This past Saturday morning felt a lot like November 9, 2016, with one major exception…
In 2016, the sight of my then six-month-old son wriggling around in his “We Can Do It” onesie was the shot of courage I desperately needed. Despite what felt like a broken heart, I was hopeful that our democratic institutions were strong enough to withstand the anti-democratic, anti-fact approach of Donald Trump.
That hope has sustained a thousand cuts since, and a final, fatal one with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last Friday. I faced my son, now four, and my daughter, one, the next morning sleepless with grief, anger and deep fear. Our institutions won’t save us. We have to save us.
Three ways we must do that: vote, volunteer and donate. For the next 40 days, the below are the actions we can take to channel that grief and anger and fear and honor RBG’s legacy. For Justice Ginsburg, for our sons and daughters, for our country.
I am a daughter of an immigrant, a sister, a wife, a mother, a nonprofit staff member and a former public servant. I am a D.C. voter without a representative — I don’t have a Senator or a Congressperson to call. So, I’m calling you. The below comprise recommendations from me — not any campaign.
1. First and foremost, make sure you’re registered to vote.
2. Make a plan to vote. You can figure out what your state/jurisdiction allows (in-person, mail-in ballot), registration deadlines, and if you can vote early in person here. If you’re voting by mail: send it back as quickly as you can.
3. Especially important in swing states (hi Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Virginia), talk to your friends and family and tell them why YOU are voting for Vice President Biden and Senator Harris. You can read more about Joe Biden’s plans here.
Protect the Vote
1. Sign up to be a poll worker. Because COVID most severely affects those who disproportionately volunteer as poll workers (IE people aged 65+), America is about 250k poll workers short. You will be provided PPE and training, and in some places, even get paid for your time.
2. Help register other people to vote.
3. Stay up to date. You can sign up for Team Joe Biden and you can join Women for Biden. Either way, you’ll get access to trainings, join weekly phone banks, and other opportunities to dig in and help.
1. Write letters to potential voters. You’d be surprised at how effective this is — and how cathartic it feels.
2. Sign up to phone bank. Get trained here. Yes, phone banking might be the most frightening thing you can do (besides door knocking!). It’s also still the most effective. It’s easier if you do it with friends. You can sign up for the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris national effort here. You can join a weekly Women for Biden effort here. If you speak Spanish, you can join a weekly Saturday effort here. Make calls to battleground states on your own time here. There are lots of option — join one.
3. Sign up to text bank. Get trained here.
Other Ways to Engage
1. Mobilize.us lists many region-specific options to volunteer for local and national campaigns. Make a plan to check it out weekly.
2. Vote Save America is another compendium of volunteer efforts, especially focused on battleground states, with options to target your efforts at specifically one state — even if you don’t live there.
3. Moms Demand Action started as an organization for gun sense, and is focused on keeping all families safe. Join your local chapter and phone bank with them.
4. Own, lead, or run a business? Check out Leadership Now Project for five ways you can protect democracy.
5. Call your Senator (either directly or at the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and demand that the next President choose the next Supreme Court Justice. (You can find out who your Senator is here.) This may sound scary – it isn’t. Interns answer the phone (I was one of them once!) and keep track of how many people call on which issue(s). Supreme Court Justice is a lifetime appointment – it should reflect majority, not minority rule. This is especially important for those of you living in Alaska (Senators Murkowski and Sullivan), Maine (Senator Collins), Nebraska (Senator Sasse), South Carolina (Senator Scott) and Utah (Senator Romney) – constituent or those with significant ties to the community (for example, owning a business there) are the calls that matter.
1. Donate to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s campaign. He (or she) may have been your number one candidate right from the start; s/he may have not been. It doesn’t matter. This election isn’t just important for the next four years. Without hyperbole, this election will decide who we are as Americans — and what we become as a country.
2. Donate to important Senate races. Democrats need a net gain of four seats to flip the Senate.
a) You can donate in one place to the top 12 Senate races here.
b) Adopt one (or more) Senate races. A few candidates I’m excited about/have donated to individually:
Maine – Sara Gideon, current speaker of the Maine House, to replace Susan Collins, who gave us Brett Kavanaugh.
Arizona – Mark Kelly – husband of Gabby Giffords, astronaut, running in a special election – which will be all the more critical if McConnell tries to ram Trump’s Supreme Court pick through.
South Carolina – Jaime Harrison – to defeat Lindsey Graham, Trump’s ultimate enabler.
Montana – Steve Bullock – to defeat Steve Daines, who’s campaigning on health care…after consistently voting against affordable health care and coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Alabama – Doug Jones – Jones literally prosecuted the KKK and is the most vulnerable Democrat in this election cycle.
Mississippi – Mike Espy would be the first Black Senator for Mississippi since Reconstruction, and polling within striking distance.
North Carolina – Cal Cunningham – Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and local leader in ending gun violence in schools and the opioid crisis.
Other important races to donate to: Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia (TWO SEATS), Texas, Kansas and Colorado.
3. Don’t forget about the House. This has been our only method of accountability for the last two years. We have to keep it.
4. Invest in hyper-local races. Investing in incredibly tight state legislatures in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Kansas could help end gerrymandering for the decade to come — these are incredibly high-impact races where small dollars could make a huge difference.
Again, the three most important things we can do are vote, volunteer and donate. No matter what you do, my deepest hope is that this helps you take action. Protect RBG’s legacy, which goes so, so much further than Roe v. Wade. Ensure our daughters — and sons — grow up with the same rights we have now. And if you found this helpful, please pass it on and help others take action, especially if you’re in a battleground state. We must prevail.
Varina Winder is a writer and policy advisor based in Washington, D.C. She has worked on issues of gender equality throughout her career, currently with a nonprofit organization and previously as a civil servant at the U.S. Department of State.
(Photo by Sebastian Kim via The New Yorker.)