A heartbreaking email of staggering optimism

From my friend Justin… who writes really funny emails when he’s not working for his day job (running the country’s largest online progressive organization).

Dear ones,

You know that I rarely send out mass emails that don’t involve something big like, say, a new baby. (No, we’re not pregnant again. Sorry, Mom).
But right now I have a personal plea for everyone I care about. Which is: if you haven’t already done so, please jump into this election. Just like you did in 2008.
It sounds corny to say it, but your country needs you again.
(Note: if you’re ready to volunteer and want to just skip the rest, you can sign up here, here, or here.)
If you’re not volunteering yet, I get it. Being part of a thrilling mass movement to lift America up, restore justice, stop torture, and end wars: awesome. Trying to stop the frothing-at-the-mouth wing of the Republican Party from taking over Congress while the big corporations in the Chamber of Commerce spend all that money they’ve saved up by not hiring anyone on a barrage of misleading attack ads: less fun.
I’ve done my own share of foot dragging. Despite being part of an organization that has a whole giant campaign going to stop the Republican takeover, I didn’t get off my butt to volunteer until this last week, when I went to a houseparty and made calls into the Illinois senate race.
As it turned out, it was pretty great. I signed up a couple of Illinoisans to fill badly-needed volunteer slots.  My fellow callers were cheery, helpful and upbeat.  It felt good to be doing something instead of just agonizing. And there was a big bowl of chocolate-covered pretzels, which I support.
But let’s say you don’t. Maybe you’re still doing the low carb diet thing (hello 2003), or you’ve been boycotting pretzels since you found out Snyder’s mistreats dolphins*.
(*Not technically true).
Here’s why I think we all need to do this:
I really do think significant progress is still possible over the next 4-8 years.
Yes, things look pretty bleak now, compared to the hopey changey transformation-ness of 2 years ago. And yes, there are some structural issues–like corporate control of the media and politics–that will take a long time to fix.
But we knew about all that two years ago and still figured we could get some good stuff done in the meanwhile. We were right. We have. And in the next 4-8 years, we can do more.
It’s hard to picture it right this moment, but if President Obama can make an effective foil of the crazy-ass crop of Republicans who will gain at least some power in 3 weeks; If we can build a real grassroots movement around one or more of our issues;  If the economy recovers (which it probably will eventually, despite the utter lack of economic leadership from either party); all these things will dramatically shift what’s possible. If we’ve learned one thing, it’s how fast political winds can shift.
BUT: That’s all a lot less likely if Republicans take over Congress. Mostly because they’ll have the ability to dismantle the Obama presidency brick by brick. Just think back to 1995 and 1996. How they tied the Clintons up in knots. And this year’s crew makes the class of ’94 look like this little guy (which is what you get when you google “non-threatening”). It’s likely they would destroy Obama’s presidency AND de-fund/outlaw any positive things he tried to do administratively in the meantime.
Instead of the possibility of progress, we’ll see real harm to our communities. If Republicans win congress, they’ll cut funding from good pieces of the health care law and all the efforts to reign in Wall Street (in fact, they just said they would completely zero out Elizabeth Warren’s new Consumer Financial Protection Agency).  They’ll roll back the Clean Air Act to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions.
They’ll almost certainly force Obama to accept some version of tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and then balance the budget by slashing social services, medicaid, affordable housing, Head Start, you name it. And if Obama actually tries to stick to his timeline to start withdrawing from Afghanistan, they’ll fight back hard just to make him look weak.
Yes this is depressing. Yes it makes me ill to think about it. But it’s a reality we better face.
What’s worse, it’s probably more likely than you think. Nate Silver, the math whiz blogger guy who’s as smart as anyone about this stuff, pegs the odds of a Republican House takeover at 73% and says that Republicans are likely to come within ~2 seats of Senate control.
The good news, though, is that I think we can prevent this. Really.
In 2008, the two closest Senate races were decided by 4500 votes combined. Over 3 days, a dedicated volunteer can probably get ~12 folks to vote who wouldn’t otherwise have made it to the polls. So if control of the Senate is likely to come down to 2 seats, it’s no exaggeration to say that that might be a difference of 375 volunteers on either side.
In the House, Nate predicts Republicans will end up on top, with a margin of 20 seats. Yeesh! But that means we’d need to flip 10 races to change the outcome. In ’08, there were 10 races decided by less than 6,000 votes each. Meaning, fewer than 4500 volunteers across the country could have flipped all 10 races.
All of which is to say, behind all the headlines about a Republican wave, this election is still close enough that a gaggle of us could change the outcome.
So to sum up, I’m saying:
1) Take heart! Progress is still possible!
2) BE VERY AFRAID if Republicans take over!
3) AAIIIEEEEE! That’s more likely than you think!
4) YAY!! We can stop it!
But only if we all get off the bench, put on our skates, tag into the game and start scoring some baskets.*
(*Why I normally avoid sports metaphors).
Basically, I’m asking you to volunteer.
How? If you live somewhere with a close race, call up the candidate’s campaign and ask where and when to show up.
If you’re not, one super useful thing to do is to help call MoveOn members who ARE in swing races and sign them up to volunteer locally. We make this super easy. You can do it from home or from a party. (This is basically like cloning yourself and sending your clone to a swing state to volunteer while you stay at home and keep creating more clones, etc, etc., except there are no bioethics issues and little risk of inadvertently creating an human-animal hybrid.)
Or if you have a hankering to talk to voters directly, you can go to the Obama for America website and sign up to call voters, or find in-person volunteer opportunities in your area.
We have 20 days left. On only one of those days will there be giant dueling mock rallies on the National Mall. That leaves plenty of time to save our country.
I’ll be back making calls again this weekend. I hope you will too.
With much love and respect,


One response to “A heartbreaking email of staggering optimism

  1. Please consider re-titling this post to something like “Please read. Please re-post. Please Act.” – or whatever you want to come up on Facebook etc… I’m pushing it out widely.

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