Tag Archives: voting

New York Times Offers More Advice on Activism

New Orleans       The editorial page editor of the New York Times has embarked on an interesting strategy in recent years.  I’ve made some small comments about this in the past, but the pattern is so unmistakable that this is no longer a matter of coincidence or happenstance, but clearly either an overt editorial strategy or a sly, underground one, but either way, it’s both fascinating and constructive.  The Times has obviously decided to regularly open its op-ed page to people who might have recommendations about how to engage in more effective activism or at least activism that the Times and its view of its readers would find acceptable activism.

I started noticing this last year, but with the 2020 election up for grabs, climate change a blisteringly hot topic, pun intended, and their new skepticism on tech-dominated social media as a change methodology, they obviously decided they needed to get into the game.  There were suddenly some columns on what they saw as effective community organization.  There was one recently from an academic highlighting organizing in Arizona.  Several days ago, there were props for the c4 arm of the old Center for Community Change, a community organization and economic development support center in Washington, sharing their adaptation of grassroots, community organizing techniques to huge increases in voter participation among infrequent voters.   This weekend there were tips from another author on her views of how to effectively impact climate change.

I like this encouragement of organizing and activism, but my support is categorical.  The Times doesn’t want folks going all Hong Kong out there.  They want people in the streets, but mainly if they are walking towards a voting booth.  Part of their new found enthusiasm for organizing, as we can see in their selection on the climate op-ed, includes a message in these dark times that young and old need to organize, but they need to keep it all within the lines.  No desperation or disruption is necessary.  The Times wants all of us to know that change is possible, but keep it under control.

That said, here’s the advice from Emma Marris under the headline, “Stop Freaking Out About the Climate”:

  • Ditch the shame
  • Focus on systems, not yourself
  • Join an effective group
  • Define your role
  • Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against.

Nothing wrong with any of those points.  We could do worse than to have lots of people who are sitting back and working their worry beads, jumping into the fray with that advice.

At the same time, tactics and strategy still counts.  Sometimes we have to go outside the lines in order to move the targets.  Often it is not the middle of the road that wins, but the radical edges that force change.

When reading and taking advice on action, keep an open mind, but always try to understand where people might be coming from.  That wasn’t in the op-ed column, but that’s my advice to all of you as well.


Voter Purges Coming in Wisconsin and Georgia

New Orleans       A Georgia judge allowed a 300,000 voter purge to happen hours ago in that state.  A lawsuit filed by Fair Vote Action seeking to prevent the purge will happen later this week on the constitutional argument that voters should be maintained on the rolls.  The judge allowed the purge to go forward after he was assured by the Georgia Secretary of State that any voters purged in error would be quickly and easily reinstated.

In Wisconsin at the end of last week a judge in an amazing hearing agreed with a conservative law firm that a purge of some 234,000 should be allowed despite the unanimous vote of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission that wanted to hold off any purges until 2021, after the 2020 election season has passed.  They cited unreliable data and errors in the past from the ERIC or Electronic Registration Information Center that some twenty-nine states use to verify and check their rolls.  In previous purges in Wisconsin a disproportionate number of voters had been purged incorrectly in Madison and Milwaukee, not surprisingly Democratic strongholds.  Incredibly, the letter sent out to voters to allow them to confirm their addresses and voter status actually told them they confirm their registration if they “vote in the next election,” even though they were at the same time notifying them that they would take away their right to do so.  The judge was oblivious to these arguments and talking to people in Wisconsin, the hearing was so prejudicial that they knew within the first few minutes how he would rule.

I worry that these purges are going to become routine now.  Few will wait until October or November 2020 to pull the trigger.  The Voter Purge Project, created by the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and the Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center might be able to help in Georgia.  We have been monitoring their list in recent months so our database may be able to catch some errors and restore voters in the same way that we were able to stop 40,000 from being purged in Ohio.  Wisconsin is a harder problem, because the barriers to obtaining the lists are so high:  $12,500 for each request!

The problem of voter protection in the face of such concerted efforts at voter suppression is a difficult one.  WILL, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, that brought the purge suit is a good example of what the Voter Purge Project and others are up against.  It was founded in 2011 with a $500,000 grant from the hard-right Bradley Foundation which has subsequently thrown in another almost $5 million to beef up its program and staff.  Meanwhile, we’re fighting to protect voters with nickels, dimes, and volunteers against teams of attorneys and multi-million-dollar foundations and donors.

Regardless, right is right, and wrong is wrong.  We’re in it to win it, and the odds aren’t terrible if we can stick to the truth hidden behind all of these numbers.