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.
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 Wisconsin: Rebecca 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 Wisconsin, The 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:
- February 20: primary for nonpartisan races (Supreme Court, some Circuit Court positions, some local offices like Village Trustees and the like);
- April 3: nonpartisan general election;
- August 14: partisan primary, including Governor, Senator, US Representatives, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin Assembly, and a host of local offices;
- 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.Read more
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.
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.Read more
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 Blaska, George 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.Read more
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).Read more
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.Read more
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 water. Vox 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.
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.Read more
What we collectively don't know or misunderstand about how our personal participation in our representative democracy works simply astonishes me. I was chatting with a couple of people helping with the fundraising event we held last week and learned that people living in River Hills think their village needs saving. From what? From the construction of a luxury apartment building, apparently. This is double hearsay but one of the people I was talking with told me that one resident said she objected to the project because she didn't think it fair that someone who was going to pay only $2000 in property taxes would have the same vote as others, including herself, who were paying 10 times that amount. I have to say I was shocked to hear that anyone thinks votes are or ought to be apportioned by wealth! A community is not a corporation with shareholders allotted votes by the number of shares they own, for pete's sake!
But in truth, our system of self-governance has some pretty strange features. Michelle Goldberg, in her debut op-ed in the New York Times looks as some of the many ways we seem to be living under a "tyranny of the minority." As she points out, this problem is structural, built into the very design of our constitution. And it will take a heap of heavy lifting to make structural changes that could make a difference.
So, getting rid of partisan AND racial gerrymandering will go only so far to bring greater balance and fairness to our elections and to our elective bodies. Still, I hope you will find the time to attend the rally Grassroots North Shore is co-sponsoring with an illustrious coalition of groups working on good governance issues. The first step toward greater balance and fairness has to be getting rid of partisan control of electoral maps. Working to overturn Citizens United and the Electoral College won't be effective until we get past the first structural hurdle. Please join me and our leadership on Sunday, Oct. 1, from 5-7pm (we're serving dinner!) at Plymouth Church (2717 E. Hampshire St., Milwaukee) for a send-off rally for the upstanding Wisconsin citizens who have brought this landmark lawsuit. A great turnout not only tells the plaintiffs that their fellow citizens support their efforts; it also tells the media and the wider public that this issue is important for everyone. RSVP.Read more
I'm currently a white woman, though I might not always have passed for one. Because I am Jewish. People of "my tribe" have been excluded from "whiteness" in the past. And perhaps are again by those who identify themselves with the alt-right (aka, neo-nazis and other racial, religious, and ethnic hate-mongers). So as Jews begin the High Holidays tomorrow at sundown, I am writing this from a precarious position of privilege. But precarious or not, I need to own it, to reflect on it, and to act to change it. I hope you'll bear with me for a brief look at what white America has wrought.
Ta-Nehesi Coates argues, in a much discussed essay in this month's Atlantic, that Donald Trump is America's first white president. Of course, all the others save one, he acknowledges, were also white. But Trump has a special distinction: "Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness.... Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president."
We've continued to argue passionately about who elected this white man, this bigot and misogynist, this ignoramus with zero qualifications and even less aptitude for leadership or wisdom. One favorite narrative lights on the plight of the white working class. And there is certainly a problem there. But as Coates so eloquently points out, both in his essay in the Atlantic and in an even clearer and more concise way in an interview with Chris Hayes, we're focusing on the wrong adjective in the analysis. Though they suffer exactly the same economic stresses (indeed often even greater ones) and share the same effects of economic displacement, working men and women of color DID NOT vote for Trump. The interview with Hayes is worth watching in full (about 10 minutes all told) but the link takes you directly to the place where he states most forthrightly that the population of voters who put Trump in the White House share one overwhelming characteristic: they consider themselves to be white. He outlines the data this way:
When white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant.
In her much discussed book The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, political scientist Katherine Cramer locates voters' discontent in the disconnect between rural and urban worlds. She says very little about racial resentment, focusing instead on rural citizens' perceived lack of power and resources (those goodies flow to the larger cities of Madison and Milwaukee) and their perceived lack of respect from the elites in power. No doubt her research has some explanatory power but the data from the last election shows that the majority of urban whites, including the majority of those very elites (see college-educated whites) who presumably do not respect rural folk, also voted for Trump.
So, we have a problem. White people, through no fault of our own, understand the world through the frame (way of seeing) into which we have been born. And our framing is inevitably filtered through a pervasive whiteness we cannot see directly. In "Peering Through White-Rimmed Glasses: A Letter to My Fellow White Americans," my sister Fran Kaplan observes: "Over our lifetimes, we humans develop a frame of reference – a particular way of seeing the world. Our habits of seeing are based on the cultural norms we learn at our parents’ knees, at school and work, from the media, and in the social circles where we spend the most time. Our personal frames shape how we behave, but they tend to operate outside of our awareness, without our having to think about them." If you are a white American, you operate in a largely invisible "white racial frame." Notice that it is not a RACIST frame. It's just a white way of seeing and knowing the world. We glimpse it most directly during moments of high national drama: when Rodney King is beaten half to death and some people riot; when the OJ Simpson trial produces a shock of recognition that black and white citizens don't see the world the same way; when Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown and Eric Gardner and Dontre Hamilton and all the other innocent people are killed for no reason and with no consequences for the killers and people take to the streets to protest. During those moments it's easy to see that the world really is different for people of color. But it's hard to keep that insight operative in our day-to-day concerns.
Jamele Hill, sports analyst for ESPN, calls Donald Trump a racist. His press secretary urges her employer to fire her (and many people concur!). But Trump can say “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” He's elected president for all that.
If we read the data right, our still majority-white country has a problem. "A new Reuters/Ipsos poll ... finds that while there is relatively little national endorsement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, there are troubling levels of support for certain racially-charged ideas and attitudes frequently expressed by extremist groups" (New Poll: Some Americans Express Troubling Racial Attitudes Even as Majority Oppose White Supremacists, University of Virginia Center for Politics, Sept. 14, 2017). Have your eyes opened to the extent of the problem: read the entire analysis of the survey.
As progressives and the Democratic Party wrestle with our future direction, I want to make my own position clear. This is no time to ignore identity politics. As Coates reminds us, whiteness is also an identity in the political sense. Unlike black or LGBTQ or female identity, it does not have to be named or overtly recognized to be powerful. Coates ends with this insight:
It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.
I long for a satisfactory understanding of how to tackle this problem -- head-on, effectively, and immediately. The only thing I know for sure is that acknowledging that we (white people) have a systemic problem is an essential, first tiny step toward revising the frame.
The Obamacare repeal nightmare is haunting us again. I know you know what to do. If you don't, look for information about direct action from organizations like CItizen Action.
Help Grassroots North Shore prosper: come to our annual fundraiser "Laugh 'Til it Dursts" on Thursday, September 21, from 7-9pm at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. Additional donations gratefully received. RSVP and get your tickets online.
As you complete a flight segment on any major US airline, the crew thank you for choosing that company. The usual pitch is something like "we know you have many choices...." It's not just true for airlines: it's also true for whatever money you can spare to support progressive causes and organizations. At Grassroots North Shore, we are well aware that the number of organizations proffering a digital tin cup is large and growing. So we are delighted and honored when the recipients of our weekly newsletter and attendees at our educational programs and our volunteers during each election season donate to us.
But the truth is, we simply cannot do what we do, with you and for you, without a bit of money. I won't bore you with a complete financial report but I can tell you we're a very lean organization. With a steering committee of 15 dedicated volunteers and an advisory committee of another eight to ten people, we reach over 2500 people each week with our newsletter. We organize speakers and educational programs 10-12 times throughout the year. We recruit volunteers for the whole range of campaign activities for primary elections AND general elections. And did I mention we have no paid staff?
We do it out of a passion for progressive causes and a love of our communities, our state and our country. Here's the bottom line: if everyone who is reading this email buys a $25 or $50 ticket to come laugh with Will Durst (Thursday, September 21, from 7-9pm (Bayshore Lutheran Church, 1200 E Hampton, Whitefish Bay), we will reach our fundraising goal for the year. We will also feed you your just desserts!
OR, if you cannot attend, just what you can and forward your ticket to Eilene Stevens who will give it to someone who could otherwise not afford to come.