which brings us to the Indivisible East Bay August 26 All Members Meeting. An overflowing house packed the room, with many of the 200+ people there showing up for their first-ever IEB event.
Fighting the Kavanaugh Nomination
For the top attraction, we joined with MoveOn’s Unite for Justice national day of action to promote the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Linh Nguyen, co-lead of the IEB Judiciary Team, delivered an impassioned presentation detailing exactly why we must push as hard as we can to delay or prevent the vote on Kavanaugh:
Linh gave a distressing overview of what we already know of Kavanaugh’s equally distressing record: his opposition to Roe v. Wade, his assertions that a sitting President should be exempt from any investigation, his support for unlimited pardon power for the President (even before defendants stand trial), his belief that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, his opposition to climate change protection measures, and his support for vote-suppressing voter ID laws.
There’s likely much more, but it has been hard to find out; thanks to the GOP’s obstruction in Congress, only 6% of his record has been made available to the public!
Yes, Kavanaugh has stated that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” But don’t be seduced by this admission! Saying the case is settled does not imply that Kavanaugh believes it was correctly decided. If he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he could still act to overturn it — and probably would.
Linh also talked about the Judiciary Team’s efforts to coordinate with Indivisibles and other groups around the country to block other Trump nominees to federal courts — nominees who are too far-right, blatantly partisan, or unqualified to hold the lifetime positions. The Team’s work has paid off! Activists’ pressure has terminated the nominations of Jeff Mateer, Brett Talley, Matthew Petersen, and Ryan Bounds. These potential judges were exposed as racist, homophobic, and/or lacking in any judicial experience. While Trump appears to view these attributes as desirable, our opposition eventually forced an embarrassed GOP to abandon the nominees.
What can you do?
All of which bring us to … YOU, and what you can do to prevent further judicial disaster from becoming a reality.
First and foremost:contact your senators EVERY DAY by phone, email, or fax to voice your opposition to Kavanaugh. It doesn’t matter that they’re already on record as opposed to his confirmation — contact them (every day) anyway! Their staff tells us it helps immensely for them to hear our support. Otherwise, they only hear from constituents who disagree, making it harder for them to hold to their positions. That’s why, at the meeting, all attendees took direct action by making phone calls and writing more than 300 (!) postcards to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
Please do the same…right now!
What to say:
My name is ____. I’m a constituent from [zip code] and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote NO on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m worried by his opposition to a woman’s right to choose, environmental and consumer protection, workers’ rights and common sense gun safety. His willingness to shield the president from prosecution and investigation is frightening. Kavanaugh’s nomination should be rejected.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
Next: we can’t stop there. It’s essential that all 49 Democratic Senators are steadfast in their opposition to Kavanaugh — plus we need to get at least two Republicans to vote no. To accomplish this, we must contact Democratic voters in other states, particularly ones with vulnerable Republican Senators, encouraging them to voice their opposition to Kavanaugh and vote NO.
But wait, there’s more: Expanding on Linh’s call to action, IEB Governance Committee members Andrea and Charlotte offered additional actions you can take:
Use social media to get the message out. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your support for IEB’s positions on your own social media pages, your Twitter feed or even on Nextdoor. Check out this perfect example of boosting the cause!
Share these tips with your family and friends, especially those in other states, and ask them to take action.
The goal: make it so “expensive” for Mitch McConnell to twist arms that he abandons the effort to confirm Kavanaugh. We have the opportunity to win by running out the clock. If Kavanaugh is not confirmed by the end of the 2018 Congressional session, the nomination gets kicked back to the President, forcing a delay that could doom the appointment — especially if we win a majority of the Senate in November.
The ultimate symbol of America
While info and direct action to #StopKavanaugh was going full steam, kitchen science was also happening! IEB Wizard Ted Lam conducted extensive testing (yeah, noms!) to perfect a recipe for homemade Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend ice cream, and he let loose his team of IEB family members (his son Lucas and volunteers extraordinaire Tiffany and George) to churn up 12 delectable quarts with a robin’s egg blue vintage electric ice cream maker.
The action we take
George did double duty, and says that “after churning up resistance . . . I mean ice-cream, I was posted post-haste to help out at the Postcards to Voters table.” Members flocked to write 100 postcards to Democratic voters in support of Audrey Denney and TJ Cox, running for Congress in California Districts 1 and 21. Both districts, largely rural and agricultural, are ripe to be flipped.
Aaaand that brings us full circle — back to the importance of the midterm elections, as we mentioned at the top of this article. Almost every problem we face right now will get better if we can end the GOP’s control of Congress; however, we need to continue keep making noise and applying pressure. Every phone call, postcard, and email counts!
Over 40 enthusiastic attendees from three progressive organizations participated in a very successful postcarding event on August 25 at The Hopyard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Members from Indivisible East Bay, Livermore Indivisible, and the Tri-Valley Women’s March Action Group pumped out 374 postcards in support of TJ Cox’s candidacy for California’s 21st Congressional District, where he is challenging incumbent Rep. David Valadao. Mary McFarland from East Bay for TJ Cox shared that TJ has an engineering background and owns two agricultural businesses in the Central Valley.
There were also many constituents of Rep. Eric Swalwell at the event, and they wrote additional postcards to the Congressperson urging him to reach across the aisle to his colleagues who are not for the Farm Bill and tell them how important the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to so many families in CA-15.
While Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website shows a 64% chance of Valadao losing to a Democrat, outreach still needs to be made to voters in the area. Hillary Clinton carried CA-21 by 15 points, but incumbent Valadao beat Cox in the June primary by 14,000 votes. If you are interested in helping out, visit East Bay for TJ Cox to see how you can get involved.
Want to find out more about, or join, IEB’s CA-15 team? Email us or contact @ward on Slack.
Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.
At 91, Herta Weinstein would be entitled to leave “resisting” to 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 Feinstein’s 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 Committee” negotiated a joint deal between Great Britain, France, Holland and Belgium to accept the refugees. Weinstein’s 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 Berkeley’s 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 Soda” campaign, 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.
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 didn’t 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 that’s another possibility, but objects to the length of the messages. “No one reads that much and it’s 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 administration’s 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.
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.
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With midterm election day barreling toward us, local political groups (including Indivisible East Bay, of course) and elected officials are stepping up their efforts to make sure we cross the November 6 finish line as victors. The first weekend in August – we’ve hit the less-than 100 days out, folks – saw many IEBers participating in a wide variety of events. Didn’t make any of them? Here’s a quick roundup. Oh, and don’t miss any more, check out the upcoming events listings in our weekly newsletter and our Midterm Election Work webpage!
Paint Congress Blue, Art + Action Festival
On Sunday August 5, crowds of people from the Bay Area and beyond met in Oakland to Paint Congress Blue. The free block party featured art, activism and a visit from an infamous barnyard fowl.
IEB, together with Indivisible Berkeley, Sister District, Swing Left, Working America, and more, helped organize the event. Each group had a table to provide opportunities for the public to get educated and get involved. IEB’s table had supplies for writing GOTV (Get Out The Vote) postcards to voters in swing districts. By the end of the evening, IEB volunteers and members of the public had written over 170 postcards to voters in California Congressional Districts 1 and 21!
Don’t miss these upcoming IEB postcarding and social events:
August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
At the main stage, speakers from each organization described their methodology and goals. Kristen Law (co-lead of the IEB CA-11 Team) spoke about the work of Indivisible East Bay, highlighting the successes of our Judiciary Team and efforts to hold our members of Congress accountable.
Between speeches local musical groups entertained the crowd, and Project Bandaloop, an aerial dance team, also performed. A number of art galleries in the district were open for tours.
Lest we forget, the guest of honor was the Trump Chicken, a 13-foot tall inflatable chicken that bears a striking resemblance to, well, you-know-who! Attendees could have their photos taken while giving the Chicken a piece of their mind. By any measure, Paint Congress Blue was a huge success, and a good time was had by all; well, except for maybe the Chicken.
Phone Banking for Northern Nevada
Want to help GOTV (Get Out the Vote) beyond our deep blue Bay Area? Here’s one way: Northern Nevada. That was the message delivered by two members of Issue Voters of Northern Nevada at IEB’s July All Members Meeting. The group is focused on contacting unaffiliated voters in Washoe County to ask what issues matter most to them. The number of these voters has grown dramatically in recent years — to the point that they will likely be the deciding factor in the November election.
Five IEB members who were fired up by this appeal packed their mobile phones and laptops — and headed off to Oakland for an afternoon of phone banking. They spent three hours calling voters, using national Indivisible’s virtual phone bank system. As is common with phone banking, most calls wound up with no one picking up, but the good news is that those who did answer were usually willing to talk and share their thoughts.
According to Toni Henle, one of the “IEB five,” the group made about 200 calls and “each of us had four or five good conversations (and a couple of not-so-good ones); we found it helps that others are around to share the good and bad!”
Can you help turn out the Nevada vote? We’ve scheduled two phone banks on Sundays August 19 & 26 from 3-6 PM at our hostess’ house in north Oakland. To join us, email email@example.com. And there are several other phone- and text-banking opportunities listed in our newsletter and this webpage.
Starting in September, there’ll also be opportunities to drive to Reno to canvass voters identified as “persuadable” for Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen, running against Dean Heller, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: Immigration town hall
Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has been to our southern border, witnessing first-hand what Trump’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy means. DeSaulnier’s message to constituents attending his immigration town hall in Concord on August 4, was that the policy is something we, as Americans, should have zero tolerance for.
In a slide-show presentation that focused on immigration, DeSaulnier walked through the damage being done — including the fact that at least 500 children may now be permanently orphaned because they were separated from parents who were subsequently deported.
DeSaulnier described his trip to the border crossing at Brownsville Texas. Upon arrival, he met with a federal judge who confided that the immigrants here were not “bad people.” In most cases, they were legally seeking asylum. DeSaulnier attended the adjudication of 70 individuals, the majority of whom came from Central America, immigrants who had traveled thousands of miles and paid as much as $20,000 to “coyotes” to gain transport to the border.
DeSaulnier also met with several families who had recently been re-united. A young boy told him how, after being separated from his family, an immigration official had told him: “Your parents don’t ever want to see you again.”
Finally, DeSaulnier was able to tour a facility for new arrivals, the place where immigrants are housed in fence-enclosed “cages” (as you may have seen in television reports). Several immigration officials related how uncomfortable this all made them. One lamented that he had sought the job after 9-11, to be one of the “good guys” helping his country; he now felt he had become one of the “bad guys.”
An obviously emotional DeSaulnier stressed to the town hall audience that “this has to stop. It is not acceptable.” What the Trump administration is doing at the border is not only ethically wrong, it is illegal!He described efforts to get legislation passed that addresses the issue. The frustrating problem is that GOP Speaker of the House has absolute control over which bills can be brought to the floor for a vote. Even though DeSaulnier is supporting at least two bills that would pass if voted on, Speaker Ryan has refused to let them reach the floor.
The meeting concluded with a Q&A where members largely voiced support for the work DeSaulnier is doing. At one point, he gave a shout-out to Indivisible — complimenting us for pressuring him to “tell us what you are doing about it.” Watch the recorded Town Hall here.
Rep. Eric Swalwell: baseball and town hall
For Eric Swalwell, Representative for the CA-15 Congressional district, last weekend was a combination of fun and business.
Fun was an Oakland A’s pre-game tailgate party at the Coliseum, which he hosted. After wrapping that up, it was on to the game itself, where Rep. Swalwell threw out the ceremonial first pitch!
The business part was a town hall meeting at Hayward High School on Saturday August 4. Swalwell answered questions on a wide range of issues, including health care, immigration, climate change, the rights of veterans and, of course, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His final words touched on FDR’s four freedoms: the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — with a new freedom added by Swalwell to provide hope in today’s troubled times: the freedom to dream.
Many constituents were interested in getting involved in the efforts to counter the Trump administration’s actions. That’s when IEB’s CA-15 team co-leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky stepped up to the plate. They and other members passed out flyers recommending IEB as a great resource for those wanting to be more involved.
And IEB activism elsewhere too!
Several other intrepid IEB members took their activism on the road over the weekend as well! IEB superstars Amelia Cass and Linh Nguyen attended the Tahoe Summit, delivering a letter to keynote speaker Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski from 29 of her constituents asking her to vote NO on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And Nancy Latham traveled to New Orleans to join with thousands of other activists at the Netroots Nation conference. Read her inspiring first-hand account.
Paint Congress Blue photographs by Wesley Chang, see more of Wesley’s PCB photos here.
Ted Landau, Alice Towey, Toni Henle and Ward Kanowsky contributed to this report.