This ribbon represents hundreds of people’s time, sweat and tears poured into fighting for our democracy. It was cut yesterday to open the #2020VolunteerCenter – the culmination of more than three years of work, and the place we are going to do the unprecedented amount of work it will take the to #FlipTheSenate, defend the House, take back the White House, and flip state legislatures blue. The opening of the center by Indivisible Yolo and Sister District – CA-3 represents the start of a new phase in which we are going to be able to do more than we have ever done, and made me reflect on parts of that time since November 8, 2016.
After the 2016 election, many of us were in despair, fearful of what the next few years would bring, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities. I had watched the election returns in my home with my neighbors, and as the outcome became clear, I held my friend Beth on the couch while we both cried.
That Thursday, I went to Intercambio, a Spanish-English language exchange group for parents at my kids’ school, where people practiced their rudimentary Spanish and English skills with each other. It was normally a bright spot in my week. People who sometimes could barely get through a sentence in each other’s language, learning from each other, laughing, drawing crayon pictures of our childhood memories to share in Spanglish, or in mime if necessary, and playing icebreaker type games that felt so much more fun and organic that when your boss is forcing you to do them.
That week, however, we never got past the regular introduction time as we went around the circle and talked about how we were feeling. I remember my friend Fernanda talking about the social paranoia she was feeling, how she didn’t know who around her might harbor hateful feelings toward her. I spoke of my deep sense of guilt that by only voting, I hadn’t done enough to work for a different outcome. I don’t know the documentation status of everyone there, but I am sure that there were even more serious fears and anxieties that were not shared. Regardless, we more than filled that 90 minutes sharing, listening, crying and supporting each other.
Many times that morning I heard my thoughts coming out of Rachel Beck’s mouth as she sat across the circle from me. We both needed to do more, to channel what we were feeling into practical work that so that next time, in 2020, things would be different. Over the next weeks, Rachel and I cast about for a way to contribute that would change the direction we feared we were headed. We were lucky to find a group of women similarly searching and we started to meeting weekly at the Village Homes common room to figure out together what we were going to do.
That group was a lifeline. Sitting and drinking wine with smart, motivated women who were looking to make change and were actually figuring out how to do it was what got me through those months. It was powerful, and it made a difference, and not just for me: although it was originally intended as a single entity to do the work, it ended up serving as the incubator for not just Indivisible Yolo, but also Sister District, Safe Yolo and other efforts.
There was talk of Swing Left, Sister District, Love Army, Indivisible, other nascent national groups, and local issues. Rachel and I were drawn to the Indivisible Guide and its advice for leveraging constituent power because it laid out what to do and how so clearly, and came from people with experience inside legislative offices who knew which pressure points to target. Kelly Wilkerson and Meghan Miller loved Sister District’s strategy of using surplus Democratic volunteer energy to help in Republican held districts. Anoosh Jorjorian liked Van Jones’ Love Army and also wanted to work to keep local people safe.
It was clear that we weren’t going to settle on a single direction for quite some time, and with a sense of urgency and a conviction that the Indivisible Guide had to be put into practice and we had no time to lose, I set up a Facebook page, an email account, and started tweeting in the royal we as Indivisible Yolo. I overcame my introverted tendencies and talked to everyone I knew, and lots of people I didn’t, about Indivisible. I friended as many people as I could on Facebook so I could get the word out. I knew I couldn’t be alone in my feelings and that if I provided a nucleus for people to crystallize around, they would come.
That’s exactly what happened. Soon, the royal we was an actual we as people started showing up to meetings. Rachel and I talked between Intercambio meetings, parent meetings, and other school events. Our schedules lined up such that we were often in the same place at the same time, which allowed us to plan meetings and protests, vent and prioritize, and organize Indivisible Yolo in those interstices.
In parallel, Kelly Wilkerson was forming Sister District CA-3 with Meghan and others; she hosted a weekly action group in her home, which she has continued in all the time since; she was inspiring volunteers and building community. We still continued meeting weekly in Village Homes, sharing ideas and updates, giving feedback, and checking in each other. Eventually we tapered to once a month and then stopped meeting as we immersed ourselves in other work, but I still treasure not just Rachel, Kelly and Meghan, but all the women I met there. They continue to impress me with their passion, commitment, and capability.
Those of us in Indivisible Yolo took what we learned in the Indivisible Guide and we started applying it, in the fight for our healthcare, against the Muslim ban, in support of a kid locked up locally in spite of being granted asylum, and more. We showed up at the offices of our members of Congress, we held protests and vigils, we got media attention, and we held our elected officials accountable. That work continues and has expanded to include our state legislators.
The summer of 2017, I took a huge step back, primarily for mental health reasons. Rachel kept showing up, kept organizing, kept working her ass off. She sustained and built Indivisible Yolo over the years that followed. I am in awe of her ability to do the work, even when it’s hard or scarily far outside her comfort zone, and I will be forever grateful that she has chosen to do it.
Tragically, so many of our fears did come to pass, starting immediately. The Muslim ban, family separations, deaths of immigrants deported to countries that were unsafe for them. The destruction of government systems that protect us, long-serving experts removed and replaced with people whose main qualification was loyalty to an extreme far-right agenda and to the president. Relationships with our allies destroyed and their trust in us lost for unknown years to come. Friendliness and admiration extended to autocrats and dictators, reversing the values that America has said it stands for. Scores of incompetent and reactionary judges appointed to the judiciary. Abuse of the office of the presidency to investigate political rivals. Retaliation against sanctuary cities. The total unwillingness of the GOP to put a check on any of this. So much more – it is numbing to think of it all accumulating.
I don’t have to tell you that all of this is on the line again this November. It’s not looking likely that any of my preferred presidential candidates will be the Democratic nominee. But no matter who it is, I am going to fight like hell for them because I can’t let be the perfect be the enemy of the good (or the less dumpster fire-y), especially since another four years of Trump, or a continued GOP Senate majority, is an existential threat to our very democracy. We hit a constitutional crisis with impeachment and the GOP failed it when they refused to hold Twittler accountable for any of his many crimes. They have to go, not just because their policies are abhorrent, but because they will tear the fabric of our government apart and destroy trust in public institutions before giving up hold on power.
So I’ll be at the Volunteer Center this year. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time there, to reengaging with community and friendships, to connecting with hope and protecting what I love. I hope I’ll see you there, too.
The Election 2020 Volunteer Center is at 720 Olive Dr, Suite D in Davis.
Originally posted on Facebook. Re-posted with permission.
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