What I’ve learned so far as a HRC campaign volunteer in Philly

So, I got a job just outside of Philadelphia, and one small but important reason I’m glad to be a Pennsylvania resident at this time is that I get to vote in a meaningful swing state in the election next month. I’ve also been volunteering with HRC’s campaign, mostly doing voter registration shifts with one of the campaign’s 7 offices in the greater Philly era. (Side note: Trump campaign has 2 offices in the same area.) I’ve also done a little bit of phone banking and participated in my first ever text-a-thon last Wednesday night (more on that later).

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Two of my co-campaigners registering voters outside a Wal-Mart in NE Philly. On the left is an intern for HRC’s campaign who has been working for a few months. She’s 14 and was the seasoned expert volunteer. Next to her is a retail store manager who decided to respond to her fear of a Trumpocalypse by joining a campaign for the first time in her life.

Doing this work has been inspiring and emotionally grounding for me during a campaign that, thanks to Trump & the accompanying cray cray, has managed to freak out huge portions of the population unlike anything in my lifetime.

First of all, HRC’s ground game – at least as I’ve experienced working with it – is organized, friendly, and fast. Beginning with my initial visit to http://www.hillaryclinton.com and navigating to their very user-friendly web page for volunteering, I’ve been repeatedly impressed.

When I started looking into volunteering, I thought I’d do two things: register voters in Philly, and then fly to Florida to do GOTV the last few days before the election. At the time I was thinking this way the race was pretty much a tie and I figured FL was the place where I could have the most impact. So I followed their interface, which made it very easy for me to input my preferences to do the voter reg in Philly and the GOTV in Florida.

Within a couple days, I’d received calls and emails from the Bustleton Ave HRC campaign office in Philly, which was the one I had selected even though it isn’t the closest one to where I live. (What inspired me was shopping at a Ross in that part of town and seeing the overwhelming diversity of the folks there, and thinking “we should be doing voter reg right here”). I also received a personal email from a campaign office in Orlando, FL, which was the place in FL I had indicated I wanted to work (I’d read that there were large #’s of newly arrived residents from Puerto Rico in Orlando, and because they’re already U.S. citizens, they’re able to vote in FL as soon as they establish residency). The FL person

warmly encouraged me to come take part in GOTV there. She also asked if I needed a place to stay (!) and whether I might be able to bring a friend along.

So, get this. Back in Philly, when I go out for my first voter reg shift, I have a great time. They pair me with an affable 40-something white guy who it turns out is an osteopathic doctor, is Jewish, and is every bit as extroverted as I am shy. We only registered a couple new voters outside a Shop Rite, but probably 200 people or more saw us with our Hillary gear as we called out “Registered to vote?” to passers-by. We had lots of conversations, which I enjoyed a lot. I’d say about half the people who came by were Black, maybe a quarter Latino, a tenth Asian, and the rest White. Probably 2/3 were women. Occasionally women wearing hijabs came by. Most people who responded to our barkers’ call told us they were already registered. This neighborhood is solid D, so there were only a few Trumpsters, and in fact they were, at least by appearances, young or middle-aged white men.

Ok, so after enjoying my first venture, I re-up and return the following week for another shift. This time they pair me with the two women in the photo above. When we arrive at hrc2the Wal-Mart, we find this guy already there with a clipboard, asking everyone who passes him if they’ve registered. Is he with the Trump campaign? was my first thought, admittedly based on a kind of profiling that I found myself having to actively resist in this toxic and hateful climate (which yes I frankly blame fully on Trump and the GOP’s long years of promoting racist memes and giving succor to extremists). Well, turns out he was also with HRC’s campaign – from another campaign office – a duplication of efforts that I took as a sign of health in the ground game. I mean, you want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing in a campaign, but this is the kind of inadvertent inefficiency that is borne out of having lots of offices, lots of staff, and lots of volunteers. He was a long-time union guy, with a Philly working class accent (“Who sent youz guys?”) The white woman who was part of the crew I showed up with also had a working class Philly accent. The black young woman – a high school frosh – was from the Philly suburbs, her accent and presentation reflecting suburban middle class life. And then there was me, the middle-aged Jewish white guy who has lived a bunch of places.

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Voted for Bernie in Primary, Expect to Vote for Hillary in November

In Oregon we’ve had vote-by-mail for a long time – since before my wife and I arrived here in 2003. It works really well, we get consistently high voter participation, and officials of both major parties don’t seem to have any complaints about the security of the system. I

ballothappen to be someone who would always feel uncertain about my vote being recorded properly if I used a touch-screen system to vote, so it feels good when I take a black or blue ink ball point and fill in the little oval next to each of my choices.

I filled out my ballot today, May 4th, even though I have until the 17th to submit it. (Another nice thing – no missed work-time waiting in unpredictable lines at a polling station). As someone who has written a fair amount of pro-Hillary stuff, it might surprise some of my friends to see that I voted for Bernie.

I voted for Bernie because my politics are closer to his politics than any other candidate in the race. But, I also voted for him because I believe Hillary is going to be the nominee, and because I want to strengthen the place of the policies and ideals that Bernie’s campaign has emphasized within the Democratic party. I want Bernie’s people to have some good leverage when they sit down with Hillary’s people to hammer out what kind of influence on the D agenda Bernie’s ideas will have, in exchange for his clear and energetic support for her once she’s the nominee.

I hesitated before I cast my vote for him in part because of the Bernie or Bust movement, which is a cause I do not want to lend any support to. I very nearly voted for Hillary, not as a lesser evil, but as an impressive and strong Democratic presidential candidate in her own right. Assuming things play out as expected and she wins the nomination, I plan to campaign for Hillary and vote for her in November. My vote for Bernie was not a vote against Hillary.

B or H

As a Jewish-American, it felt surreal and stunning to find myself, for the first time in my life, casting a vote for a Jewish person for president, just as it felt surreal and stunning the first time I voted for an African-American person for president. I am expecting that the first time I cast my vote for a woman for president it will also feel remarkable and exciting in terms of what it represents for the social progress of our country.

My vote for Bernie was not a vote against Hillary.

I’m grateful – profoundly – to Bernie Sanders for running a campaign that eschewed corporate financing and raised small amounts from millions of people. I’m doubly grateful for the way he and his supporters have put income inequality, greed, poverty, and the realities of a rigged economy firmly on the radar of our popular discourse. This is huge. I’m also grateful to Bernie for mounting a serious and productive challenge against Hillary, because I think she’s a better candidate for it, and I think her campaign team understands how important the issues Sanders’ campaign has stressed in a much more thorough way than they might have if they hadn’t faced this challenge.

All that said, I’m not sure I would have voted for Bernie if the dynamics of the primary race were different. If I thought he still had a serious chance of being the nominee, I think I’d have probably voted for Clinton. I’m happy with the idea of either of them carrying the torch against Trump this November. I think she gets less credit than she deserves for her achievements and her commitment to a wide array of progressive causes. I think the scrutiny Bernie’s campaign has brought to bear on all candidates who have had cozy relationships with Wall Street interests is fair, but I don’t believe it’s disqualifying, nor do I think it’s fair to paint Hillary as some kind of corporate shill, and I think it’s seriously loony to paint her as “the same” as the Republicans or as some kind of evil right-wing crony posing as a liberal.

If I had my way, I’d like Obama to be able to serve another term. I can’t have that. I’ll take Bernie or Hillary over Trump a zillion times over, any way you slice it.

Why a D in the WH matters so much

As I await the results of today’s primaries in several New England states, I am thinking about how much we have to preserve, how much we stand to lose, and how much we could gain if the Dems hold the WH this November (and, presumably, win back the Senate in the process). I’m leaning towards voting Bernie in the May primary in Oregon, and I am guessing he’ll win here and maybe in California too, though that’s a tougher read.

But I’m definitely not on the “Bernie or Bust” train.

I’m on the “Bernie or . . . Hillary” train.

My BOB friends tell me that Hill’s a corporate neo-con she-devil who is probably not worth voting for in November. She’s a coldhearted coddler of dictators in Central America*, a Wall Street wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Goldman Sachs insider who loves corporate oligarchy, and a double dealing diabolical damsel of doom.

I tell them that I don’t think she’s as bad as they say. She doesn’t inspire me like Obama (or Bernie, for that matter), she has a checkered history on a number of progressive issues as a Senator, and she certainly is part of the Washington establishment. Yes, all true. But she is not Satan’s corporate spawn, nor is she the secret neocon prodigy of Dick Cheney. As a progressive who wants to see income inequality decline, climate damage reversed, diplomacy-first international policy, universal health insurance, and FDR-level investment in education and infrastructure, I recognize that Hillary’s past hasn’t been that of a consistent and clear advocate of all of those policies full force, though these are the ideas and ideals at the core of her vision and hope for this country.

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But, I also recognize that her haters on the left have a habit of tarring and feathering her by listing all of her (real and sometimes fabricated) faults, while ignoring everything good – everything that progressives care about – that she’s achieved and fought for throughout her career. And that strikes me as where the distortion starts to creep in to the Bernieverse. I like Bernie, I’m probably voting for him this May, but I’m increasingly frightened of the Bernamentalists.

Compromised creature of politics that she is notwithstanding, an HRC succession to Obama’s 2 terms would enable us to preserve hugely important progressive changes that so many of us have worked and fought for for decades. Hillary in the WH means we get to:

  • keep Obamacare, and at minimum expand it. (Personal note: any R in the WH will be able to single-handedly kill Obamacare, by refusing to sign into law any budget that funds it. My family would be screwed. I sometimes think Bernie voters who choose to skip the Nov election should be willing to pay for our impossibly high premiums once O-care is gone thanks to their refusal to vote for the She-Devil.) This is real folks, for millions of people. The uninsured rate has been cut in half so far and will continue to shrink if a D is elected.
  • get Merrick Garland or some other liberal justice added to SCOTUS. If a R wins, Mitch McConnell’s Senate continues to block any vote on Garland, and we get instead another right wing justice. Bernie-fans: if you want any chance at a SCOTUS that might overturn Citizens United, we need 5 libs on the court for that to be remotely possible. Also, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a. Notorious RGB, is already in her 80s. I hate to say this, cuz I adore her, but she may be the next justice who needs to be replaced. If we elect an R this November, we could end up with a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. How the bleepity bleep bleep are we supposed to get anything revolutionary done if that happens? If you care about labor rights, we need a Dem in the WH – even the Blonde Terror of Rodham. If you care about abortion rights, or voting rights, or a dozen other crucial issues that SCOTUS gets to decide upon, then it makes no sense to refuse to vote for HRC in Nov.
  • prevent the deportation of several million undocumented immigrants whom Obama has tried to shield via executive order. The court just heard a case on this question and is likely to divide 4-4, meaning it will need to get revisited when justice number 9 (number 9, number 9, number — sorry, couldn’t stop myself) finally arrives. This shit is real folks. Please don’t inadvertently assist in a mass deportation that I bet you are fully and totally against. If D’s take the Senate and make gains in the House, maybe even get comprehensive immigration reform passed with a path to citizenship. Even if a corporate shill like Hillary signs that bill into law, it makes a yuuuuuuuge difference in the lives of millions of people who are among the most disadvantaged and exploited people living in this country.
  •  expand voting rights and maintain a Justice Dept that is willing to investigate voter suppression and systematic racism in police departments. Yup. Even dreadful Hillary is totally for that, from the bottom of her heart.
  • keep the Iran Nuclear Deal in place (and thus NOT go directly into preparations for a brand new massive war with Iran). Hillary the Hawk will uphold the Iran nuke deal, you ask? Uphold it – she’s the main architect of it. She’s the Sec State who got the coalition of nations, including recalcitrant Russia and China, to join the US in implementing the intense sanctions that brought Iran to the table. It was Obama’s policy, but she’s the one who did the intense diplomatic work to put that coalition together and keep it focused. When she handed off to Kerry, he was able to finish the job. When AIPAC and the GOP tried to kill the deal, she immediately and strongly stood up for it, and she continues to stand up for it to this very day. Every R candidate, by contrast, says they’d scrap the Iran nuke deal, and Trump and Cruz might just take us directly to war do not pass go do not collect $200, or in Trump’s case, $200 billion.
  • keep Planned Parenthood fully funded and keep women’s health at the top of the government’s agenda. Hillary has a stellar record on this and is a smart and tough advocate.
  • push for, and potentially pass, common sense gun laws (the ones that big majorities of Americans support, like universal background checks, bans on military-grade assault weapons, etc.) Hillary has been full-force blitzkreiging the NRA and advertising against them with an anger and abandon that I for one appreciate, given how in the past Dems have tended to tread carefully even while advocating these policies. This is not a dig on Bernie, btw. I don’t care if he was a bit more sympathetic to hunters than gun control purists would like. He’s totally on board with the basic reforms that need to happen, and that will not have a chance with an R in the WH. (See how I did that? – I preferred HRC’s politics on an issue but I gave Bernie the benefit of the doubt on his take.)
  • increase federal funding for Head Start, support for adoptive families, children’s after-school programs, and serious help with college affordability. No matter how many speeches Hillary got big bucks for at Goldman Sachs last year, she has been, is, and forever will be the person whose professional career started with the Children’s Defense Fund, the person who is passionate about government support for single moms, at-risk kids, poor families, and working families. I seriously defy anyone to say that isn’t who she is and what she advocates for, in a much feistier way than Obama does, btw (and I f—ing love Obama).
  • continue to stand up for LGBT equality, dignity, and full inclusion. This matters not just for millions of Americans, but the role the US has come to play internationally as an advocate of LGBT human rights is helping to change thinking in a positive direction all over the world.
  • continue to stand up for the equal treatment, respect, inclusion, and appreciation of people of all faiths or no faith at all. Hillary has been up front and clear every step of this campaign on all these issues, and her ads have been nothing short of fantastic.
  • build on Obama’s climate-change policies (and at the very least, not renounce them and walk away from the Paris treaty we just signed). Hillary is a full-on supporter of the Paris climate change agreement, and a full-on supporter of the federal investments that have quintupled American use of solar power since Obama signed the much maligned stimulus bill in 2009. Someone’s gonna say – No! She’d have allowed Keystone XL. Maybe, but Keystone XL is dead. Someone’s gonna say – No! She supports TPP and trade agreements that will cause us to fail to meet the Paris agreement targets. Well, maybe. Obama supports (and signed into law) TPP, and when I’ve listened to him explain his position, I frankly find him pretty convincing. But even if I’m wrong and Obama has sold his soul to corporate oligarchs for the TPP (I really don’t think so), would I have preferred McCain/Palin or Romney/Ryan be president in exchange for sitting out either of the last two elections as a matter of progressive “principle”? Hell-to-the-no-way-baby! I think when the chips fall that Hillary understands that global warming is real, that renewables are our best shot at a livable world and a strong 21st century economy, and that that’s what she’s gonna pursue as her big picture policy goal.

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Talking Points from The Accidental Rabbi

I am hoping that, assuming she gets the Dem nomination (which seems likely), if Hillary ends up facing off against, say, Rubio and he comes at her with the standard GOP trickle down economics bs, her response sounds something like:

“You guys wrecked the economy. We fixed it. There’s more to do, but we fixed it. And now you want to break it again with the same policies that wrecked it in the first place.”

You broke it. We fixed it. You want to break it again. We want to protect it and build on our success.

Or maybe the metaphor should be medical?

“You guys made our economy so sick it almost died. We revived it and got it back on its feet. Now you want the chance to do the same things you did before that made it sick in the first place. We want to help it keep healing and getting stronger.”

Along those metaphoric lines: “your prescription for making this recovery spread faster to the middle class is to cut taxes for the rich and the big corporations, and to let the big banks to whatever they want? If you were doctors you’d have your licenses revoked! Our

The GOP’s Rx will make the patient sick again.

prescription is to do more for average Americans, to protect the things that have gotten better for them in this hard-fought recovery, and do even more to make this economy even healthier and stronger for everyone.”

 

And: “you fought us tooth and nail every step of the way as we tried to heal this economy, and despite you we’ve gotten our economy back on its feet. What we need to do now is keep strengthening the patient, by making sure average Americans get a fair deal, by making the system work even better for the middle class. We should build on Obama’s success reviving the economy, not pull the plug on what’s working and give the patient the same bad prescription that threw the economy into cardiac arrest!”

Am I any good at this? I don’t know, but I do enjoy thinking and writing this stuff…

 

GOP needs to oust Trump

Open letter to the national GOP

To: Mr. Reince Priebus, Chair, Republican Party

December 7, 2015

Dear Mr. Priebus,

I’m not a Republican, but my dad was, and I learned a lot from his values and respected his politics. I hope you’ll consider my views here as a fellow American.

I’ll get straight to the point: the GOP needs to revoke Trump’s membership in the party and take their chances that he runs as an independent. The line he crossed today with his proposal to ban entry to the US for Muslims is not one the Republican party can or should permit to be seen as plausibly “in bounds” for anyone representing the party.

When David Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana, the elder President Bush was outraged and publicly announced that he wanted Duke kicked out of the party. As you know, it turned out that the party rules, perhaps at the state level, made it impossible for Duke to be kicked out, and he was ultimately able to run (and lose) as a Republican. But the fact that the Republican President at the time, as well as the entire national GOP establishment, publicly and unequivocally repudiated Duke and tried to oust him was important, not just for Republicans, but for America. It was patriotic, meaningful, moral, and right.

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David Duke and Donald Trump – blech.

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Anger is not my friend, but I am so f*&%ing angry

I’m really struggling with anger – I guess my own personal brand of anger that is actually part of a cycle of thoughts & feelings I’ve churned and repeated most of my life. My counselor of the past 12 years – who is one of the most dear friends I have – taught me long ago the bit about anger being a secondary emotion, and that before we feel anger first we feel something else, however briefly. Usually the primary emotion is fear, though it can also be sadness, disappointment, anxiety, or some cocktail of all of these.

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The “Anger Iceberg” of Power Point presentation fame.

Of course, there’s the kind of anger that flashes in life-or-death, fight-or-flight situations, which is an evolutionary advantage & survival skill, but that’s not the kind of anger I’m talking about. I’m talking about walking around, day by day, doing good work at my job, being a good parent (mostly), and spending way too much time feeling worried, afraid, and anxious about the future – and after a while, that swirl of discomfort blossoms into anger. An anger that I carry around and then do things with that probably aren’t helpful.

Fortunately, the kinds of stupid things I do with this anger aren’t the kinds of things that involve physical violence or wanton destruction. They’re more along the lines of posting FB responses in an angry tone to total strangers I disagree with on political issues. Yeah, I know – ooh, very scary.

In the Talmud, ancient rabbis compare the act of dwelling in anger as a form of idolatry. (For those who like to look stuff like this up, visit BT Shabbat 105b). Then there’s this oft-quoted passage:

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Gut Feelings as Probabilities

From Sabermetrics to Nate Silver, the past decade has become the decade of probabilities as headlines. Serious baseball fans don’t just study the box scores in the paper anymore – they turn to Fangraphs and other websites to see how their analysts have projected probabilities of everything from a team making the post-season to winning the World Series. Each baseball site has its own proprietary analytical formula, which gets tweaked after each season to try to adjust for whatever the difference turned out to be between their projections and the final actual results.

And of course, Nate Silver, who got his start doing probabilities and projections on sports stats, applied the concepts to political polls and created a model that provided probabilities projections for the ’08 and ’12 national elections. Silver’s model’s projections the night before both elections was stunningly close to the actual results.

I follow national politics more closely than does me good (I get super anxious and neurotic about things in a way that isn’t really helping anyone or anything). I am someone who tends to form strong gut feelings about political trends, but I don’t think I have an accurate sense of how often my gut turns out to be right. Regardless of whether I have a very intuitive gut or whether I’m just proven right some of the time and tend to remember those times but not the others, I am, in the end, stuck with my gut feelings.

But something I’ve never done before is express my gut feelings in terms of probabilities. Previously, I’ve just said, “I think so-and-so’s going to win,” and then say why. But I’ve never said, “I think right now so-and-so has a 75% likelihood of winning,” so I thought I’d take a shot at doing that now. I’ll quantify my gut feeling probabilities as UGPs – unscientific gut-feeling probability.

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