San Francisco, California

Fighting with a Smile

The next 53 days are the most important of our lives. For the pandemic, for civil rights, for ending the fillibuster and fighting the climate crisis, for sane gun control, for providing universal health care to everyone, for tax reform, and for so many other vital issues. However, the only way we can tackle these problems is if we flip the ballot; from the White House all the way down to the rural Senate races across the country.

And to do that we need to avoid cynicism like hell.

Maciej Cegłowski had a great piece about how to give money to political campaigns the other day, where he writes:

If you think the most important goal in 2020 is to put Biden and Harris in the White House, then limit your giving to the dozen states where that election will be decided: Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio and the second districts of Nebraska and Maine (where the electoral vote is split). Treat events in the remaining states as political theater designed for media consumption in the swing states. You don’t have to like this system, but recognize that it’s a political fact of life until we elect people to change it.

Maciej runs The Great Slate which is an effort to flip the Senate in 2020 by giving money to rural campaigns that don’t get much attention. Maciej continues:

Why fund these House races to win the Senate? Because Senate campaigns are saturated with money, and can't usefully spend more! They're also not allowed to give it to other campaigns.

Meanwhile, rural House candidates can run a complementary strategy: doing small-scale voter outreach, campaigning on local issues that cut across party lines, and building on field and campaign infrastructure built in 2018.

Every donation means less time on the phones for these candidates, and more time campaigning. In a year when we can't take any votes for granted, they will be doing the hardest work—persuading voters, one at a time, that real change can happen in America, and that rural communities are not going to be left behind.

This sort of optimism is extremely rare. And before our own natural political cynicism kicks in—yes, I get it, 2020 is a lot. But this year is not a randomly bad year for us all. This isn’t bad luck.

2020 is what we get when the whole country is forced to reconcile a debt it’s ignored. The orange-black smoke that descended this week on the Bay Area and the fires happening everywhere across the West, to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the pandemic still raging in our cities. This is the result of years of cruelty—cruelty stacked on top of cruelty—that is biting us in the ass today.

So 2020 is not just a bad year, it’s the failure of many days. And within the next 53 we get to fix that, if we’re smart.

The damage will take the rest of our lives to undo, yes. Cynicism is likely to kick in again during the moments where we most need quiet heroism and faith in political change. But we don’t have any more time to lament this year, we don’t have the resources to say “fuck 2020” or sigh that “this year is an eternity” or “wow this is the darkest timeline.” Because in these next 53 days we get to turn this ship around. We get to skip, hop, and jump into the right goddamn timeline.

We just have to hold onto that cautious child-like optimism and vote like our lives depend on it. Because they really do.

Sadly this year I can’t vote, I can’t even donate because I don’t have a green card. The only thing I can do is blog my ass off about this. But one thing I do know is that if you’re thinking about making a donation it’s smart to do that today because it’ll give these campaigns a massive strategic advantage. They can plan their ad spending and how they communicate with folks still on the fence. And some random Senate race in some random state might not sound important but if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught is it’s that everything matters. Every name on the ballot, every race, every time we turn up.

And panic donating four days before the election will help no-one.

So! We need optimism. We need to donate. And then we need to vote. Because there’s eight weekends left to save the world. I know that sounds dumb and extremist because we’ve been told that the two parties are the same and that politics is broken—but!—that’s the cynicism we need to avoid if we want to fix things.

We can only win with each gruelling, hard-earned vote at a time. And we must fight for every single one of them. But we can do that with a smile, with a boundless optimism because we know that this is the right moment, the right cause, for the right people.

53 days of optimism. Of hope. That’s what we need; to fight with a smile.