Close to 80,000 Americans live in Vancouver, and Susan Brennan, chair for DA’s Vancouver chapter and membership chair for DA Canada, is determined to reach every one of them. “We Americans do seem to find each other,” she says with a laugh. “I think we’re more assertive, especially Americans who leave the U.S. and live elsewhere. Maybe it’s a pioneering spirit.”
The Vancouver chapter got its formal start in 2008 when DA held its global meeting in the city. Early leadership crafted by-laws and constitution, a structure that now supports almost 3,700 members, the second largest chapter after Toronto. The growth was slow and steady, before a sharp uptick in 2016. “In 2012 we had 30 people vote in our Global Presidential Primary,” says Brennan, adding this was the year she got actively involved. “In 2016, that number jumped to 125.” The 2018 mid-terms brought in 100 people to watch the returns, many of whom have now become members and active volunteers.
Brennan and her board have kept the events coming: In 2018 they set up a voter registration table in front of Trump Tower. They’ve taken advantage of public-speaking events with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. They break out hotdogs for Fourth of July picnics, turkey and fixings for Thanksgiving dinners. This season’s Democratic debates have brought out 153 “unique” people, with debate-watch venues in Downtown Vancouver, the University of British Columbia, and Surrey. Plans are already in the works for hosting Kitchen Table conversations to help mold DA’s 2020 platform. Brennan has her eye on recruiting Darius Pruss, member-at-large for DA Canada and member of the Vancouver’s board as well, to head these up. “He’s a policy wonk,” she says. “He’s really good.”
The future is where it’s at for Brennan and her chapter. The goal? More, she says simply. More events, “more people stepping forward.” She’s proud of her board and grateful for how they came together this past year when her husband was being treated for cancer. “We’d just opened our store,” she explains. (The couple own a comic-books and collectibles store called Nifty Keen Stuff.) “I was trying to work, take care of him and run the chapter.” The support of DA members made it all possible.
What also keeps Brennan going is the thought of all those Americans in her part of Canada. “There are a lot of people out there who could vote and don’t,” she says. This chapter is doing its best to find them.
As an audiologist, Michael Stevenson is used to listening to people. Since moving to Victoria from Washington in 2007 and joining DA’s Victoria chapter, he’s had ample opportunity to put his listening skills to use. “I was drawn to phone banking because of the time flexibility in making calls and the efficiency of working from home,” says Stevenson, who is consistently the Canadian top caller for CallHub. “I’ve enjoyed being able to call in the morning, afternoon or evening, depending what works for my schedule.” He admitted feeling uncertain at first about how well the program worked, “but those fears were quickly allayed. Training was provided and resources were available when needed. CallHub provides basic contact information, history of calls and ease in updating contact information or requesting follow-up services.”
But what he likes most about phone banking is how much people appreciate talking to someone from Democrats Abroad. “I’ve talked to Americans living in over 50 countries who were [already] registered or wanting to register in their home state. It’s certainly highlighted for me how many Americans live abroad and how important it is they maintain their right to vote.” Stevenson’s personal goal for 2020 is to focus on the climate crisis and to increase informed, active voter participation “to give Democrats the power to protect our democracy and courts.” One call at a time.
(Stay tuned for more information on how to join phone bankers like Michael in the coming critical months.)
Democrats Abroad Atlantic Provinces will be hosting a Debate Watch Party on November 20th, 2019, at Niche Lounge starting at 8:30 PM.
This event is open to all who would like to attend and discuss the current U.S. political landscape in a welcoming environment. It's hard to predict how each debate will play out but with 9 candidates on stage it is guaranteed to be an interesting time. The debate will be televised on MSNBC.
Also, stay tuned for your invite to our Maritimes pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.
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