Chair, Democrats Abroad Global Women's Caucus

  • Women Candidates and Psychology: Breaking the Stereotypes

    By Catherine Maines

    The election on Tuesday is forecasted to likely see record numbers of women elected across the country, potentially surpassing the already record-high of 107 women in the current Congress. But with more women running – and winning – than ever before, even the most optimistic models show a Capitol only 23% female by this time next week. Historical and structural barriers help explain the basis of this imbalance, but there is still more to the story of why women have a harder time getting elected. Like most things, there is psychological work that can further help elucidate the continuation of this gendered inequality – with the caveat that much of the research (and somewhat consequently, this article), to its limitation, does tend to deal with gender in a mostly binary sense.

    Essentially, stereotyping works by assuming a social group has a core set of shared beliefs and character traits and depersonalizing an individual to view them as a member of their social group interchangeable from other members. Gender roles are stereotypes, but they are also norms. They go from the descriptive (“women are…”) to the injunctive (“women should be…”). Though they are not necessarily subscribed to or acted upon, people generally have a shared understanding of what they are. Because we often think and make decisions heuristically (by using rules of thumb rather than fully weighing each evaluation), these stereotyped female roles are drawn upon and reinforced. The tendency to categorize individuals into social groups (e.g. on the basis of gender) becomes particularly interesting when viewed within a social system (e.g. in US politics) in which status and power are not equally distributed between groups. Being a member of a social group which is the consistent minority – particularly one from which there is (generally) no leaving – has repercussions for conceptualizing identity.

    Shared cultural stereotypes are ubiquitous, but only at certain points do they get drawn upon and impact upon the ways in which people live their lives. Identity contingencies (something a person deals with because of a given social identity) affect members of minority groups by creating things they have to manage throughout the entirety of their lives – things that members of non-minority groups don’t have to consider. Female representatives working in a Congress which is 80% male often face a different set of rules which constrain behavior, requiring them to develop a set of strategies for dealing with scenarios – from unwarranted questions about their experience to unwanted sexual advances – that their male counterparts generally don’t have to face.

    Women running for office also face gendered prejudices based on cognitive incongruences between the perceived capabilities of their social group and the requirements of certain roles – meaning political leadership positions require certain abilities, these abilities don’t align with the stereotype of women, so therefore women in political leadership roles are more likely to be negatively evaluated.

    Eagly & Karau propose that a perceived mismatch between “female” and “leader” roles lead to two connected forms of prejudice: women are seen as less suitable for leadership than men, and “leadership behavior” is evaluated more negatively when it is performed by a woman. There can be a catch-22 for female politicians: leadership ability seems to be related to male traits, so female candidates aren’t evaluated as fitting the descriptive norm of a leader, and when they do achieve success they violate an injunctive norm by not embodying what we expect from women.

    We saw this play out in 2016 – in the pitch of her voice and in her signature pantsuit, Hillary Clinton consciously conformed to the pre-existing (and therefore, masculine) image of what a president “should” look like. No one questioned her qualifications for the role, but pundits and voters alike saw her as personally inauthentic and questioned the suitability of her character.

    This dichotomy can become cyclic in nature: women who want to lead might consciously downplay their feminine traits, and therefore reinforce the idea that “feminine” and “leader” identities are incongruent. And for those who attempt to hold both “female” and “leader” identities, there remains a stereotype threat: when there’s a negative stereotype associated with an individual’s identity, they will tend to underperform in a way that fulfils that negative stereotype.

    And none of these are issues that male politicians have to face.

    However, this disadvantage is dependent upon stereotypes of women, and perceptions of what leadership roles require – and both are things that we can change. If we want to change the parameters of what a “conventional politician” looks like, we can change the practice of reaching out exclusively to the “conventional voter” – and instead, expand the electorate.

    With Congress’ membership being only 20% female – and only 8% women of color – there is still a visible gender disparity in Washington. But, things are looking up. Last November, my home state of Virginia saw a record number of diverse candidates elected across the ballot throughout the state. The number of female candidates has risen enormously since the 2016 election and might increase still in upcoming cycles in fueled by the Kavanaugh nomination. And several women (Stacey Abrams, Kyrsten Sinema, Gina Ortiz Jones, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…) have made their difference from conventional “male” leadership prototypes central to their campaigns – and achieved notable success.

    “This election is the most important in our lifetime” has been over-stated by every quasi-political public figure and over-saturated social media timelines for good reason. It really looks like we’re on the precipice of change again, but it only comes if people get out of their homes (and off Twitter) and do the work to uphold the momentum and make it happen. Of the 238 women running for the House this cycle, 186 are Democrats. We’ve been the party to lead in consistently advancing the number of women in Washington, and on Tuesday we can continue the trend by electing Democrats across the ticket, throughout the country.

    • Catherine Maines

     


  • Equal Means Equal Webinar with Global Women's Caucus

    Invest a few minutes to watch this extremely informative webinar on the ERA. Here is really everything you ever wanted to know about the Equal Rights Amendment, and why it is VITAL that we get this passed right away! Watch and be inspired!



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  • published Stuttgart Chapter Election Season Events in News 2018-10-07 23:49:52 -0400

    Stuttgart Chapter Election Season Events

    We’re almost there!

    We were all inspired last week by the brave and unforgettable testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. She has given us all courage and has strengthened our resolve to push even harder in these last weeks before the election. We can best honor her courage and sense of civic responsibility by voting in this crucial election, and by encouraging our friends to vote too!

    If you know anyone who still needs to register to vote, please send them off to votefromabroad.org today.

    If you have family or friends in the U.S. that still need to register to vote, send them to https://iwillvote.com/.

    __________

    Help us with one last Task!

    There is still one last important task that we’re working on ‘round the clock and ‘round the globe now, and we could really use your help. Over the next two weeks we are reaching out to our fellow members in a phonebanking effort to remind them to register and send in their ballots.
    Click here for more information on how you can help us!

    __________

    In addition to our in-person events, there are two great online events you might enjoy participating in this month:

    Take a look at what our chapter is up to:

    Checking the Balance - Democracy, at what cost?

    Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00 p.m.

    Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum Stuttgart (DAZ)

    Charlottenplatz 17, 70173 Stuttgart

    Our DA Stuttgart chapter will be at DAZ for a discussion as part of their very popular “American Days” event.

    Let‘s talk about current issues in American politics and try to find answers to significant pending questions:

    · What policies and initiatives have emerged in this topsy-turvy election cycle?

    · How far does free speech extend?

    · How can we provide protections for our environment and assure safety in our lives?

    · Are our fundamental civil rights being chipped away?

    · How can we respond to these challenges and restore political equilibrium?


    Join us to share your views!

    Please RSVP here

    __________

    Online Webinar: GLOBAL WOMEN'S CAUCUS ERA PROJECT KICKOFF WITH EQUAL MEANS EQUAL

    Please join us on Tuesday October 16 at 2PM EDT for the kickoff meeting for the Global Women’s Caucus Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) project.

    Kamala Lopez, the executive director of Equal Means Equal will be sharing information about the history and the current status of the ERA along with what needs to be done.

    Click here for more information and to RSVP

    For more background on the ERA, check out our ERA Resources here.

    __________

    Online Webinar: BOOKS ABROAD READS REBECCA SOLNIT

    Join our global feminist reading group, conducted on Webex with you right in front of your own computer screen!

    At this meeting, we'll be discussing Rebecca's Solnit's book The Mother of All Questions, a collection of essays centered around feminist storytelling. Solnit, a California native and lifelong activist, is credited with inspiring the term "mansplaining" in a 2008 essay titled, "Men Explain Things to Me," which later became a book published in 2014. The Mother of All Questions is a follow-up to that book in which Solnit further unpacks cultural misogyny and the power of a woman's story.

    Click here for more information and to RSVP

    __________

    ELECTION RE- CAP AND DISCUSSION

    Friday, November 9th 2018
    Forum 3
    Gymnasiumstraße 21, 70173 Stuttgart

    It has been a rough ride since November of 2016.

    And we are cautiously optimistic that this meeting will be a joyous one!

    But come what may, we will need to be together. To celebrate, to plan, to strategize, to discuss.

    This is a meeting you won’t want to miss!

    Please RSVP here

    __________

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Watch for additional events each month, or changes which don't always make it into our newsletter by checking our Stuttgart Chapter website and Facebook page for the latest updates on events!

    Remember that it will take ALL OF US returning those ballots in the coming weeks to really power that big blue wave we’re hoping for.

    I look forward to seeing you at one of our events.

    In solidarity,

    Ann Hesse
    Chair, Stuttgart Chapter

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  • Stuttgart Women attend Berlin Women's Caucus Workshop

    by Kelsey McLendon

    On Saturday, the 22nd of September, Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus members from eight of the twelve Germany chapters met for a day-long workshop in Berlin. The workshop was divided into five sessions, each one focusing on a different approach to language and messaging. Together, the 33 participants unpacked words and phrases like “pro-choice,” “emotional,” and “misconduct,” before moving on to discuss the ways in which women are under attack and what we as Democrats need to focus on as we push forward.

    One participant succinctly summarized the conversation in three main points: 1) the need to create safe spaces for women and allies to hold dialogues, 2) deciding on effective political strategy, and 3) answering the question, “What do we stand for?”.

    As a group, participants recognized that Donald Trump and his administration are merely a symptom of systemic racism and misogyny. To combat the insidious cultural forces that Trump represents, Democrats must not only resist the destruction wrought by his administration, but also—and more importantly—push forward with progressive action. Participants agreed that in order to move forward successfully, we must elect more women representatives, support better voter education, and define our goals as Democrats in a clear, positive way.

    Thanks to a presentation on “women to watch,” participants were energized with a long list of trailblazing women running for office this November, and it ended with speculation on female presidential candidates for the 2020 election including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Currently, women comprise only 20% of Congress, and while women turn out to vote in much higher rates than men, the Center for American Women in Politics reports than only 63% of eligible women voters cast ballots in the 2016 federal election. Hopefully, women and members of other marginalized groups claiming a more proportional chunk of elected offices will encourage eligible voters of all genders to head to the polls.

    The final two sessions of the day asked participants to rethink commonly used phrases like “equal pay for equal work,” “the right to choose,” and “#MeToo” in order to rebrand our messaging. As one speaker pointed out, Republicans do a better job of marketing their messages to make emotional appeals while Democrats tend to over-rationalize. The last presentation of the day challenged participants to consider reframing our political dialogue. Democrats have fallen into the habit of allowing Republican leaders to define the discourse, creating our terminology in response to theirs rather than establishing our own, and then building a platform in opposition to Republican efforts rather than in the pursuit of Democratic ideals. In other words, we were reminded that we need to stand for something not just against something.

    After a day of re-examining and celebrating the cross-sectional connections that unite us as women, Democrats, and Americans, we continued our atmosphere of kinship with a big, family-style meal at a local Indian restaurant. Refueled and refocused, our minds are looking forward.

    The following books were recommended as essential reading for activists during the workshop:

    The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

    The Little Blue Book by George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling

    Your Brain’s Politics by George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling

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  • published Revisited, Refocused, Revitalized and Re-empowered! in News 2018-09-29 17:33:14 -0400

    Revisited, Refocused, Revitalized and Re-empowered!

     Germany Women’s Caucus Berlin Workshop Recap

    by Kelsey McLendon

    On Saturday, the 22nd of September, Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus members from eight of the twelve Germany chapters met for a day-long workshop in Berlin. The workshop was divided into five sessions, each one focusing on a different approach to language and messaging. Together, the 33 participants unpacked words and phrases like “pro-choice,” “emotional,” and “misconduct,” before moving on to discuss the ways in which women are under attack and what we as Democrats need to focus on as we push forward.

    One participant succinctly summarized the conversation in three main points: 1) the need to create safe spaces for women and allies to hold dialogues, 2) deciding on effective political strategy, and 3) answering the question, “What do we stand for?”.

    As a group, participants recognized that Donald Trump and his administration are merely a symptom of systemic racism and misogyny. To combat the insidious cultural forces that Trump represents, Democrats must not only resist the destruction wrought by his administration, but also—and more importantly—push forward with progressive action. Participants agreed that in order to move forward successfully, we must elect more women representatives, support better voter education, and define our goals as Democrats in a clear, positive way.

    Thanks to a presentation on “women to watch,” participants were energized with a long list of trailblazing women running for office this November, and it ended with speculation on female presidential candidates for the 2020 election including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Currently, women comprise only 20% of Congress, and while women turn out to vote in much higher rates than men, the Center for American Women in Politics reports than only 63% of eligible women voters cast ballots in the 2016 federal election. Hopefully, women and members of other marginalized groups claiming a more proportional chunk of elected offices will encourage eligible voters of all genders to head to the polls.

    The final two sessions of the day asked participants to rethink commonly used phrases like “equal pay for equal work,” “the right to choose,” and “#MeToo” in order to rebrand our messaging. As one speaker pointed out, Republicans do a better job of marketing their messages to make emotional appeals while Democrats tend to over-rationalize. The last presentation of the day challenged participants to consider reframing our political dialogue. Democrats have fallen into the habit of allowing Republican leaders to define the discourse, creating our terminology in response to theirs rather than establishing our own, and then building a platform in opposition to Republican efforts rather than in the pursuit of Democratic ideals. In other words, we were reminded that we need to stand for something not just against something.

    After a day of re-examining and celebrating the cross-sectional connections that unite us as women, Democrats, and Americans, we continued our atmosphere of kinship with a big, family-style meal at a local Indian restaurant. Refueled and refocused, our minds are looking forward.

    The following books were recommended as essential reading for activists during the workshop:

    The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

    The Little Blue Book by George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling

    Your Brain’s Politics by George Lakoff and Elizabeth Wehling


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  • published Stop Kavanaugh! in News 2018-09-24 10:07:25 -0400

    Stop Kavanaugh!

    by Linda Gould

    I have a daughter. She is 20 and just about to enter the world as an adult. What kind of world will she be engaging in?

    America has a president who has bragged about sexual assault.

    Republican men are pushing to vote to approve a man to the Supreme Court without investigating the allegations of sexual assault against him.

    Republican women constituents are saying things like, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?”

    Why are they so adamantly supporting this man? So they can achieve their decades long push to finally rescind a woman’s right to control her own life.

    If there is one mistake we women, democrats, liberals, feminists have made, it is that we mistook winning a battle for winning the war.

    Sixty percent of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, so we thought the courts would never overturn it. If Kavanaugh is approved, Roe v Wade will be overturned.

    We railed at the states that systematically made it difficult to impossible to retain access to health clinics for health care and abortions, but we never believed it would pass beyond a state’s rights issue. If Kavanaugh is approved, Roe v Wade will be overturned.

    We didn’t understand that our fight needed to not only continue despite the gains we made in reproductive rights, it needed to expand.

    By the time Phyllis Schlafley stopped passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, women had already begun to reap the benefits of the battles they had won, so work to pass the ERA virtually stopped. Brett Kavanaugh has sided with corporations over regular people on environmental, consumer protection and financial reform issues. If Kavanaugh is approved, many advances we have made—better pay, access to health care, family leave—are at risk of being overturned.

    The republicans are hiding the advice Kavanaugh gave to the Bush administration on torture, spying on Americans, court nominees and lobbying. They are likely hiding the fact that the man supported the very policies that stained America’s reputation in the world.

    We don’t know what will happen with this nomination. But it isn’t lost on women across the nation that it is a woman who has stepped up to challenge the man who is likely to be the deciding vote on Roe v Wade.

    A record number of women are running for office. It isn’t lost on women across the nation that it is other women who are stepping up to challenge the policies that our male politicians have implemented.

    Again, it is women who will step up with new ideas to remedy the issues that not only affect them, but all Americans. Because the policies women are striving for—equal pay, justice, better schools, access to reach our potential as individuals—will benefit everyone, even those who are willing to make excuses for men who behave badly.

    There are many more battles to come. Unfortunately, we will be fighting some of the same battles we fought decades ago and though we had won.

    The only thing you need to do is vote. Vote for democrats. Vote for Democratic women. And encourage your friends and family to vote, too.

    You, me, a new batch of Democratic women in office have the power to make the world better for all of our daughters. ( L.G.)

    And what can you do? Make a few calls! TODAY!

    Demand the FBI investigate the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh and tell your Senators to vote NO on the SCOTUS nomination.

    Click here for a simple call script you can use:

    http://www.democratsabroad.org/tiny_actions


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  • TWO WOMEN COMPETING FOR 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON STATE

    by Jude Siefker, Den Haag

    This congressional race shows just how far women have come in recent years in seeking political office. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane has represented the 5th Congressional District of Washington State since 2005. In this strongly Republican slice of Eastern Washington (Trump won by 13 points), she has never had to worry about re-election. This assurance has allowed her to rise to the rank of the top woman Republican in the House and the fourth ranked Republican overall. But, this year, she is faced with tough competition from Democrat Lisa Brown. In an open primary, held August 7, 2018, McMorris Rodgers received 47.8% of the vote to Brown’s 46.8%.

    Brown has never held national elected office but is an economist, a Washington State University professor and was the State Senate Majority  Leader. In the very rural 5th District, she is campaigning on a number of issues that appeal to farmers. One area of concern is the impact of the current administration policies on farmers. Tariffs are especially unpopular as is the administration’s withdrawal from multilateral trade agreements. Congress has also failed to pass a bipartisan farm bill. To compensate for the economic impact that all of these factors are having on farmers, the Department of Agriculture has proposed a short-term aid package. This is also unpopular with farmers because they prefer to have continued trade rather than a bailout. Due to both tariffs and weather conditions, farm income is projected to be the lowest in 12 years.

    To date, Brown has run her campaign on promoting better legislation for Congress to help farmers. She believes that Congress should encourage bipartisanship to maintain healthy trade relationships that have taken many years to develop. Although Trump has been instrumental in imposing tariffs that are ruinous for both farmers and manufacturers in Washington State, in reality, the Constitution defines the enactment of tariffs to be a role of Congress, not the executive branch. Brown seeks to return this role to Congress.

    Another important issue in Brown’s campaign is Congress’s many attempts to repeal Obamacare. This is especially significant in the rural area that she seeks to represent because many farmers, being self employed, cannot afford traditional medical insurance. In addition, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is projected to cause many small, rural hospitals to have to close. This could be disastrous for rural areas that already tend to be under served  by existing medical centers. Brown’s campaign focuses on fixing Obamacare and other factors that diminish medical care in rural areas.

    McMorris Rodgers, of course, supports the policies that are diminishing Trump’s popularity with the major base in her district—farmers.
    The record shows that she has backed his agenda 97.6 % of the time. Despite Trump’s growing unpopularity, McMorris Rodgers has the advantage in fund raising. She started with money left over from her 2016 campaign and has raised $3.7 million to Brown’s $2.2 million. Much of her war chest has been the result of Citizens United.

    Despite McMorris Rodgers’ obvious financial advantage, Brown is  expected to stay in close competition if not to pull ahead as Election Day nears. Both are expected to focus on trade deals and tariffs because Washington is purported to be the most trade dependent state with 40% of jobs being dependent on trade. Because of her record of supporting Trump’s policies, voters may not trust McMorris Rodgers to take any effective action to bolster trade. This should give Lisa Brown a definite edge.

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  • published Stuttgart Chapter News and Fall Events in News 2018-08-21 04:01:26 -0400

    Stuttgart Chapter News and Fall Events


    We salute our Volunteers!

    Thanks to all of you who turned out for the Political Pride Parade in Stuttgart last month. We made face-to-face contact with hundreds of people, had a blast, and really raised our profile.

    Thanks also to all our fabulous, hard-working volunteers scattered throughout Baden-Würtemberg. We are so lucky to have precinct captains, caucus leaders, event organizers, phonebanking champions, and so many others working on the frontlines and behind the scenes.

    We applaud your activism and your spirit!

    _________________________________________________

    Please take a look at what’s coming up next for our chapter and how you might become one of our wonderful volunteers:

    Be a Stay-At-Home Activist!

    As activists, we know how crucial the November 6th Mid-term election is.
    Every glance at the news brings new outrage and feelings of despair.
    We also know that the best way to combat that helpless feeling is to do something to fight back. That’s why we volunteer!

    But you don’t have to lead the whole parade to be an activist!
    Each of us can do our small part and we can start right now. Today!

    We can reach out to each other!

    Democrats Abroad Germany is making an extra push right now to have our members personally reach out to fellow members and remind them to register to vote. Some of our wonderful Stuttgart chapter volunteers have already made dozens of calls!

    You too can join our phonebanking initiative!

    DA uses an online system that lets you make no-cost calls from your computer. There is even an on-screen script for you to use.

    Please click here for a step-by-step guide on how to get started.

    Please do give it a try and help to power the blue wave that will transform Washington in November!

    _________________________________________________

    Activism starts with your own vote!

    If you still need to register, go to Votefromabroad.org today!
    If you are already registered, it doesn't hurt to check your registration at https://iwillvote.com/.

    This election is extremely important. Don’t miss it!

    _________________________________________________

    „Democrats Abroad Day” Celebration

    Friday, September 7th at 7:00 p.m.
    Paulaner am alten Postplatz
    Calwer Str. 45, 70173 Stuttgart

    Help us celebrate the first-ever worldwide Democrats Abroad Day!

    Our meeting will be dedicated to YOU, our members!
    We have marched and stood vigil together, call-stormed, phonebanked, registered voters, and participated in hundreds of virtual and in-person events. Let’s pause for a moment to show our pride, connect with each other, re-affirm what we stand for, pat ourselves on the back and have a little fun before we enter the election homestretch.

    Wear all your DA gear, T-shirts and Buttons! Do you still have your favorite march signs? Bring them! We will be taking lots of pics to post the next day for the official “Global Virtual Democrats Abroad Day Party” on September 8th!

    And we’d especially love to see some new faces! All curious Americans are welcome. Just stop by, have a drink, and get to know us.

    Please do RSVP here!

    See you there!!

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    Pub & Politics in Freiburg

    Wednesday, September 5th 8-10pm

    The Holy Taco Shack

    Barbarastraße 18, 79106 Freiburg im Breisgau

    Come for Margarita Mittwoch and stay for some good, quality conversation.

    This is your chance to meet other Americans in the Freiburg area, grab a drink together, and talk about all things politics!


    We also want to share news about upcoming DA events and hear your ideas for what other events Freiburg-Americans would like to participate in.

    You can RSVP here

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    Stuttgart Women’s Caucus goes to Berlin!

    Join us in Berlin for an all-day workshop that will help to re-focus, re-vitalize and re-empower us all for the fight ahead!

    The Women’s Caucus is for everyone who cares about equality.
    We want to see men and women working together at this event!

    Learn more about the event and RSVP here

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    Checking the Balance - Democracy, at what cost?

    Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00 p.m.

    Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum Stuttgart (DAZ)

    Charlottenplatz 17, 70173 Stuttgart

    Our DA Stuttgart chapter will be at DAZ for a discussion as part of their very popular “American Days” event.

    Let‘s talk about current issues in American politics and try to find answers to significant pending questions:

    · What policies and initiatives have emerged in this topsy-turvy election cycle?

    · How far does free speech extend?

    · How can we provide protections for our environment and assure safety in our lives?

    · Are our fundamental civil rights being chipped away?

    · How can we respond to these challenges and restore political equilibrium?


    Join us to share your views!

    _________________________________________________

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Watch for additional events each month, or changes which don't always make it into our newsletter by checking here on our Stuttgart Chapter website and Facebook page for the latest updates on events!

    I look forward to seeing you at one of our events.

    Democratically yours,

    Ann Hesse
    Chair, Stuttgart Chapter

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  • Meet Mary Barzee Flores, Florida Congressional Candidate

    Democrats Abroad will be talking online with Florida Congressional candidate Mary Barzee Flores on Tuesday August 28th at 1:30 p.m Eastern. RSVP for the call to get the link right here

    And read on to learn more about her! 

    by Clara Dessaint

    A Miami native and dedicated public servant, Mary Barzee Flores is running for Congress in Florida’s 25th District. As an economic opportunity promoter and pro-choice healthcare advocate, Mary is espousing an inclusive progressive platform, with priorities ranging from gun violence and criminal justice reform to immigration and education.

    Mary’s experience is as varied as her focus areas. After obtaining her Bachelors in music at the University of Miami, Mary pivoted to social justice, earning her JD at her alma mater’s School of Law. A brief stint in private practice then led to a 12-year career in Miami’s Federal Office of the Public Defender.

    In 2002, Mary ran for an open judgeship on the Florida Circuit Court and was elected without opposition. After an 8-year tenure, which saw her preside over more than 100 jury trials and a dozen bench trials, Mary retired from the court and returned to private practice.

    In 2015, President Obama nominated Mary to serve as federal district judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Despite having recommended her himself, Marco Rubio blocked Mary’s nomination and she was never even given a Senate hearing.

    A proven champion for South Florida working families, Mary lives in Coral Gables with her husband and their two children.

    Visit her website here


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  • published Finding the Final Stage of Political Grief: Hope in News 2018-08-13 04:03:20 -0400

    Finding the Final Stage of Political Grief: Hope

    By Clara Dessaint

    clara_2.jpg

    Being a Democrat Abroad since November 8th, 2016 has not been easy. In the oft-described time warp brought on by the Trump administration, the day Hillary Clinton came so very close to shattering the glass ceiling – one she had been steadfastly making fissures in for decades – feels like both yesterday and light years away.

    Much has happened in American politics since her magnanimous concession speech, most of it twisting the United States into a purveyor of discord rather than a bastion of freedom, acceptance and opportunity. Coming to terms with it all has been a true grieving progress but, fitting with our new distorted reality, the stages of grief have been anything but linear.

    Denial rolled in fast and, no doubt emboldened by distance, took months to recede, marrying itself nicely with bargaining. From “of course Jill Stein’s recount efforts will rectify this madness” to “the Electoral College will vote its conscience instead of its party” every possible, overly idealistic ‘out’ was nurtured.

    Anger and its partner-in-crime depression followed in unrelenting waves. When the Muslim ban was issued and then more recently ratified by the Supreme Court. When migrant children were heartlessly separated from their parents at the border and sent into a gratuitous and cruel bureaucratic limbo that has yet to be untangled. When the Trump administration attempted to water down a World Health Organization resolution on breastfeeding to benefit formula companies and now seems poised to further limit women’s choices over their bodies through another Supreme Court appointment…

    Emotional-tsunami-inducing CNN notifications are too many to list and too complex to neatly box into Kubler-Ross’ model for loss. Indeed, political grief is a no man’s land of its own, where fear, embarrassment and bewilderment co-mingle with the jumbled first four stages while the fifth – acceptance – oftentimes seems completely out of the question.

    Somehow though, even as each week in the Trump White House is deemed worse than the previous, hope – the message that brought President Obama to victory twice and which he recently reminded Democrats to espouse – is omnipresent.

    There is hope in the grassroots primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the historically unparalleled number of women running for office, and in the slow but steady indictments emerging from Robert Mueller’s office. There is hope too in late-night hosts’ marked dedication to calling out, however humorously, Trump’s travesties as they occur and in the brilliantly biting words of NY Times columnist Charles Blow and Pod Save America host Jon Favreau, to name but a few. From the Women’s March to the March for Our Lives and the Families Belong Together rallies, there is hope in the international activism that most recently floated a Baby Trump above Parliament Square and thereby dissuaded the man himself from visiting London.

    Essentially, there is hope in the People’s ability – around the world and across all demographics – to speak truth to power, to take to the streets and phone lines alike to demand better. Let’s keep post offices abroad busy this November and vote out those who don’t listen.

    Photos taken at the London Women’s March on January 21st, 2017. 


  • published STOP BRET KAVANAUGH’S SUPREME COURT NOMINATION in News 2018-07-21 07:47:53 -0400

    STOP BRET KAVANAUGH’S SUPREME COURT NOMINATION

    In the midst of recent political shock waves, Donald Trump’s abhorrent choice of Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh seems to have slipped way down in our priorities and is beginning to sound like a fait accompli. We can’t lower our guard!

    Kavanaugh is the enemy of everything we stand for as women (and men). And yet swing vote Republican Susan Collins – who knows better - says he’s “clearly qualified.” Kavanaugh’s record is disturbing: enemy of Roe v. Wade, unions, environment, affordable care, and against US presidents being subject to criminal investigation while in office.

    Trump should not be allowed to choose a Supreme Court justice until Mueller clears him.

    Tell this to your Senators and be sure to call Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), 202-224-6665 and Susan Collins (Maine) 202-224-2523 who could prevent the nomination from getting through the Senate. Both women Senators sound like they’re caving and need to be contacted.
    Keep saying No to this outrage.

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  • Women to watch: Katie Porter for California's 45th Congressional District!

    “In Congress, I will always protect a woman's right to choose and fight any efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

    Katie Porter is the Democratic candidate running against incumbent Republican Mimi Walters to represent CA's 45th District. This Orange County district voted for Clinton over Trump in 2016, and is considered competitive by pundits. WNDC members, this is a great chance to flip a Republican district!

    Porter is a consumer protection attorney and UC Irvine law professor who is endorsed by Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, among others. Her top priorities include Medicare for All, woman's right to choose, an assault weapons ban, and repealing the 2017 tax giveaway to corporations and the wealthy. She has extensive experience in state government, including obtaining relief for Orange County homeowners whose mortgages were underwater after the 2008 financial crisis. She has three young children, and serves as Cubmaster to her son's scout pack.

    Porter's opponent Walters is not moderate, but rather fully supports Trump's radical agenda. The Republicans will spend any amount to try to keep the 45th red. As a result, Porter will need our help to flip the 45th. We encourage you to learn about Porter at her campaign website

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  • posted about An Evening with Rebecca Solnit on Facebook 2018-07-05 09:21:41 -0400
    An Evening with Rebecca Solnit

    An Evening with Rebecca Solnit

    by Kelsey Mc Lendon

    In a crowded room at the Literaturhaus in Stuttgart, members of our  Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus gathered with about 180 people to listen to Rebecca Solnit perform readings of her newest book, a collection of essays titled, The Mother of All Questions, and answer questions about literature, activism, and the future of American politics.

    Solnit’s book begins by challenging the notion that a woman’s capacity is limited solely to childbearing rather than creations of the mind. Recalling a talk she gave on Virginia Woolf, Solnit described how the line of questioning quickly turned to reasons for why Woolf didn’t procreate instead of focusing on what she did create—her exceptional written work. In fact, one of the things Woolf famously wrote about was dismantling expectations for women to be the “Angel in the House.” Nearly 90 years later, women continue fighting against this ideal, and Solnit’s book argues that we must refuse questions that attempt to define what it means to be a woman. Instead, Solnit says, we must reject simple answers and embrace the unknown.

    When reflecting on the literary canon, Solnit remarked that a book without a single woman in it is about humanity, but a book with a woman protagonist is a “woman’s book.” Knowing that we learn to imagine the world from the literature we read, it’s no wonder that straight, white men in particular often cannot imagine themselves as anyone else—they’ve never had to do so. In this way, diverse stories have never been more important because they provide us with different lenses through which to view the world and invite questions about whose stories are being told. Thanks to literary giants of the past like Woolf, James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and so many others, we’ve seen an explosion of diverse literature in the past few decades that asks all readers to listen and reimagine the world.

    In conjunction with examining whose stories are told, Solnit’s book also prompts readers to consider silence—specifically, who has been silenced historically and currently. Perhaps the loudest breaking of that silence recently has been the #MeToo movement. While it seems like #MeToo was a sudden wave of unleashed stories, unprecedented support for those stories, and demands of accountability, Solnit reminds us that #MeToo was a culmination of previous, long-term efforts of women (often women of color) speaking out. As demonstrated in the #MeToo movement, stories grant the previously silenced the ability to be heard and grant everyone else opportunities to broaden their perspectives.

    Placing these notions of silence, stories, and listening in context with the larger political climate, Solnit urged the audience to remember that elections are the bedrock of democracy but daily actions are what preserve it. If we are to recover from the Trump presidency, it is imperative that we read about the past, listen to each other’s stories, and, as Rep. John Lewis has said, make “good trouble, necessary trouble.” November is still far off, and we must work every day to defend our basic rights and democratic values. Referencing an article in The Guardian, Solnit stated that historical studies suggest it only takes 3.5% of a country’s population (about 11 million people in the U.S.) to topple an unpopular regime through sustained nonviolent opposition.

    Solnit announced that an upcoming campaign to impeach Trump will be starting soon.

    The Women’s Caucus international book club, Books Abroad, will discuss The Mother of All Questions at our next meeting on Sunday, October 21. Please join in!

    Below is a list of readings that Solnit referenced throughout the evening:

    A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

    The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

    The writings of Subcomandante Marcos

    “Peculiar Benefits” by Roxana Gay

    Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into―and Out of―Violent Extremism by Michael Kimmel

    “It may only take 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator – with civil resistance” by Erica Chenoweth

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  • published An Evening with Rebecca Solnit in News 2018-07-05 09:18:19 -0400

    An Evening with Rebecca Solnit

    by Kelsey Mc Lendon

    In a crowded room at the Literaturhaus in Stuttgart, Germany, members of the Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus gathered with about 180 people to listen to Rebecca Solnit perform readings of her newest book, a collection of essays titled, The Mother of All Questions, and answer questions about literature, activism, and the future of American politics.

    Solnit’s book begins by challenging the notion that a woman’s capacity is limited solely to childbearing rather than creations of the mind. Recalling a talk she gave on Virginia Woolf, Solnit described how the line of questioning quickly turned to reasons for why Woolf didn’t procreate instead of focusing on what she did create—her exceptional written work. In fact, one of the things Woolf famously wrote about was dismantling expectations for women to be the “Angel in the House.” Nearly 90 years later, women continue fighting against this ideal, and Solnit’s book argues that we must refuse questions that attempt to define what it means to be a woman. Instead, Solnit says, we must reject simple answers and embrace the unknown.

    When reflecting on the literary canon, Solnit remarked that a book without a single woman in it is about humanity, but a book with a woman protagonist is a “woman’s book.” Knowing that we learn to imagine the world from the literature we read, it’s no wonder that straight, white men in particular often cannot imagine themselves as anyone else—they’ve never had to do so. In this way, diverse stories have never been more important because they provide us with different lenses through which to view the world and invite questions about whose stories are being told. Thanks to literary giants of the past like Woolf, James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and so many others, we’ve seen an explosion of diverse literature in the past few decades that asks all readers to listen and reimagine the world.

    In conjunction with examining whose stories are told, Solnit’s book also prompts readers to consider silence—specifically, who has been silenced historically and currently. Perhaps the loudest breaking of that silence recently has been the #MeToo movement. While it seems like #MeToo was a sudden wave of unleashed stories, unprecedented support for those stories, and demands of accountability, Solnit reminds us that #MeToo was a culmination of previous, long-term efforts of women (often women of color) speaking out. As demonstrated in the #MeToo movement, stories grant the previously silenced the ability to be heard and grant everyone else opportunities to broaden their perspectives.

    Placing these notions of silence, stories, and listening in context with the larger political climate, Solnit urged the audience to remember that elections are the bedrock of democracy but daily actions are what preserve it. If we are to recover from the Trump presidency, it is imperative that we read about the past, listen to each other’s stories, and, as Rep. John Lewis has said, make “good trouble, necessary trouble.” November is still far off, and we must work every day to defend our basic rights and democratic values. Referencing an article in The Guardian, Solnit stated that historical studies suggest it only takes 3.5% of a country’s population (about 11 million people in the U.S.) to topple an unpopular regime through sustained nonviolent opposition.

    Solnit announced that an upcoming campaign to impeach Trump will be starting soon.

    The Women’s Caucus international book club, Books Abroad, will discuss The Mother of All Questions at our next meeting on Sunday, October 21. Please join in!

    Below is a list of readings that Solnit referenced throughout the evening:

    A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

    The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

    The writings of Subcomandante Marcos

    “Peculiar Benefits” by Roxana Gay

    Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into―and Out of―Violent Extremism by Michael Kimmel

    “It may only take 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator – with civil resistance” by Erica Chenoweth

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  • posted about Families Belong Together! on Facebook 2018-06-20 12:22:27 -0400
    Families Belong Together!

    Families Belong Together!

    The Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus (DA GWC) - as women and mothers- and human beings are appalled and revolted by the current Administration’s policy of separating children from their immigrant parents. It is abhorrent and a blatant violation of human rights. All of us in our Country Chapters and our Women’s Caucuses are organizing events to protest this inhuman policy. Please make your voices heard. And do visit the Democrats Abroad link on this issue at http://www.democratsabroad.org/keep_families_together

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  • published WHEN WOMEN WIN ELECTIONS, WOMEN WIN in News 2018-06-06 13:42:46 -0400

    WHEN WOMEN WIN ELECTIONS, WOMEN WIN

    By: Meghan Feeks

    May was a huge month for Democratic women. Primaries in 11 states and a runoff in Texas advanced women to the general election throughout the country, bringing the total number of female Democratic nominees for Senate, House and governor so far to 67 (Republicans have nominated another 11).

    With an unprecedented number of women running for national office this year — and many more still running for state and local office — women candidates (particularly Democrats) are on track to smash records in 2018. But it’s not just the number of women that’s making history: in Georgia, Stacey Abrams became America’s first-ever black, female nominee for governor. In Kentucky’s 6thdistrict, Democrats handed the congressional nomination to Amy McGrath, the first female marine to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat.

    Meanwhile, Texas Democrats nominated two women who could also make history: if elected, Gina Ortiz Jones would become the first woman, lesbian, Iraq war veteran and Filipina-American to represent her state’s 23rd district in Congress. And Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor, could become the first openly gay, Latina governor of the Lone Star State.

    An urgent need

    With hundreds of Democratic women still in the running for national and state office, the number of women on the ballot in November is set to continue growing. But just as May brought hope of seeing greater and more diverse representation of women in government, it also brought painful reminders of how urgently it’s needed.

    As we celebrated Mother’s Day, American moms still faced zero guarantee of maternity leave, while earning just 71 cents on the dollar of working dads.

    As Ireland voted to overturn its constitutional abortion ban, the Trump administration announced a domestic “gag rule” that would cut funding for any healthcare provider that offers abortions — or even information about how and where to obtain one.

    In Santa Fe and Noblesville, two school shootings (the 22nd and 23rd school shootings this year) once again laid bare America’s gun violence problem — an issue that disproportionately affects women and particularly women of color.

    In New York City, the arrest of film director Harvey Weinstein on rape charges represented one baby step on a long and grueling path to justice for the 1-in-6 American women who have survived sexual assault, and the 81% of women who have experienced sexual harassment.

    Heading into Pride Month, we recognize the significant obstacles still facing the LGBTQ community following its deadliest year ever in the US, with transgender women accounting for 72% of anti-LGBTQ homicides.

    And on the heels of Memorial Day, as we remember the American ideals our fallen heroes died defending, we also remember that it’s up to all of us — regardless of gender, race, class or creed — to fight, every day, to ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.

    Putting women in their place

    These are just a handful of the reasons we need more women in government, especially in a Congress where men still outnumber women 4-to-1. For when women win elections, all women win: research shows that women politicians push much harder for policies that support women and children or address issues like education, health, poverty and civil rights. Women are also much more likely to support gun control, and when it comes to working across the aisle, they also tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.

    With many women Democratic nominees facing tough odds in their races this fall, the DAUK Women’s Caucus is determined to help as many as possible make it over the finish line. To this end, we will be working with the Global Women’s Caucus to highlight and mobilize support for Democratic women who are heading to the general election.

    We invite women (and likeminded allies) everywhere to join our cause — for behind every powerful woman, there must be a whole tribe of other powerful women who have her back.

    Early support is critical to ensure these candidates can put their funding and resources to the best possible use, so we urge you to find the female candidate you like best, and get behind her in any way that you can — whether it’s through donations, phone-banking, postcard-writing or simply talking to your friends and family about why you support her.

    For real-time status updates on all women candidates running for US Congress and statewide elected executive, check out the summary and complete list maintained by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

    To learn more about and support pro-choice female candidates, visit EMILY’s List.

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  • published Global Women's Caucus in Tokyo in News 2018-06-03 14:04:46 -0400

    Global Women's Caucus in Tokyo

    Caucuses Are Good For What Ails You!


    by Connie Borde

    Feeling lonely? Thinking no one hears? No one cares? Well, join a caucus! The Global Women’s Caucus interacts with women around the world and gives them a platform to DO something about issues that concern them.

    At the DPCA meeting in Tokyo several caucuses presented their programs and showed what they can do to make the Democratic Party sit up and take notice.

    The Global Women’s Caucus works together to promote the interests of women: candidates (information sheets and webex calls with them), women’s rights (we avidly support the Equal Right Amendment, back on the table again after lying dormant for a few decades), marches and demonstrations – over 30 this year - (against Trump, against gun violence, for choice, #metoo…), and most important, we we work on real projects together.

    We knit pussy hats, we make a fundraising Women’s Calendar every year (raised $6000 for the DPCA in 2018), we share ideas with LBGTQ women, with Black women, we discuss intersectionality and ways we can help each other. We are definitely not hermetic.

    Where else could a mother of 5 who home-schools her children in Canada, a young feminist activist in Germany, and two over-70 translators from Paris put their literary interest to the test and form a global book club entitled Books Abroad?

    That’s us and more: a 2-way road that we’re taking to make America blue, us to you and you to us.


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  • published 11 ways U.S. expats can help rock the midterms in News 2018-05-03 05:45:22 -0400

    11 ways U.S. expats can help rock the midterms

    11 ways U.S. expats can help rock the midterms

    By Meghan Feeks

    It ain’t easy being “blue” these days, but things are definitely looking up. Special and state elections have brought Democrats to power in key states, and the latest polls have Democrats holding a double-digit lead over Republicans for the 2018 midterms.

    Also encouraging, a record number of women (mostly Democrats) are running for Congress this year — more than twice as many as in 2016. And having turned out in force to flip GOP seats in recent elections, women are also taking the lead in grassroots movements around the country to engage voters, promote progressive candidates and turn anger into impact when we go to the polls this November.

    These gains feel good after more than a year of hard knocks. But with the midterms still several months off, Democrats still have much at stake, and nothing must be taken for granted. The good news is there’s a lot that the 9 million US expats who make up the “51st state” can do to make a difference when America votes this fall. Here are 11 ways we can help:

    1. Vote — and make sure you register to vote in time. This should be obvious, but the sad fact is, only 12% of Americans abroad vote in presidential elections and even fewer in midterm, state and local elections. Fortunately, it’s now possible for all US citizens to obtain and in many cases submit absentee ballots electronically. But this is important: you need to request one every year. Just because you voted in the 2016 general election, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get your ballot in 2017 and beyond. To register to vote in 2018 online, visit VoteFromAbroad.org, or access the site through the ‘vote’ menu on the Democrats Abroad website. For more information on voting from overseas, including links to helpful resources, see the State Department’s handy guide.

    2. Help register fellow expats to vote. Once again, Democrats Abroad is planning voter registration events around the world, but relies on volunteers to give voters the information they need to obtain and submit their ballots. To learn more about becoming a voter registration volunteer, click here or contact your local chapter of Democrats Abroad.

    3. Vote in the 2018 Democratic primaries. As a registered Democrat, you’re entitled to vote in House and Senate primaries, which will unfold over the coming months. This is a great opportunity to advance Democratic candidates that support your values and have a positive vision for the party’s future. To get the 411 on primaries in the state where you’re registered to vote, check out this overview on Ballotpedia.org.

    4. Support Democratic candidates in key national races. This fall, candidates will compete for all 435 seats in the House and 34 seats in the Senate (23 of which are currently held by Democrats). All these contests are important, and no seat should be considered “safe.” However, the battle for control of Congress will likely boil down to a few key races in the House and Senate. Support Democratic candidates in these elections, regardless of where you’re registered to vote. Visit EMILY’s List to learn more about pro-choice, female candidates, or if you prefer to stick closer to your hometown, visit SwingLeft.org to find nearby swing districts that need your help most. Pro tip: to maximize your donation’s impact, contribute directly to your favorite candidate’s campaign, rather than through party organizations that support them (Senator Kirsten Gillibrand shared this nugget at a recent fundraiser in London, noting that individual candidates can take out ads for half of what, say, the DCCC would pay).

    5. Don’t forget state and local elections. Down-ballot, state and local elections may not sound that sexy, but taking a lead from the Tea Party, progressive, grassroots movements are increasingly targeting them to make America bluer from the bottom up. Many states allow US expats to vote in these contests, but even if yours doesn’t, there are still ways you can help. To learn more, check out the Sister DistrictProject, Flippable.org, RunForSomething.net and Indivisible.org. To connect with fellow expats from your state, join a Facebook State Group here.

    6. Ensure all voices are heard. Last year’s elections were good not just for Democrats, but also for diversity: around the country, women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests. Help our party represent the interests of all its members by supporting candidates with diverse and intersectional profiles. Click on the links here to learn more about black women, Muslim women, Latinas, Native Americans, LGBTQ candidates and other people of color who are running for office in 2018.

    7. Engage with voters. So we can’t go from door-to-door, but there are still lots of ways we can engage voters from afar. Volunteer to phone-bank for Democratic candidates, either directly or through grassroots organizations that support them. Postcard campaigns throughPostcardsToVoters.org are another cool and quirky way to connect with fellow Democrats and encourage them to vote. Get your American expat friends on board to have more fun, increase your impact and hold each other accountable.

    8. Organize or attend a political fundraiser or “action party.” US expats can independently organize political fundraisers or “action parties” to support specific candidates and Democratic organizations. Contact your favorite candidate to coordinate a house party with a video or Skype link, and circulate the appropriate contribution link and compliance form. Note that all expenses must be reported and contributions can only be received from US citizens or permanent residents (it’s the law). For those who wish to contribute their time and energy (either instead of or in addition to a financial donation), set a clear call to action. To stay informed about fundraisers being held in your country, join the Americans Abroad Facebook Group and keep an eye on your local Democrats Abroad newsletter. To hear from Democratic candidates and politicians directly (and at Europe-friendly times), sign up for the fantastic phone-call series organized by fellow expat Mark Bergman.

    9. Stand for something. Anger with the Trump administration may get people to the polls, but it’s no substitute for a long-term strategy. Call on Democratic officials and candidates to define a clear and positive vision for the party and set concrete policy goals to support it. Do your part to promote this vision in your families, communities and social networks. For every expression of outrage you see or share on social media, post something positive that points to a solution.

    10. Take action to improve election security and combat fake news. The midterms are under serious threat of foreign interference, but — surprise, surprise — the Trump administration is doing nothing about it. Call on Congress to pass the Election Security Act and demand to know what your elected officials are doing to secure elections in your district. Be on alert for fake news and call out misinformation when you see it. Equally important, support real news by buying a subscription to a reputable news source. Established, big-name outlets such as the Washington Post are always a good bet, but don’t forget about cash-strapped local papers, which play a critical role in holding local governments accountable.

    11. Share your international perspectives. As an American living abroad, you have a unique point of view. Talk to friends and family members in the US about how the country you live in approaches issues such as healthcare, education, reproductive rights, gun control and family leave. Discuss the implications of US policies outside its borders and how the Trump administration is affecting America’s image in the world. To spread the word further, consider sharing these thoughts in an op-ed in your hometown or college newspaper.

    The midterms are a critical milestone that require our laser focus, but there are plenty of other things US expats can do every day to support our democracy — and they needn’t take much time! For more ideas, sign up for Democrats Abroad’s “Tiny Actions” newsletter, or check out the HuffPost article I wrote on the subject last year. Have more ideas on how to rock the midterms and stay politically active from overseas? Please share in the comments!

    Meghan Feeks is living in London and loving it, but always a New Yorker at heart. Communicator by day, writer by night, tango dancer by midnight.

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  • signed up on Tiny Actions Signup 2018-04-22 06:20:08 -0400

  • published Science March Rally 2018 in News 2018-04-18 06:38:24 -0400

    Science March Rally 2018

    The weather was warm, the mood was celebratory as hundreds gathered in the middle of Stuttgart to stand up for Science and listen to distinguished scientists from our region’s many Universities discuss the future of research. Speakers included rectors from both of Stuttgart’s Universities, as well as representatives from Karlsruhe Tech, and Heidelberg. Dr. Radhika Puttagunta, American scientist and Democrats Abroad Stuttgart chapter member, was there to share her perspective, and even gave a shout out to our valiant DA voter registration team, pointing out how important it is to vote in defense of science! Dr Puttagunta is the group leader in experimental paraplegiology and Neuroregeneration at the University of Heidelberg Clinic.

    Here are her remarks:

    “Standing here in Stuttgart, the city known for the invention of the automobile, we do not need to sell you on innovation or science. Germany leads the world in recycling and renewable energy because you take climate change seriously and want to preserve the environment. Here in Germany, I have worked at the University of Tuebingen where Noble prize winning developmental biologist Prof. Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard can be found alongside the location of the first isolation of DNA by Johann Friedrich Miescher in the castle laboratory. I now work at Germany’s oldest and most renowned university, the University of Heidelberg, where I believe that Germans understand the benefits of science and innovation, however we are not here only to support that claim but to also see where we can do better.

    You may ask why did I myself decide to become a scientist. I can tell you for certain it was most definitely not for money or fame. I am a scientist because I am curious and want to know how the world works around me, how the human body functions, what happens when it no longer functions as intended and how I can address those problems and add to our knowledge base. Classically trained as a geneticist I now work on understanding how to get nerves to grow again after damage from a spinal cord injury. Not an easy task but incredibly fascinating. Such intense curiosity as my own is common in our young children. Think of that baby that keeps dropping things on the floor and wondering why it falls, rediscovering gravity over and over again, especially later on with their own bodies. Or at a playground, children discovering centripetal forces differ from the center of the merry-go-round to the outer edge where more force is needed to keep you from falling off. Or the enthusiasm of kids involved in planting seeds and realizing what it takes for that seed to germinate and grow. Children are just born curious, it is how they explore their world, and some cultures are better at cultivating this curiosity and turning out amazing scientists. Both my home, the United States, and my adopted home, Germany, do a wonderful job with young children, letting them be little explorers and scientists. However, as the amount of knowledge and information we have access to grows over time we seem to move away from learning how and why things work and move further toward extensive testing on this newly acquired information. By doing so the schools are pulling us away from pursuing that curiosity we are naturally born with. By the time I see students at the University the only question I get asked is usually if this is on the exam or part of their grade. We cannot raise the next generation of scientists if we do not instill in them this desire to know more, to discover, to question, to tinker, to build, to fail and to succeed. We need to let that curiosity spread through our schools, train our teachers to foster this desire and stop overloading with excessive testing. We as parents at home need to encourage our kids to dream big, be creative and imaginative, build, question and read everything they can get their hands on to answer those questions of why and how thus stimulating new ideas. At the University level, we as lecturers need to push our students to think, to question, to solve, to further our understanding, not to just recite and pass exams. Innovation comes from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, questioning our understanding or limits of knowledge and discovering the unknown. The key here is that culture and society is often driving discovery through their desires of how to educate the next generation. This means that you have a greater influence on science than you probably imagined. This also rings true for the type of science that is found to be worth funding. Your voice matters when you vote, you influence the future. For my fellow Americans out there, I urge you to go the booth we have set up here and register to vote this year. Your voice not only impacts the US, it has an impact on the world and there is no greater time than now to have your voice heard.

    If we speak on a global scale, the current world population is made up of 50% women, however many scientific fields remain dominated by males. There is nothing wrong with that, but what is to say that is the best we can do? We are ignoring the input from half of our population! How do we know that together we would not do better? In fact we already know that diversity in science is essential, studies from various fields show that diverse groups are consistently more successful than groups of the “best” people who are virtually identical. There is no single test to find who is the best for problem solving but we do know that we work better in groups and science is not an independent sport, it is most definitely done best collaboratively. Published studies that have more collaborators tend to be more cited by other scientists, indicating they are of more value to the field. So if we want success in science and we want to push discovery and innovation forward than we must embrace diversity. It is not a matter of who is better but that when we put our collective heads together we are stronger than any one group alone. Here I am referring to diversity not only of gender but also ethnicity, sexual identity and orientation, immigration and family status. Each person’s experiences make up not only their life story but their unique intellectual and working perspective. Be this from experiencing motherhood, being an immigrant or dealing with homophobia. Once upon a time the US understood this and took in so many scientists from all walks of life from all over the world and those scientists went on to become the Noble prize-winning immigrants such as Einstein, Werner von Braun and Günter Blobel (signal peptides). Nearly 40% of Noble prizes awarded to the US are to immigrants. Why is that? Not only does the US encourage independence and creativity but by encouraging immigration they have let different perspectives and approaches come in to solve and innovate. So they have an environment that encourages the formation of diverse groups and these groups go on to do amazing things. Germany once lead the scientific world 150 to 100 years ago, until unfortunately they limited diversity but today Germany is embracing its role as a world leader and understands a diverse nation is a better nation, economically, scientifically and socially. Today’s choices will reflect in what Germany produces scientifically in the coming decades. I can say from personal experience at work where I am surrounded by people trained in fields very different from my own and with personal backgrounds equally different from mine that I am a better scientist because of a diverse environment and those around me also benefit from my unique perspective. “ R.P.

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