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.
If you’d like to join next time please fill out this form.
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.
The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team. Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action. Great job, Linh – and thank you!
The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination. Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants. Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.
What you can do:
Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
Read our articleshere, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.
At the beginning of August, I traveled to New Orleans with thousands of other activists to attend the 2018 annual Netroots Nation conference. Each day we chose from approximately a gajillion panels and trainings. At the panels we learned about how to build diverse coalitions, what it means to bring race and class narratives together, why we’ve been thinking about GOTV (Get Out the Vote) in the wrong way – and so much more. The trainings covered everything anyone would want to know about organizing and building power, from attracting volunteers to planning protests to messaging (and way more that I have forgotten).
After drinking from a firehose of knowledge during the day, we flocked each night to the massive hall with its stage draped in lush curtains to hear keynote speeches by Democratic Party luminaries like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, and rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cynthia Nixon, and Chokwe Lumumba. (Fun fact: I learned there that the cool people call Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “AOC.”) The crowd was thrilled that no one there was heeding any centrist hand-wringing about moving too far to the Left. As speaker after speaker exhorted us to be bold in centering racial justice and economic justice and – for God’s sake – to stop apologizing for our party’s foundational principles, each was met with thundering applause.
Echoing the GOTV trainings that warned us about progressive voters who stay home when they are uninspired by Democrats’ lack of boldness, AOC reminded us that “swing voters don’t vote for the person who is moderate enough, the person who is most timid, the person who backs down from their starting point – the swing voter votes for authenticity.” And Bill de Blasio shouted to a cheering crowd: “This is an extraordinary moment. … We have to see ourselves as authors of an emerging majority. … Progressives: it’s our time!”
It sure feels like it’s our time. Since the dark days right after the 2016 election, we have been organizing our hearts out, building our power – and it’s working. People who just a year ago might have been nervous to lead with social justice messages are now proudly proclaiming those values. “Let’s speak truth,” Kamala Harris said. “That if it wasn’t clear before Charlottesville, it is clear now – racism is real in this country, and we need to deal with that. Sexism is real in this country; let’s deal with it. Anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia are real in this country; let’s deal with it.” These sentiments flowed throughout every speech – because the activists have demanded it. And we have told elected officials and those seeking office that we would work for them – we would mobilize to get out the vote and we would have their backs on the issues. They know they need us, so they are listening to us.
It was so refreshing to have racial justice front and center. While some of the coverage of the conference suggested that the message was “screw the white working class Trump voters – we’re done with them,” that was not what I heard at all. Rather, we are fighting for everyone devastated by decades of stagnating median wages and skyrocketing inequality. As AOC says, we “fight for social economic, and racial justice for all working class Americans.” We have to be honest and forthright about that – we can be true to our values, inspire our base, and do the right thing for everyone no matter who they voted for, all at the same time. As we return to our principles of equity and justice, Obama-Trump voters may come home to the Democratic Party.
And even among our progressive brethren, we were pushed to do better. On the last night, the Black Ass Caucus took the stage, claimed space, and challenged Netroots leadership and everyone in the audience to see the ways in which people of color were still being marginalized. While the protest stretched many in the audience outside their comfort zones (me included), we were grateful to be called out: asked to live up to our principles more authentically. To see the whole protest, go here – and I encourage you to watch it a few times.
Ultimately, what is very clear is that it is not only morally wrong, but strategically unsound, to moderate our focus on the issues that will galvanize our base: people of color, young people, and white progressives. As the math shows, if we stick with our base and inspire them, we don’t need to worry about scaring off voters who will vote only for centrists. And as grassroots organizers, we need to keep doing what we’re doing: mobilizing, proudly proclaiming and reaffirming our progressive values, holding elected officials accountable, and owning our power.
Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.
That’s the essential message of the July 29, 2018 Indivisible East Bay All Members Meeting.
Midterm elections are now less than 100 days away! And these aren’t just any old midterms. They will determine whether Trump’s abuses of power can continue to go unchecked — without any restraint from a spineless GOP-controlled Congress — or whether Democrats can take back at least one house and begin to apply some checks and balance to stop the crazy.
Not sure what you can do? No problem. Representatives from several groups stood before the IEB attendees to pitch for support and activism from our members.
Adena Ishii, President of League of Woman Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, started the ball rolling by reminding us that there is still much get-out-the-vote work to be done right here in our own backyard — where voter turnout among registered voters remains less than 40% for midterm elections! And that’s just registered voters; many potential voters still need to be registered.
Amy Golden from Swing Left East Bay asked volunteers to help with phone-banking and canvassing in critical California swing districts CD-10 and CD-21. See their events calendarand sign up!
Vivian Leal and Laynette Evans, visiting from Indivisible Northern Nevada, appealed for our help in the US Senate race targeting Senator Dean Heller, one of the most vulnerable Republican Senators. Opportunities include phone-banking in August and canvassing starting in September. There’s a Virtual Phone Bank on Sunday, Aug. 5; to volunteer for other opportunities sign up here.
IEB’s powerhouse Linh Nguyen, who among her other hats co-leads the Judiciary and Senator Feinstein and Harris teams, spoke about issues that members are concerned about and working on:
Border separation: About 700 refugee children have not been reunited with their parents, and the administration does not have plans to reunify many of those. Of those children the administration says are “ineligible” for reunification, 431 have parents who are no longer in the U.S. The administration did not get information regarding where the parents who were deported currently are, so there is no way to reunite the families.
Healthcare repeal 2.0: The House portion of Budget Resolution would make possible ACA repeal with ONLY 51 votes (again)! We are keeping an eye on this to see whether the Senate passes the same.
In a follow-up to the July 15 Indivisible webinar Fair and Secure Elections: What’s at Stake and How to Take Action, Melanie and Ion, co-leads of the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team, explained the importance of taking action to secure our elections even as we participate in get out the vote efforts, canvassing, and other electoral work. Melanie and Ion, part of the Indivisible Safeguard Our Elections Working Group that presented the webinar, explained that our election infrastructure is in terrible shape, struggling with vulnerable and hackable voting machines that too often provide no way to monitor their accuracy. The Voter Rights and Election Integrity team is seeking volunteers to help work on these issues. You can watch the recorded webinar at this link and if you have questions or would like to help, send the team an email.
After the inspiring speakers the crowd was eager to hear about our upcoming events, which include:
August 12, 10 AM-noon: Indivisible We Write! IEB August postcard party, Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP (free).
August 25, 2-4 PM: IEB Ale & Mail! No-host mingle & postcarding at Hop Yard Alehouse in Pleasanton. Info & RSVP.
August 26, 1-3 PM: IEB August All Members Meeting, Community room at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Info & RSVP. All welcome!
Finally, we broke into smaller groups. IEB Governance Committee member and Volunteer Coordinator Andrea led a packed breakout to introduce new members to the many ways they can work with Indivisible East Bay. IEB is always looking for volunteers who want to help organize events, research actions, and contribute to the newsletter. Email Andrea for more details. (And don’t forget the weekly action items in the newsletter!)
At another breakout several members sat down to take immediate direct action, writing 50 postcards in just a few minutes! We penned fifteen to our Members of Congress, asking them to support the PAVE Act to protect election security, and to oppose the asinine military parade. And twenty-fourpostcards are on their way to Democratic voters in New York, in support of Alessandra Biaggi, running for state senate. Want to learn more about postcard-ivism? Email Heidi.
Next month’sAll Members Meeting will be at the Sports Basement in Berkeley on August 26, 1-3 PM. See you there!
Indivisible East Bay usually meets with our Washington representatives when they visit the Bay Area. But from June 4-6, 2018, IEB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for a succession of get-togethers with California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris as well as several of their key staffers. It was an opportunity for face-to-face interactions at a high-level — and IEB made the most of it.
One highlight of the trip was a constituent breakfast with Senator Feinstein. For her opening remarks, Feinstein mainly spoke about her recently-introduced legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families, as well as her plans to address the problems of homelessness and climate change. Since it was the morning after the primary, she thanked those who voted for her and said she hoped to win over the rest.
During the Q&A that followed, we noted that the Senator is a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked what we could do to help fix the broken process for the confirmation of judges, and especially to protect the federal judiciary from the too-often extremist nominees put forward by Republicans. Her answer was simple but will be difficult to accomplish: Take back the Senate.
We also heard Senators Harris and Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak at a rally jointly organized by the NAACP and Demand Justice (a new organization focusing on judicial nominations). IEB’s Judiciary team recently started working with Demand Justice to attempt to block the nomination of Thomas Farr to a lifetime judgeship on the district court in North Carolina. Farr has a decades-long history of involvement in voter suppression of North Carolina’s African-American population.
Finally, we had several days of meetings with six members of Feinstein’s and Harris’s staffs. At each meeting, we raised our concerns on specific issues, listened to their replies, and offered our responses. Here are the highlights:
Senator Feinstein Chief of Staff Steve Haro and Appropriations Legislative Aide Josh Esquivel
Our highest level meeting was with Senator Feinstein’s chief of staff Steve Haro and Josh Esquivel, her appropriations legislative aide.
The opening topic was nuclear bombs, notably the House’s recently passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision for $65 million to develop a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon to be launched from submarines. Feinstein is on record as strongly opposing this and other efforts to expand the nuclear stockpile and plans to offer an amendment to remove such provisions from the Senate bill. However, Josh would not promise that Feinstein would vote NO on the full NDAA if, despite her efforts, the nuclear authorizations remain in the bill.
We next discussed aspects of the Homeland Security Authorization Bill, which currently has bipartisan support in the Senate. We asked about the increased budget authority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) included in the bill. In our view, both of these agencies have abused their power and defied Congressional oversight; we thus asked that Senator Feinstein vote against additional funding for those agencies. Steve and Josh both expressed some surprise that funding for these agencies was included in the bill; they were under the impression that the bill was mostly about other aspects of the Department, such as disaster preparedness and election security.
We also requested a status update regarding funding for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief. Josh told us that there is still “plenty of money” left from the last relief funding bill Congress passed. Why then, we asked, does the situation in Puerto Rico remain so dire? He replied that the administration is not doing a good job using the available money to get resources to the people who need it.
We told him that we would like to see Congressional staff get raises. Legislative branch funding is very skimpy and one of the reasons for this is that Congressional Republicans have, since the 1990’s, cut funds for the legislative branch in an apparent bid to increase lobbyists’ relative power and influence. We would like to see that trend reversed in upcoming federal budgets.
Lastly, we discussed sexual harassment and staff well-being policies in Congressional offices. On the subject of harassment, Steve said that the Senator has a very strict, zero-tolerance policy. Staffers are asked to report any incidents directly to him or the Senator. In either case, a report immediately triggers an investigation, headed by Steve. If any harassment is determined to have occurred, the consequences are very serious and even a first offense can result in termination.
Feinstein judicial nominations counsel Gabe Kader
In our meeting with Gabe Kader, one of Feinstein’s Judiciary Committee counsels, we returned to the subject of nominations to the federal bench. Gabe was very interested to hear about our work in this area, especially about which issues in the nominees’ backgrounds resonated most with our members and friends: reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, conflicts of interest, etc.
While we affirmed our support for Feinstein’s goal of Democrats taking back the Senate — as the ultimate solution here — we told him that, in the interim, Feinstein should use her leadership to convince all Congressional Democrats to stand together in opposing unqualified and ultra-conservative nominees put forward by the GOP.
Gabe replied that the Senator is concerned that pushing back too hard could give Senator Grassley and the rest of the Republicans an excuse to abandon the vetting and bipartisan process entirely. We questioned how much that would differ from what the GOP is already doing.
Feinstein immigration counsel Olga Medina
Our last meeting with a Feinstein staffer was with Olga Medina, an immigration counsel. We went over the details of Senator Feinstein’s new legislation to prevent the separation of asylum-seeking families at the border. Her Keep Families Together Act would prohibit agencies from separating children from their parents unless a state court, an “official from the State or county child welfare agency with expertise in child trauma and development,” or the Chief Patrol Agent or the Area Port Director “in their official and undelegated capacity” determines that a separation is in the best interests of the child. It also explicitly states that families can’t be separated as a deterrent. A variety of other provisions (such as keeping siblings together) are designed to protect families in those rare cases when a separation does occur.
Senator Harris legislative science fellow Ike Irby
We had two meetings with representatives of Senator Harris. The first was with legislative science fellow Ike Irby. The focus was on the hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and how we can learn from our failures there. Ike told us that the Senator is working on legislation to put standards in place for how states and territories calculate death rates from natural disasters. We also discussed climate change, both specifically in terms of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure and, more generally, about federal carbon pricing. It sounded as if Senator Harris, similar to many of our local representatives, isn’t quite ready to put her weight behind any particular carbon pricing plan, but is generally supportive and waiting to see which way the wind blows.
Harris Legislative Aide Elizabeth Hira
Our meeting with Elizabeth Hira, one of Senator Harris’ staffers, focused on the judiciary and criminal justice. As in our meeting with Gabe Kader, Elizabeth was very interested to hear which issues in the judicial nominees’ backgrounds most resonated with the resistance.
We also discussed criminal justice bills that Senator Harris supports, most notably the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. We expressed concerns that these bills don’t sufficiently guard against the possibility that the software used for determining recidivism risk and thus sentencing could unintentionally perpetuate racial biases. As such, we want to see provisions to properly review such software and to allow people to appeal decisions made by software. We suggested a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “algorithmic bias”, with expert testimony from researchers in the field, and Elizabeth asked us to write up a short proposal for such a hearing, indicating she would follow up on this matter.
Top photo: IEB members with Emma Mehrabi, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13).
Celebrate Independence Day by helping save our democracy! Meet new people and get the word out about Indivisible East Bay at the fantastic City of El Cerrito/worldOne Fourth of July Festival on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, 10 AM to 5 PM.
You don’t have to be an expert! All you need is a basic familiarity with Indivisible and a friendly attitude. There will be experienced members at every shift, so if you’re unsure what to say you can listen for a bit to get into the swing. Sign up for shifts here: got an hour? Perfect! Got two? Even better! Don’t live in El Cerrito? No worries, everyone is welcome! Bring a friend or three, and children are more than welcome too.
At last year’s booth we spoke to many people eager to learn about Indivisible and hungry for suggestions about how they could take action against the Trump agenda. Talking one-on-one with people is the best way to get the word out, answer questions, and let people know how they can get involved and begin resisting. Also, eat corn-dogs and/or other fun fair food (our booth is mere steps from the Food Court).
We welcome volunteers with disabilities – the event is wheelchair accessible, and our booth will accommodate wheelchairs.
Several members of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee attended the first-ever Conclave of California Indivisible groups in Sacramento on April 7-8. Organized by Indivisible National and California Indivisible folks, members from around 50 groups came together to discuss best practices and share stories. Hearing what Indivisible San Diego and Indivisible Calaveras are doing in red areas was eye-opening and inspiring to those of us in solidly blue East Bay.
Over the weekend (plus Monday for lobbying), the presentations – channeling Jerry Maguire – helped us learn how to help ourselves. Sacramento union leader Fabrizio Sasso reminded us that today’s attacks on unions are a threat to everyone. Racial justice and equity leader PaKou Her shared with us Gloria Anzaldúa’s feminist theory of the borderlands, a powerful concept that challenged us all to think about our proximity to those in power. The big takeaway from the first day was to remember that it’s not just about fighting the big chicken, but about lifting up others and finding ways we can be of service.
One of the Conclave’s most important goals was to build how we work together as a California network of Indivisible groups, so we can reduce duplication of effort (e.g. access a common repository of tools, research, trainings, etc.), avoid reinventing the wheel (learn about the amazing tools and models other groups have developed), and amplify our voices by engaging in advocacy coordinated across the state.
To build our California networked infrastructure, on the second day we broke into four work groups: Policy & Advocacy, Communications, Organizational Sustainability, and Electoral Action. Each work group formed sub-teams which created action plans to carry the work forward. It was inspiring to hear at the end of the Conclave how the sub-teams plan to work on California-wide teams to influence policy, amplify our collective voice, ensure our members and groups are sustainable, and flip the House in November!
Interested in learning more about IEB’s Governance Committee? Want to know how you can help build our organizational capacity? Please email us, we want to hear from you!