By Barbara Erickson
In the wake of 2 mass shootings in less than 24 hours resulting in the death of at least 31 individuals, many Americans are demanding Majority Leader McConnell recall the Senate for a special session to consider House-passed legislation to require universal background checks. How can you find a voice in this conversation and convert your personal outrage to action? There are concrete steps to take that will make a difference, even though you are in San Miguel.
First step, what works? I reached out to Julia Pomeroy, long time Chief of Staff for Oregon Congressperson Earl Blumenauer, to find out what I could do that might actually have an impact in Washington. According to Julia, making contact directly with your Member of Congress (MOC) is an effective tool. She relates: “we do track all individual phone calls and emails and give detailed reports to Earl on what people are calling/writing about so that he and the staff can be super responsive to constituents. What we don’t track are online petitions – we get them in the office and since they are random names without addresses or emails, we throw them out.”
That leads to the next question – how do I identify my MOC? The following sites find them for you and even provide scripts for you to use in case you want them. Alert – the following two sites promote liberal messages: https://5calls.org/issue/expand-background-checks-gun-purchases and https://www.callmycongress.com/ Here is one to send a free fax with no agenda: https://faxzero.com/fax_congress.php
If you want to contact your MOC by email it is simple to google their name to find their congressional site and there you will find a “CONTACT” button to click and write what you want to say. It is important to note that you need to identify yourself as a constituent on all of these platforms to be taken seriously and that you write or call with respect. I personally ask that they respond to my emails as I get satisfaction in knowing they have read my comments.
Does it make a difference? Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer offers this: "The adage, 'If you're not at the table, you're on the menu' applies to getting in contact with your lawmakers," says Ellsworth. She believes the reason that most people don't contact their representatives is because they think either that their voice doesn't matter or that their representative already knows how constituents feel about an issue. "Neither of these are true," she says. She adds "Calling your representatives means their staff needs to give an answer right away."
What else works? Donate to effective gun control advocacy organizations such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: https://www.csgv.org. Ask your friend group to contact their members of congress too, spread the effectiveness. Vote. You can register now at https://vr.votefromabroad.org/ a nonpartisan site.
There are 3 million eligible US voters living overseas, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Recent testimony by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has highlighted the security situation of the US election system. The San Miguel Chapter of Democrats Abroad is sponsoring a talk on August 12th at the Teatro Santa Ana by Ben Ptashnik, co-founder and Director of the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC). He will speak about the work his coalition has done to safeguard the 2020 elections and what his organization is doing to organize legislative actions in Congress and in the states.
During the opening remarks of Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, he stated “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious...this deserves the attention of every American.” The NEDC is dedicated to reforming US elections by replacing all insecure electronic voting machines with paper ballots before the 2020 elections, promoting paper ballots and audits to protect the integrity of U.S. elections in 2020 and beyond. NEDC is working to build an effective bipartisan movement to secure election reform that ensures integrity, transparency and protects the voting rights of all US Citizens.
Throughout the history of Democrats Abroad, the organization has worked to gain passage of legislation to ensure the rights of overseas voters including The Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975, and more recently to remove obstacles to overseas voting. Democrats Abroad also works on major non-partisan voter registration drives. “The right to vote is useless if our votes are not properly counted or lost, stolen, hacked or manipulated,” according to Ptashnik. Despite increased focus on security, American elections are a soft target. Leading computer security experts have studied a range of electronic voting infrastructure, including touch screen machines, optical scanners, and registration database systems and found serious vulnerabilities that threaten election integrity.
Ptashnik, a former Democratic Vermont State Senator, has been a social justice activist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist for five decades. He currently lives with his partner Victoria at the Tikkun Eco Center just north of San Miguel. As a Senator, Ptashnik spearheaded and passed his state’s key campaign financing reforms, led in the fight to pass Vermont’s landmark Civil Union Act for LGBT couples, and helped make the State of Vermont an environmental leader in the US. His current project, NEDC, leads a coalition of 15 diversified NGOs and hundreds of computer scientists and cyber experts ranging from far left to far right dedicated to preserving the security of US democratic elections. For more information see www.electiondefense.org and www.USBASE.net.
Democrats Abroad SMA again invites members of the community to come together to watch the second televised Democratic debate at the San Miguel Playhouse, to be held over 2 nights on July 30th and 31st. “We had such a great time at the Playhouse in June. And are thrilled to be able to come together again to provide an evening where the audience feels as though they are really at the debate.” according to Hope Bradberry, Democrats Abroad Chapter Chair.
The second scheduled debate will be hosted by CNN in Detroit and qualifications for the debate are the same as the first. Polling: A candidate could qualify by hitting just 1 percent in three separate polls released between January and a cutoff point before the second debate. Grassroots fundraising: Separately, a candidate could also qualify by raising money from at least 65,000 unique donors. And to ensure at least some geographic spread of support, they’d have to have at least 200 donors each in 20 states. What will be different in July is which candidates will match up onstage.
Admission to the event is free. There will be a cash bar available and snacks for purchase. We do kindly request that people please RSVP HERE!
Democrats Abroad members and friends gathered on July 26th & 27th at the San Miguel Playhouse to watch the first democratic debate. It was a great get together and we got feedback on the issues from some members of the audience, that we would like to share with you.
BEFORE the Debate:
Top 2 issues to our audience: Climate Change & Health Care (SS & Medicare), followed closely by Immigration and Income Inequality.
Top 3 characteristics necessary to win the nominations: (lots of answers here):
Wednesday night: Energy, charisma - likability, ability to think on your feet, positive, unwavering presence, middle of the road, middle age, restoration of justice, not being extreme, integrity – honesty, integration with the whole country, clear thinking - articulate -lucid speaking, ability to connect with people, good at raising money, have good plans to move forward – direction, strength, win-ability, strong listener, consensus builder, fresh face!
Thursday night: Level headed, charismatic, knowledgeable / intelligent, connects with the young, direct challenge to Trump, clear policies, emotional intelligence, not being provoked by Trump, liberal agenda, integrity, star power, brings in the black vote, calm, rational, is nice, relates to all Americans, passion & courage, record of commitment to causes.
AFTER the Debate:
Most surprising thing you heard?
“All important issues were discussed, liking how strong so many candidates are.”
“Wasn’t surprised.” “How vigorous the debate was.” “Yes, many were strong!” “Yes, saw them all in a different light.”
Please know that your local Democrats Abroad leadership is committed to remaining neutral through this primary. We are all excited about the quality of candidates and level of debate!
We want to thank the following people who helped make this event such a success: Jim & Judy Newell, the Playhouse board, master technician, Gerardo Charreton, photographers, Gary Belkin and Ali Zerriffi, GOTV Chair, Nancy Young, and her husband, Craig, social media guru, Ale Gomez, and a huge thank you to all our volunteers and committee members. We can never thank you enough!
And finally, we will again be gathering at the Playhouse for the next round of debates on July 30th & 31st! See you there! RSVP Here!
Welcome to Democrats Abroad San Miguel de Allende!
We want our members to know, that we are here in support of our membership and mission, to help U.S. citizens living abroad stay informed and exercise their right to vote and will continue to do so in future U.S. elections. We also offer fun, social events, as well as opportunities to participate as a volunteer each year. Check out our events page HERE! San Miguel is lucky to have a vibrant, diverse community of active U.S. citizens.
If we can help in any way, please reach out to us!
¡Bienvenido a el San Miguel de Allende Chapter de Democrats Abroad México!
Queremos que nuestros miembros sepan que estamos aquí para ayudar al grupo y su misión - apoyar a ciudadanos americanos en el extranjero a mantenerse informados para que puedan ejercer su derecho al voto. Seguiremos haciendo esto en todas futuras elecciones estadounidenses. También ofrecemos divertidos eventos sociales así como oportunidades para participar como voluntario cada año. Dale clic a la página de eventos AQUÍ! San Miguel tiene la fortuna de contar con una comunidad vibrante y diversa de dichos ciudadanos americanos.
Si en algo podemos apoyarte, ¡no dudes en contactarnos!
Chair, San Miguel de Allende
Democrats Abroad SMA invites members of the community to come together to watch the first televised Democratic debate at the San Miguel Playhouse, to be held over 2 nights on June 26th & 27th. “We are so excited that the San Miguel Playhouse has partnered with us to provide an evening that we hope will make the audience feel as though they are really at the debate.” according to Hope Bradberry, Democrats Abroad Chapter Chair.
The candidates will be chosen by a recently released rule developed by the DNC and NBC News to prevent the appearance of an undercard debate. The rule states:
"The final list of debate participants (after any tie-breaking procedure is executed, if necessary) will be divided into two groups: candidates with a polling average of 2% or above, and those with a polling average below 2%," according to a rule. "Both groups will be randomly divided between Wednesday night and Thursday night, thus ensuring that both groups are represented fairly on each night."
Admission to the event is free. There will be a cash bar available and snacks for purchase. We do kindly request that people please RSVP below.
Democrats Abroad SMA hosted the Annual General Meeting for Democrats Abroad Mexico the weekend of March 30th at the Hotel Posada de La Aldea. A highlight was having Robert Reich speak to the group. It was streamed live on Facebook and can be watched here. Or watch a pre-talk interview with Lauren Carlsen of the CIP Americas Program for The Real News here. We were also pleased to have Genaro Lozano from Mexico City speak to the group on Sunday, offering a perspective from Mexico media in the relationship of our two countries.
We were so lucky to have both speakers, and thank many of you for coming out to support the conference. New leadership was elected for the country, and it was a great opportunity for people to meet, network and share ideas on how we will be moving forward. A major goal of Democrats Abroad Mexico will be growing our membership base.
The attached toolkit was put together by two dedicated local Democrats Abroad SMA members to help all of us do the most we can, as easily and efficiently as we can, during these chaotic times. We think you will find the attached information helpful and informative in providing a road map to taking some meaningful action.
- get the contact information on your two senators and member of the House,
- pick three or four core issues that you feel are important and
- contact your representatives about them at least once a month, until things change.
How do I contact my legislators?
- Snail mail (currently, incoming letters are undergoing extensive scrutiny, so it might take up to six weeks to reach your legislator. Postcards get through faster.)
- Social Media - Facebook and Twitter in particular.
- Set up an in-person meeting with your legislators and/or their staff
- Introduce yourself. Immediately say that you are a constituent, give your name and where you’re from and, if you are calling on behalf of a particular organization, the name of the organization.
- Tell your legislator what you want - be specific! Include the bill number, bill name (if applicable), a one or two sentence summary, a few statistics for good measure, and discuss why the bill or issue is important to you.
- Make it personal! Do you have any stories about the issue at hand, or do you know people who do? Share those stories!
- Be sure to be concise. The reader will have limited time. As noted above, most contacts will simply be tallied as Opposed or In Favor.
- Thank your legislator for his/her time.
- Call the DC or District office, give the receptionist your name and ask to speak to the aide in charge of your issue.
- Provide the staffer with the information you would include in a letter:
How do I set up an in-person meeting with a staff person?
- Your congress people have several offices, both in DC and in your state. Staff in the state offices are more constituent-oriented; staff in DC are more focused on the legislator’s legislative agenda.
- Letters to the editor are great.
- Comments on websites. Most media outlets encourage readers to comment and the comments are appended at the bottom of the story. While sometimes those exchanges can get rude, it is a public space for discussion.
- Viral social media. Gaffs and outrages can spread throughout the world in minutes through Facebook and Twitter. For example, a Dairy Queen owner lost his franchise after a live recording of him insulting a black family went viral.
- Bumper stickers, buttons and tee shirts. Wear them and advertise your views.
- Public protests and demonstrations. Old school but still powerful.
"Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey's Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban. Here are my takeaways:
1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven't stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can't check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.
2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point [Note: I've heard that postcards are better because they can impound letters for five weeks to check for contaminants]. Regional offices are a much better mail destination because the compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.
3. Toomey's staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, "we have a democratic system and process. Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch."
4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.
5. Toomey's staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey's published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.
6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.
7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation. Staffers want to know.
8. Don't stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President."
From a friend:
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the cash influx due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of antidepressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today's Jon Stewart.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Trump has succeeded where thousands of history teachers failed - now everybody knows who Frederick Douglass was.
18. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
19. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
20. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
21. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
22. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
23. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
24. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
25. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.