Yes we can, and yes we should. With the US Presidential election barreling towards us, what to do? Get out the vote? Voter registration? Encourage early voting? Moan, groan, and bite our nails?
Brooklyn Brainstorming Session: This past week, over a series of three nights, a group of Park Slope, Brooklyn residents gathered for informal brainstorming sessions about what we might do about the 2016 election. The invitation billed the soiree as an effort to keep Trump at "moon's length" distance from the White House. A local Democratic campaign staffer joined one of the meetings. Full disclosure: I hosted it.
Here's the upshot: 15 great ideas for how anyone can volunteer and make a difference politically over the next weeks until Election Day. These "things to do" cover the gamut in terms of time commitment. They include spending just two hours a week making phone calls; getting the kids involved; showing up with signs and banners for Democrats at the upcoming Presidential debates, and -- going whole hog -- spending both time and money traveling to Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, or other swing states to campaign full-out.
OK, it is understood that not everybody loves Hillary Clinton. But given the alarming alternative, that's really beside the point, now.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Schedule time now to campaign in October and early November: Crunch time is all of October, and especially from Halloween until November 8th, Election Day. It's "Get Out the Vote" (GOTV) high season. That's when a lot of undecided voters are being contacted, and even committed Democrats are being asked by the campaign to specify how and when they'll get to the polls. (Visualizing the logistics of the day apparently increases the likelihood that a person will actually vote.) If possible, arrange now to take personal day away from work to help the campaign. Or a week. Block out the two weekends before the election to volunteer. All hands on deck!
2. Make Calls and Phonebank: Is it worth two hours of your time to avoid four years of Trump? I rest my case. Most major cities have a Clinton campaign office where you can volunteer to make structured calls. It's easy. There's a script. Just follow it. Or ...
3. Phonebank at Your Convenience, On Your Own, from Home: Sign up with the Democratic campaign to make calls at your own convenience. You can do it in your pjs, from your back yard, or while waiting for soccer practice to end.
4. Host a Campaign Party: Do you have room to host five, ten, or fifteen friends at home? Host a networking, GOTV, or -- if you have good cell reception and Wi-Fi --a telephone party. Make it fun and foody. Order in pizza, or after everyone makes their calls, serve cocktails. (For phonebanking, guests can bring a mobile phone and a charger, and the host can obtain an old-fashioned paper list of hundreds of people to call from the local Clinton campaign or Democratic Party. Better, guests can all bring a tablet or laptop and mobile phone, and log onto the Clinton website; the system generates names and numbers to call, and also scripts.)
5. Text, Email, and Call Contacts at Home and in "Battleground" States: Encourage your friends here, there, and everywhere, to get involved. Join MoveOn.org's text messaging campaign. It's modeled on Bernie Sanders' wildly successful grassroots effort. Make a list and get in touch with your contacts, especially those in battleground states like Florida and Ohio. Encourage people to vote, and to vote Democratic--and to get active in the campaign. (Because the contest is constantly shifting, check Politico and Real Clear Politics to see what states are in play now.)
6. Have a Brainstorming Party: Apathy, not Trump, may be our worst enemy. Get together a brainstorming party to discuss what your neighborhood or group can do.
7. Post on Social Media: Keep posting practical info: about bus trips, the hours of the phone banking sessions, petitions, and links for signing up. Post links to articles about how people can help (like this one and others.)
8. Join: If you have an issue of searing concern (and who doesn't?) then join with one of many issue-specific organizations working on the elections. For instance, United Against Hate , NAACP's StayWokeandVote campaign, Planned Parenthood Action and others.
9. Show Up at Campaign Events: Insiders call big rallies and campaign events "visibility events," as in, expect TV cameras there. Paint a sign. Check the websites of your favorite organizations and the Clinton campaign to learn about political events near you. Wear a funny hat. Show up. For instance ...
10. If You Live Near a Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate Site, Join the Cheering Democrats Outside: Wear campaign gear, wave your signs, and get psyched for the TV crews covering the debates, held in New York, Nevada, Missouri and Virginia. They are scheduled for Monday September 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead NY; Sunday October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and Wednesday October 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Vice Presidential debate is October 4 at Longwood University, Farmville, VA.
11. Volunteer to Campaign Out of State: If you live in a Democratic stronghold, ask your local Democratic Party or Clinton campaign if they sponsor transportation to the nearest swing state or contested area. From New York City, for instance, you can hop on a free one-day round-trip bus trip (Saturdays and Sundays) to Pennsylvania, leaving Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn at 9AM and returning at 7PM. While on the bus, a campaign organizer will describe the demographics of the target neighborhood, specific messages, hand out scripts, suggest "dos and don'ts", and answer questions. Bring comfy shoes, food, a satchel, water, and a pen. It's fun.
About Those Key Senate Races
Of course, Democrats want to retake the Senate, too. As a campaign volunteer, you may get more bang for your buck by working in a strongly contested state on both the Clinton campaign and key Senate races for such up-and-comers as Iowa's Patty Judge, Missouri's Jason Kander, Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto, New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan, North Carolina's Deborah Ross, and Pennsylvania's Katie McGinty, among others.
12. Travel to Campaign; Campaign if You're Traveling: Going to Vegas for a convention? Need to see family members in Pennsylvania? You can tag a few hours of volunteering onto a business or vacation trip. Or make the election the reason to travel. Find out about campaign-related events out of state. For insight into which county in a given state might best use your help, try calling that state's Democratic Committee . Or, just pick a campaign office, and drop in. But be sensitive to local norms, and take the advice of local activists, so your efforts don't backfire, as has sometimes happened.
13. Volunteer to Register Voters: National Voter Registration Day is September 27. You can volunteer then, or contact such groups as the League of Women Voters, Voto Latino, Headcount, or Rock the Vote to register voters in October and, in some cases, up until Election Day. See Vote411.org for state-specific voter registration requirements and deadlines.
14. Make it a Family Affair: Whether your children are eight or eighteen, their experience of a presidential campaign can be truly a teachable moment offering a firsthand lesson in democracy. Children and teenagers can help, too: distributing leaflets, making banners, and posting on social media.
15. Make a $ Contribution: Send a few bucks to the Clinton campaign or to Democratic candidates in important Senate races directly, or through such sites as Act Blue or others. Trump's grassroots fundraising has taken off. And, conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson has just directed $40 million to finance GOP candidates, aiming to keep a Republican-dominated Senate.
Don't let Trump steal your attention and time. Instead of wasting hours in horrified fascination, deploy that time and energy to help defeat him. Need motivation? My personal trick motivator is a note stuck on the fridge with two little words reminding me of just one of the big things at stake: Supreme Court.
Got ideas for how to create buzz to help the Democrats win on November 8th? Please share by posting here....