GRNS newsletter: forward to 2018

As you might expect, the number of events in the coming two weeks is smaller than normal. But things begin to heat up again by the second week of January and will continue to grow as we get closer and closer to the elections scheduled in 2018. Just to remind you:

  1. January 16: special elections in SD 10 and AD 58;
  2. February 20: primary for non-partisan offices including State Supreme Court Justice;
  3. April 3: election for non-partisan offices including State Supreme Court Justice
  4. August 14: primary for all partisan offices including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, assembly representatives, state senators, US congress representatives, and US senate;
  5. November 6: election for all partisan offices.

Mark your calendars now and plan ahead. If you won't be at home for any of those dates, make sure you vote by absentee ballot. Grassroots North Shore will be compiling information for offices at the county and state levels. Watch for an announcement about our election guide.

Another important date for your calendar is Sunday, January 28. We will be holding our annual meeting and dinner at 5pm at North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood). After a short business meeting to elect members of our steering committee, we will hear from Robert Kraig and a number of congressional candidates from our area. Dan Kohl is running against Glenn Grothman in the 6th CD; Tom Palzewicz is running against Jim Sensenbrenner in the 5th CD; Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers are vying to unseat Paul Ryan in the 1st CD. Several of these challengers will be attending. You won't want to miss a chance to meet them. You can RSVP on our website or on our Facebook page.

Because of my travel schedule, next week's newsletter will be later than usual. I'll try to get it out on 1/3 but I can't promise. If you are looking for events in our area, you can find them on the two calendars on our website. One lists the events that are recorded on the Milwaukee County Democratic Party calendar and the other events shared by grassroots groups in the MKE area.

And on a final note for this week's newsletter, and for 2017 as a whole, let me recommend an article in today's Washington Post describing the history of our inability to diffuse cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns from Russia. The well-sourced piece shows just how difficult it is for a society committed to democratic ideals, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, to counter the moves of an autocratic state actor. The obstacles to a robust defense began decades ago, according to the article. Even though many high level officials in the current administration seem to want to pursue more effective policies, the nature of the bureaucracy and the resistance of our commander in chief hobble our efforts. It's a fairly long piece but worth the time.

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Getting ready to fight

When I was a kid in that long ago time, this time of year would find me gathering with my sibs (good Jews though we were) and all the kids in our neighborhood to decorate their Christmas trees and prepare to go carolling. This year, I'm tentatively planning a different kind of gathering. As we head into the dregs of this anno horribilis, my husband and I are gearing up for a massive protest in case IQ45 (aka current White House Occupant aka *resident) manages to fire Mueller. You can do the same by visiting MoveOn.org and signing up to show up for NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAW—MUELLER FIRING RAPID RESPONSE. We're spending the holidays with family near DC, so that's where we'll be headed but there is a planned rally at the Federal Building in Milwaukee should it be needed. Here's how this plan is supposed to work:

Rallies will begin hours after news breaks of a Mueller firing:
  • If Mueller is fired BEFORE 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ 5 P.M. local time
  • If Mueller is fired AFTER 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ noon local time the following day
This is the general plan—please confirm details on your event page, as individual hosts may tailor their events to their local plan.

The Trump propaganda machine's increasingly hysterical response to the Mueller investigation should be seen a symptom of a much larger, and more disastrous, illness. In a stomach-churning assessment of where we are now, Matthew Yglesias at Vox has posted a must-read article: We’re witnessing the wholesale looting of America. And he's not just talking about the travesty of a tax bill the House votes on today. The heart of the matter, Yglesias points out, is what he calls "the new political dishonesty."

Politicians have never been renowned for their honesty and have always liked to spin their policies in the most positive light possible. But not only does Trump lie a lot more than his predecessors — a New York Times analysis found six times as many lies in Trump’s first 10 months in office as across Obama’s eight years — but the Trump-era GOP has grown terrifyingly comfortable with a kind of large-scale misrepresentation of what their legislation says that’s totally unprecedented. 

Speaker Paul Ryan’s official list of five policy highlights in the tax bill, for example, includes one point that is merely preserving the status quo on mortgage interest, and totally neglects to mention the corporate tax cut that is its centerpiece. 

Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bills ultimately didn’t pass, but they also had this characteristic. 

Reasonable people can disagree, for example, on whether it’s a good idea to cut Medicaid spending. But the GOP wrote a series of bills that entailed large cuts in Medicaid spending and then sent the secretary of health and human services out on television to say they weren’t proposing to cut Medicaid spending. 

Not every member of the party was as brazen as that. But Trump and Ryan have completely dissolved the norm against dishonesty to the point where there are no longer any whistleblowers in the Republican caucus or the world of conservative media. You just say whatever you want, and dole out favors to your friends — moving at such a rapid pace that the country’s ability to process what’s happening gets overwhelmed.

Republicans, Yglesias argues, are following the "looter-in-chief" as they erode the norms the rule of law actually depends on. Here's his conclusion:

It takes a lot more than Donald Trump to orchestrate the kind of feeding frenzy that’s currently playing out in Washington. Nothing about this would work if not for the fact that hundreds of Republican Party members of Congress wake up each morning and decide anew that they are indifferent to the myriad financial conflicts of interest in which Trump and his family are enmeshed. Moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump’s inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.... 

It would be trivially easy for congressional Republicans to force Trump to disclose his tax returns, but instead of holding his feet to the fire, they are taking their cues from him — even though many of them spent the 2016 campaign openly recognizing that he was unfit for office. 

Trump’s victory, rather than inspiring a bipartisan movement to check the new president’s worst impulses, caused the party to snap, with as many factions as possible reaching to toss a rock and grab what they can as long as the party lasts. 

The country is left only to hope that it doesn’t last too long.

We're not entirely powerless in the face of this breakdown, but our power is limited right now. Protesting with our feet and our signs can make a certain amount of sense in the case of dire events, such as a new Saturday Night Massacre. But the more hopeful view down the road is taking shape if you can renew a tiny bit of faith in the political prognosticators.

Fivethirtyeight.com has IQ45's approval rating 19.5 points under water. And in even better news, Dems are winning the race to control Congress by a whopping 11.4%. That aggregate of recent polls shows a yuuuuuge wave building.

I know I don't need to remind you, but I will anyway. That wave doesn't build itself. It takes people power at every level. And that means we are all relying on each other to pitch in and do everything we can to foster the growth of a tidal wave. So here's what I want for Hanukkah/Christmas: your name on our list of people willing to volunteer as the year of elections begins. There's a meaningful job to be done regardless of your skills and abilities. Make volunteering to ensure electoral victories up and down the entire ballot your New Year's resolution. It's easier to keep than dieting, believe me.

And on that note, two special announcements:

  1. On January 16, there will be a special election for the 58th Assembly District (just to the north and west of the GRNS territory). It's a longshot, of course, but Dennis Degenhardt could use a little of your time. Shirley Horowitz has organized phone banking on January 15 to get out the vote for him. If you're able to help out, contact Shirley. Phoners will meet at 5:00 at Stowells in Shorewood (4485 N. Oakland Avenue) and finish by 7:20; you do not need to bring a phone.

  2. Grassroots North Shore's annual meeting and dinner is scheduled for Sunday, January 28, at 5pm. Robert Kraig and congressional candidates for the 1st, 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts will be on hand to pump us up and show us how we're going to win the House in November. Mark you calendars. Or better yet, sign up on our website or our Facebook page.
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Seasons Greetings, y'all

So much news, so little time and attention to give. It's the season for holiday parties and a whole host of holiday greetings (Merry Christmas, among others). So it's painful to feel bombarded daily by unpleasant, distressing, and downright odious news. IQ45 (my new favorite sobriquet for that despicable man occupying the White House) is trying to tell the world that Senator Gillibrand offered sex — or something unsavory — for campaign contributions from him. Roy Moore may well become the next senator from the corrupt state of Alabama (seriously, the scandals pouring out of that state are eclipsing those from Illinois and New Jersey, if you can believe it). And the tax bill creeps forward with so many damaging provisions I've given up trying to name them all. (For an excellent piece on how the tax plan will lower living standards for most Americans, see Eduardo Porter's piece in the NYTimes.)

One urgent matter, though, ought to grab a few moments of your time and attention. Net neutrality is about to be destroyed. So today is the day that YOU need to register your opposition to that rule change. Net neutrality simply means that Comcast or Spectrum or ATT, your internest service provider (ISP), must treat information you seek — whether its a video you want to watch or a blog or news source you want to read or the Facebook page you want to visit — any differently than it treats any other source of data. So, no preferential speeds for some specific content providers and no blocking any legal content provider. An ISP can of course charge customers differential rates for different download speeds, but it must deliver all the information a customer chooses at the whatever speed that customer is paying for.

So what to do: write a comment to the FCC. And do it TODAY! Here's how.

  1. Write a brief comment in your standard word processor and save it. The comment can be as simple as "we need to preserve a level playing field for the internet. I oppose changing the current net neutrality rules."
  2. John Oliver has made getting to the right spot on the FCC's site dead simple. Go to GoFCCYourself.com and click on "New Filing." Fill in the form (ignore any fields that aren't relevant to you and use COMMENT for the "Type of Filing") and upload your saved comment.

The FCC will vote on this matter on Thursday, December 14. So there's not a moment to lose.

In some hopeful news, the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has accepted a second case on partisan gerrymandering, this one from Maryland. It's hopeful because, as Richard Pildes (noted authority on constitutional lawobserves:

Deciding to hear the Maryland case is a significant signal that a majority of the Court is not going to hold partisan gerrymandering claims to be non-justiciable (that is, inappropriate for judicial resolution). If the Court were moving in the Wisconsin case toward holding partisan gerrymandering to be non-justiciable, it would make little sense for the Court to do anything with the Maryland case except hold it, then send it back to the lower courts to dismiss on the grounds that the entire cause of action was non-justiciable. Hearing the Maryland case means the Court is quite unlikely to rule in WI that partisan gerrymandering claims should not be addressed by the courts.

Pildes's piece is written more for scholars of constitutional law than for the average person. For another, easier read on what the SCOTUS decision to hear the Maryland case means, consult Richard Hasan's op-ed in this morning's LATimes.com. One interesting interpretation of the SCOTUS decision has to do with Chief Justice Roberts's concern that the court will be accused of favoring Democrats if it decides for Whitford et al. in the Wisconsin case. The Maryland case, Benisek v Lamone, has been brought by Republicans and claims that the Democrats who control both the governorship and both houses of the state legislature used their power to draw congressional district lines so that Democrats would defeat a Republican in the MD 6th Congressional District. Hasan writes, "I could certainly see Roberts, who cares more than the average justice about the institutional legitimacy of the court, agreeing to vote with the majority [in striking down partisan gerrymandering in Gill v Whitford] only so long as he can also “prefer” Republicans at the same time, in Benisek. Deciding Gill and Benisek together would allow the court, in announcing a new partisan-gerrymandering rule, to say that sometimes the rule favors one party and sometimes it favors the other."

If you're at all interested in the argument over fair election maps, you should read the whole thing. Meanwhile, here is the menu of upcoming events you might want to know about. Oh, and Happy Hanukah!

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Getting Ready for a Big BLUE Flip

I've decided to begin this week's newsletter with a brief account of Outrageous Stuff. That segment is followed by a preview of our Grassroots North Shore plans for the coming elections. So you, dear reader, can choose your own topics and methods of resistance. Here goes.

Outrageous Stuff

  • Tax Reform: It isn't completely a done deal yet. Besides screaming expletives at the TV, you can call your representatives in Congress (here's the number for the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121). If you want to know what actions make a difference, try this article in Wired. Make your messages personal. If you want a sneak peek at how your own circumstances might change, try the NYTimes online.

  • Environment: Trump's move to shrink two National Monuments — Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears — has prompted Native Americans and environmental/conservation groups to begin filing lawsuits. Probably the most effective way to support these efforts will be to send money. I'll bring you information about where you can donate as soon as I can. 

    Meanwhile in Scottwalkerstan, Republicans have decided that our air is too pure and our water and wetlands too clean. So they are proposing to eliminate state regulations that go further than federal rules. For more information about the attack on wetlands, contact the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast WisconsinRebecca Kraters, 414-468-4243. A bill authored by Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum and Sen. Duey Stroebel of Saukville would repeal any state air pollution rules that go beyond federal regulations. Naturally, the American Petroleum Institute, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Paper Council are pushing the bill. Opposing groups include Clean WisconsinThe American Lung Association, the state Sierra Club chapter and the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

  • Alabama Special Election: Yesterday, IQ45 (aka "our *president") decided to expose himself (sort of) and forthrightly endorse for Senator from Alabama a man who is a known supporter of segregation and an alleged child molester. The Republican National Committee promptly reinstated its fundraising agreement with Moore (though apparently it is providing a mere $50k and no field staff to the campaign). As the Washington Post points out, "the underlying facts have not changed.... What changed is Trump’s mind." You can help by donating a few bucks, of course. Or call people you know in Alabama to get Jones supporters out to vote on Tuesday, Dec. 12. I don't know if there is any way to help by phoning from here, but I will find out and send a special email if it can be done. 

  • Mueller Investigation: This spreading garbage fire is taking up a lot of media time and attention. The latest turn reveals the Presidential Transition team's knowledge of Flynn's numerous calls to Sergey Kislyak in Dec. 2016. Those calls intended to influence Russia's position on a UN resolution and to urge Putin to refrain from retaliating against new sanctions the Obama administration was imposing. It seems that nearly everyone at the top of the organization was in the loop. See the NYTimes account. Now there's a raging debate about whether the Logan Act, the law prohibiting private citizens from negotiating policies with foreign governments, might be used to indict some of the folks clearly caught in the act. Stay tuned.

Grassroots North Shore's Action Plans for 2018

You're no doubt aware that Wisconsin will be holding FOUR elections in 2018:

  1. February 20: primary for nonpartisan races (Supreme Court, some Circuit Court positions, some local offices like Village Trustees and the like);
  2. April 3: nonpartisan general election;
  3. August 14: partisan primary, including Governor, Senator, US Representatives, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin Assembly, and a host of local offices;
  4. November 6: partisan general election.

In addition, there is a special election taking place in Assembly District 58 (in Washington County) on January 16. The seat is vacant and a strong progressive Democrat, Dennis Degenhardt, has stepped up to run. I don't need to remind you that elections are where resistance and actions pay off. Elections have consequences. All of them.

Virginia, New Jersey, and Oklahoma have been flipping seats from red to BLUE. Surely we can too! So here's a preview of what Grassroots North Shore will be working on, with your help and participation:

  • Phone banking support for Dennis Degenhardt;
  • Phone banking, canvassing, house parties and perhaps text messaging focused on three Assembly districts with wonderful Democrats running to defeat incumbent Republicans: Christine Rahlf running against Robert Brooks in the 60th; Emily Siegrist running against Jim Knodl in the 24th; Andy Lamb and perhaps one or more other Dems taking on Jim Ott in the 23rd.
  • Working with Supermarket Legends and the League of Women Voters to register voters and help with photo ID issues;
  • Organizing drives to put yard signs in strategic places to support the campaigns that will be our focus.
  • Supporting all the other races at the national, state and local levels to turn Wisconsin blue again!

You can be sure we will be contacting you, asking for participation in these actions, as the year rolls along. But we'd love you to sign up on our volunteer page now and indicate what activities most appeal to you.

And we're excited to be starting a Book Club to discuss topics that will provide us talking points to move our Community and our Country forward. We need to keep energized for the work ahead! This program is co-sponsored by Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Here is our first topic.

Concerned about skyrocketing inequality in the U.S.? Much of it comes down to the pervasive "neoliberal" economic and political agenda that is currently driving our country far to the right. But what is neoliberalism? Why is it hurting our families and communities? And how can we stop it? Please join us in a two hour book discussion focused on the book Runaway Inequality by Les Leopold and find answers to these questions and more! Sessions will begin in January. 

When will we meet and how can you sign up? Sessions will begin in January. We plan to hold multiple sessions to accommodate all who want to attend. After you RSVP we will contact you with a choice of dates and times (daytime, evening or Saturday morning will be available). The group will meet at the Grassroots North Shore Office, 5600 W. Brown Deer Road, Suite 116. Sessions will be small group discussions in a Book Club format and facilitated by a leader to get discussion started. We ask that you read Runaway Inequality in advance. It’s a fast and straightforward read. 

Open to all, so invite your friends - members and nonmembers are encouraged to attend! RSVP by January 5 by emailing Norma Gilson. Norma will send you a Doodle poll so you can pick your desired dates.
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Is outrage fatigue setting in?

I've been a little surprised by the lack of urgent calls to contact Congress to protest the so-called "tax reform bill" the Senate will presumably soon be asked to approve. The entire conceptual framework is egregious: it simply takes money from the poor and middle class and redistributes it to the wealthy. At the same time, it eliminates the individual mandate that is a central pillar of the Affordable Care Act. As a result, premiums will rise dramatically for all those who continue to purchase health insurance on the individual market AND an estimated 13 million more Americans will be uninsured. As a bonus, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be in the crosshairs for budget cuts when the debt balloons, as it inevitably will under the proposals now in play. So most of us stand to be big losers.

One of the best and clearest accounts of how middle-class families will fare is in today's New York Times Online. Even if you can't find the time to read the entire analysis, take five minutes to look at the first graph and accompanying explanation. Here are a few general findings:

  • Nearly everyone who takes the standard deduction gets a tax cut in 2018;
  • Families with children generally get a bigger tax cut;
  • People who pay a lot in state and local taxes could see big tax increases;
  • In 2027 the picture is more uncertain, but many middle-class households would face a tax increase.

Ezra Klein at Vox.com has an insightful analysis of the most serious problems with the entire approach Republicans are taking to the tax code. He focuses on issues conservative economists have reservations about, so it's not just liberal carping. Here are his key takeaways:

  • Start with how the bill is paid for. It isn’t.
  • The bill creates a health insurance crisis it has no idea how to solve.
  • The bill creates giant new loopholes for tax accountants to exploit.
  • The tax cliff means the bill either costs more than Republicans are admitting or does less than they are promising.
  • The bill supercharges inequality.

Call your Representatives and Senators. All of them. Even the Democrats.

Meanwhile, if the prospect of increasing inequality doesn't motivate you enough to get on the phone or flood congressional email inboxes, maybe the prospect of losing net neutrality on the Internet will get you going. The new chair of the Federal Communication Commission is preparing to rescind the rules that require online service providers to treat every content provider equally: no charging extra for preferential treatment, no blocking of specific sources, no "slow lanes" and "fast lanes." The threat is not just a matter of costs. Losing net neutrality is a loss of free speech and a free press. Here's a piece in Daily Kos that explains how the new rules can and will undoubtedly undermine democracy. Again, call Congress.

Finally, I want to call attention to a new program we're starting at Grassroots North Shore. Beginning with the book Runaway Inequality, we will be organizing small meetings of like-minded people who want to talk about important issues together, book-club style. Our first foray into this territory will take place in the next few weeks. We're offering a range of dates: Saturday, Dec. 9, Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wed., Dec. 20. So sign up by December 7 for a date and time that's convenient for you. Organizers will keep in touch to let you know whether there are enough people signed up for each date.

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Walker's losing hand

In case you missed it, the royal flush Walker and cronies thought they'd dealt themselves with the Foxconn con looks like it's closer to a pair of twos! When the deal was announced, various right-wing pundits proclaimed it a "huge win" for Walker and for Trump. Here's how Brandon Scholz, former state GOP director, described the deal: "Walk-off grand slam home run," according to the AP's Scott Bauer on July 26. Scholz "called the Foxconn news the pinnacle of Walker's time as governor and a fulfillment of what he's been promising to do. 'It's going to be tough for any of his prospective opponents to criticize him for not doing the things he's supposed to do as governor, for not improving the Wisconsin economy,' Scholz said. 'The one word response will be: Foxconn'" (Yahoo News). Many other pundits — David BlaskaGeorge Mitchell, and Christian Schneider, to name just a few — echoed the prediction.

But a week ago, when he announced his intention to run for a third term, Walker made no mention of the deal. So what happened? One Wisconsin Now explains:

Recent public opinion polling has found widespread opposition to the Foxconn deal and deep suspicion about Gov. Walker’s political motivations in concocting the corporate giveaway. A survey of 1,116 registered Wisconsin voters conducted by Public Policy Polling on October 16 and 17 found a 49 percent plurality agreed the deal was “mainly to help him win re-election next year.” 

Respondents also expressed trepidation about specific provisions of the deal. By a 55-24 percent margin Wisconsinites were concerned the billions going to Foxconn will require cuts to other priorities like public schools, health care and roads. Special exemptions from environmental protections and limits on the authority of judges in litigation involving Foxconn were also opposed by 57 and 54 percent of respondents respectively.

So a dead cert might be a dead horse after all. And we can ease the horse out of its misery sooner than you might think. There's a special election happening in Assembly District 58 in January 2018. It's a deep red swath of Wisconsin, covering West Bend, Slinger, Hartford, and a lot of rural areas in between. But the Dems are fielding a candidate! Stay tuned for news on how to help get Dennis Degenhardt elected.

The recent elections in Virginia should have taught us a much-needed lesson: Democrats can win when we seriously contest EVERY seat. And we lose when we just shrug and tell ourselves it's a lost cause anyway. This special election is an opportunity to try out some new strategies and to hone some new messages. So I hope that when Grassroots North Shore organizes some ways to support the candidate (shortly after Thanksgiving, I'm sure), we can count on every one of you to pitch in however you can.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on. I've included two full weeks of events in today's list. You'll notice that there's lots of action, right through the holiday week. I especially want to draw your attention to the November 20 meeting of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party (being held at J&B's Blue Ribbon Bar and Grill, 5230 W. Bluemound Rd.). The county party is electing new officers and I am humbly running to be Vice Chair. If you're a dues-paying member of the party, I humbly ask for your support.

And a final note: the newsletter will be taking a holiday break next week but will return on the Tuesday following the festivities. In the interim, you can find all the local events on our website.

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Getting a jump on what's ahead

We've marched; we've sung solidarity songs; we've petitioned; we've called; we've sent postcards, letters and emails; we've posted, shared and tweeted. All good. All necessary. But not enough. Speaking up and speaking out call attention to issues, make resistance visible and audible, even keep terrible legislation (like repealing the Affordable Care Act) at bay. But the time for positive work is upon us. We can't stop all the things we've been doing to resist what is happening in Congress, in the Trump administration, in our WI legislature and the Walker administration. As they say, "keep those cards and letters coming." But now we have to start to dig deeper, to commit to the work that wins elections so that we can create positive change. Resist, persist, and assist!

The trends nationwide are encouraging — we should be cautiously optimistic.

Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional majorities, at least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest FEC data. That’s about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections, and it’s more than twice as many as Republicans had running at this point eight years ago, on the eve of capturing the House in the 2010 wave election. (Politico, 10/23/17 )

On the national scene right now, there are two key races to watch: Northam v. Gillespie for VA governor and Jones v. Moore for US Senate from Alabama. The Virginia election will take place on November 7. You can help Northam defeat Gillespie, who has been running a very nasty racist and nativist campaign to try to capitalize on Trump's slimy coat-talls. The MKE Dems are holding a phone bank on the eve of the election at the party's office, 2999 S. Delaware Ave, on Monday, November 6, from 6-8pm. Bring a cell phone and an laptop. Make a difference.

The Alabama special election will take place on December 12. Alabama hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years. So this one still seems like a very long shot. Yet, the polls are tight, giving Dems some cheer. Right now, the focus is raising money. If you can spare a few dimes, you could do worse. After all, if the GOP loses three votes on any piece of legislation — like their proposed tax cuts — their bill is defeated. A Jones win would reduce that number to two and would also increase the chance that Democrats could win back the senate in 2018!

But closer to home we have real opportunities to contest GOP dominance in the state legislature. On the North Shore, we have two outstanding and courageous Dems ready to fight in Assembly Districts 24 (Dan Knodl) and 60 (Robert Brooks). And we know there will be a strong Dem to try to drum Jim Ott out of his seat in AD 23. With the election just over a year away, now is the time to start reaching out to voters, especially those who do not always vote in off-year elections. Grassroots North Shore is participating in an early canvassing technique — holding bridge-building conversations with people who tend to vote for Democrats or who are genuinely independent (truly a shrinking share of the electorate but still worth trying to reach). The effort is not geared toward persuasion, yet, but is instead focused on genuinely listenting to citizens' concerns. The information we gather will then help candidates hone their messages and prepare responses to the kinds of questions they are likely to face once the real campaign is under way. If you'd like to participate, we're holding the first event this Saturday, October 28, beginning at 11am. (We're providing lunch!). Just sign up. If you can't do this weekend but are interested in participating in the future, just let us know.

In the coming weeks, I will be covering the state of some upcoming campaigns for Congress in the 2nd, 6th, and 8th Congressional Districts plus the race for State Attorney General. We have at least 10 current candidates vying to be the nominee for governor. So I'll also try to help you learn about all of them (without asking you for money).

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I'm late, I'm late...

This week's newsletter is a couple of days later than usual. Life does sometimes get in the way. But there are of course a wide variety of worthy events happening in the next couple weeks, so I hope you'll scan the list and find a few to engage with.

For your weekly schadenfreude, you might want to read about a speech on liberty and democracy former President George W. Bush gave today as a part of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative. (I almost miss him. Don't you?) Without mentioning his name, Bush barreled into sPOTUS for his bigotry, for his blatant lies and participation in conspiracy theories, and his undermining of trust in vital American institutions like the free press and our independent judiciary. You can read about it at The Hill. Enjoy.

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On being down so long

On a day when lives are in jeopardy in the northern California fires, the Trump administration has begun the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports: "In recent decades, fire seasons have grown longer, more frequent and more destructive, something scientists attribute in part to increased dryness caused by climate change. (Scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University wrote in one study published last year that climate change had caused more than half of the dryness of Western forests since 1979.)"

Puerto Rico remains in desperate shape, still largely without power and clean water. FEMA declares that it is not responsible for delivering food and waterVox explains that a key clue to the effects of climate change in Harvey, Irma, and Maria is the amount of rain each mega-storm generated. The hurricane season isn't over yet.

Women's health and freedom are under constant assault. The Trump administration has so weakened the requirement that health insurance plans cover contraceptive care without co-pays or co-insurance fees that any employer can ignore the requirement with impunity. And the US House has passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. Conventional wisdom has it that the bill can't pass the senate. Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood needs our support. Consider attending one of the organization's Be Visible events.

Our state, our country and our planet are all showing signs of extreme stress while the man who is unfit to be president pursues his feuds with Senator Corker and the NFL. The daily news is both terrifying and overwhelming. Although no one of us can do everything, every one of us can do something to help change the power structure. If you're looking around for a way to engage, get in touch with us at Grassroots North Shore. Our outreach committee can get you connected to one or more organizations that focus on an issue you would like to work on. Our organization also has several working committees that could use your help.

Notes from the Chair

In the past year one of our goals has been lend support to other groups. As such, we want to update you on two actions:

Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) 
Last week some of us attended a letter writing session at their office. It was so simple, clear, and efficient that we are duplicating it at our office on Thursday, October 12, 2017 from noon – 1 PM. We will provide everything you need so please sign up on our site

Voces de la Frontera Gala on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Harley Davidson Museum. We have completed work on soliciting items and creating baskets for the group’s Silent Auction. Special Thanks to Ann Winchel and her team: Rosalie Tocco, Joan Baumgartner, and John Grove. 

If you would like to personally support the group, please consider attending the Gala yourself. You can find ticket information on their site.

 

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Can we reclaim our voices?

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Grassroots North Shore was a key part of a coalition of WI organizations sponsoring a rally for the plaintiffs in the Whitford case that was argued this morning at the US Supreme Court. The turnout was terrific — more than 150 people, some from far away, attended to hear local leaders and two of the plaintiffs talk about the case and what it could mean for all voters, regardless of party, going forward. If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube.

No doubt there will be plenty of press accounts of this morning's proceedings at the Supreme Court and some pundits may try to predict an outcome based on the questions justices asked. Just take them with the usual dollop of skepticism. The lawyers arguing that our current electoral maps are unconstitutional made a strong case and the justices were listening. It may be months now before we know the outcome but we are hopeful.

Still, hope is not a plan. And we still have work to do on this issue. Right now, there is a bill to take the process of drawing electoral maps out of the hands of the politicians and turn the responsibility over to a nonpartisan body. But the bill (SB13 and AB44) is bottled up because the chairs of the committees in each chamber have refused to hold public hearings. So, if you have a little energy left from grieving for those who have died or been injured in the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas or from extending whatever help you can to those people and areas devasted by terrifying hurricanes, pick up the phone and call Sen. LeMahieu (608-266-2056) and Rep. Bernier (608-266-9172 or 888-534-0068) to tell them that you want them to hold hearings and vote the bill out of committee.

I've been so deeply concerned about the role gerrymandering is playing in our state and national politics because I see it as one part of a pair of existential threats to democracy: the tsunami of money from the super-rich and the rigging of electoral maps join together to make the will of the people irrelevant. We see it in issue after issue: environmental policy, tax policy, and most vitally at this moment gun safety policy. In 2014, social scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page published an important study showing that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence." In an accessible article in the Washington Post online, the two researchers discussed their conclusions and rebutted critiques. I highly recommend it.

Although American's attitudes towards gun safety are pretty complex, it's clear that a large majority of us believe in universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons of the sort used in the latest carnage. Just one year ago, the Gallop organization summed up public opinion research this way:

Almost any proposal we put in front of the American people relating to background checks gets overwhelming support. A majority of Americans favor stricter laws on gun sales in general. Americans who are dissatisfied with gun laws favor more restrictions. Most recently, new Gallup research conducted since the mass shooting in Orlando underscores these attitudes. Americans overwhelmingly say that banning gun sales to individuals on terrorist watch lists would be effective in preventing incidents such as Orlando. A majority, albeit a smaller percentage, also say that restricting the sale of assault weapons would be effective in preventing mass shootings.

So why do state legislatures and the US Congress pay no attention to the majority's views and instead continually loosen regulations on fire arms? You just have to ask "qui bono" (who benefits). The NRA's power flows from its donations to political parties and candidates. The NRA, which is effectively a front not for individual gun owners but for gun industries, supports partisan gerrymandering when it advantages Republicans who will vote for deregulating access to increasingly potent fire arms. When that's where the money is, that's where the power lies. But it's hard to see how we can loosen the grip of money in politics unless we can unrig the maps both through legal challenges like the one citizens of Wisconsin brought to the Supreme Court this morning and through enormous public pressure to persuade legislators to change redistricting laws. If we fail to regain even a semblance of majority rule, we the people will simply be shouting in the wind.

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