Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It

Anyone who cares about electoral politics will tell you how important it is to vote downticket. But actually doing it can be daunting. You hear a lot about who’s running for President, maybe even who’s running for Senator or Governor. But how do you decide between the twelve candidates for judge, the five candidates for city council, the seven candidates for school board? It could take weeks researching their positions and records, and you probably don’t have that kind of time.

I hear you. I have a trick for that. I’ve been using it for years. First, here are some reasons you should care — like, really, really care.

Local elections profoundly affect your everday life. What’s taught in public schools; whether your landlord can raise your rent any time they want; whether streets and sewers are repaired (and which ones get attention first); whether racist cops are disciplined; whether the community college is funded; which buildings can be torn down and put up; whether your city has a minimum wage that reflects economic reality; whether AirBnB gets to ignore hotel and housing laws; whether the homeless people on your block will be sheltered or arrested — all of this and much more gets decided on the local level.

Local elections profoundly affect other people’s everyday lives. See above. If these issues don’t personally and immediately affect you, they affect your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your family.

Local and state elections are how national candidates are born. If you want good progressives in national offices in twenty years, start by getting good progressives in local offices now. Most elected officials on the national level get their start in local politics. There are exceptions, of course. Donald Trump has never held office in his life, and while Hillary Clinton had extensive experience in politics before she was elected to anything, her first elected position was in the Senate. But in general, voting in local elections now is a great way to get national candidates in the future who you actually want to vote for.

Local elections move the national party. If you’re wondering how the Republican Party moved so far to the right, look at local elections. The Tea Party got into school boards and city councils across the country. There are other factors, of course — for one thing, the Tea Party has had significant national funding from big corporations. But to a great extent, local elections are how the Tea Party got into power.

So if you want the national Democratic Party to move further to the left, a really good way to do that is to support progressive candidates in local and state elections — especially in primaries. It lets the party know that voters really do want progressive candidates, and will support them. And it lets the party know that progressive voters will consistently vote — not just every four years when we’re deciding on the president.

*****

So now you’re convinced (I hope). Local and state elections are important. But there are so many of them! How do you decide? In one word:

Endorsements.

In a few more words: Find some organizations you trust, whose values and positions are more or less in line with yours — and see who they endorse.

You know all that time it takes to research candidates and ballot initiatives, the time you don’t have? For many organizations, that is literally their job. They do have the time. And they have the knowledge. In many cases, they’ve actually worked with these people. They know that Jane Doe is great on health care, less great on gentrification, and knows City Hall backwards and forwards. They know that Richard Roe is solid on the issues but is a hostile pain in the ass to work with and has a hard time getting anything done. They’ve done the research you don’t have time to do.

Here’s my trick. I look at the endorsements of three or four endorsing organizations. Tenants’ rights groups, TBLG groups, environmental groups, progressive alternative newspapers — you get the idea. I compare them. If they all agree, and I don’t personally know enough about the candidate or initiative to disagree, I do what they recommend. If they don’t agree, I look at the arguments they make for why they’re endorsing the way they are, and see who I agree with.

In San Francisco elections, this usually takes about a hour, maybe two. If I’m super-busy and don’t have that time, I just pick a couple of endorsing organizations to compare and contrast. If I’m completely and utterly swamped, I just pick one.

It’s less than ideal. I think local and state elections are really important — see above — and I do have reservations about trusting my vote to someone else. But if I don’t vote downticket at all, I’m doing that anyway. I’m trusting my vote to everyone else who happens to be voting. I have a lot more reservations about that.

Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It
{advertisement}

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

It’s entirely reasonable to criticize Hillary Clinton. She’s running for President of the United States, after all. If she’s elected, she’s going to be representing all U.S. citizens: we should tell her what we want from her, and speak out when she lets us down.

But a significant amount of anti-Clinton criticism is loaded with sexism. It’s not just the obvious examples, like critiquing her clothing and her voice, microanalyzing her gestures and mannerisms, sexualizing her or targeting her with sexist and misogynist slurs. Much of the sexism against Hillary Clinton flies under the radar. On the surface, it looks like legitimate political commentary: the sexism underlying it is largely unconscious. But when you understand some of the ways sexism commonly plays out, it’s glaringly obvious.

Here are seven examples.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton. Enjoy!

7 of the Less-Noted But Still Very Sexist Attacks on Hillary Clinton

“Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye?”

Hillary Clinton

Some guy on someone else’s Facebook page: “Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye with an open mind or you just supporting the party?”

Me: “Hillary Clinton is probably one of the most closely scrutinized people in U.S. politics. There has been a decades-long right-wing smear campaign against her (much of which has been bought into by the left), and every mistake she’s ever made has been examined with a spotlight and a high-powered microscope. So yes — I have looked at Clinton with a critical eye. It has been literally impossible not to.”

I would have said more, but I try not to burst into long streams of invective on other people’s Facebook pages.

“Have you ever truly looked at Clinton with the same critical eye?”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Trump Needs to be Trounced

Hillary Clinton

I’m going to argue that even voters in non-swing states, who think their votes for president don’t count because of the electoral college, should still vote for Clinton.

Partly, I think this election is much too important. I don’t want to screw around, not with this one. I don’t want to take a chance on electing a literal fascist because the polling was off and Nevada was closer than we thought it would be. (Stephanie Zvan has an excellent piece on why “swing state” thinking is harmful, both in the short-term and the long-term.)

But I also think the popular vote counts. It isn’t what elects the President (absurdly). But it sends a signal: to the voters who won, to the voters who lost, to other people running for office, to the rest of the world.

And when November comes, I do not want this to be a close election.

In theory, third-party votes for anyone but Trump should be read as “anyone but Trump.” But that’s not how it’s going to be read. When this election is over, almost all the media reporting will be on the gap between Clinton and Trump. And I want that gap to be HUGE.

This isn’t just an election for President. It’s a referendum on bigotry and literal fascism. It’s a referendum on keeping Muslims from entering the country, on saying Latinx judges can’t be fair and Latinx immigrants are rapists, on whether the United States should invade countries to get their oil, on whether the United States should commit war crimes, on whether Russian intelligence should hack into the email of a U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, on making it illegal for newspapers to criticize the President, on ignoring the Constitution and treating it with contempt. It is a referendum on whether voters who lose an election should respond by shooting the President or the judges she appoints.

That doesn’t just need to be beaten. It needs to be trounced. It needs to be humiliated. It needs to be laughed off the stage. Continue reading “A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Trump Needs to be Trounced”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Trump Needs to be Trounced

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Liberal Voting Record

Hillary Clinton
I’d been working on a piece about reasons to vote for Clinton, but it was becoming huge and unmanageable. So I’m breaking it down into bite-sized morsels.

Yes, you heard me. Clinton has a very liberal voting record. Her voting record in the Senate had a 75% rating from the ACLU, a 90% rating from the Sierra Club, a 94% rating from the AFL-CIO, a 95% rating from the HRC, a 96% rating from the NAACP, a 100% rating from the National Organization for Women, a 100% rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL.* As Senator, she voted with Bernie Sanders 93% of the time. She was rated the 11th most liberal member of the Senate; Roll Call described her as “center-left,” while On The Issues rates her as a hard-core liberal. Continue reading “A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Liberal Voting Record”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Liberal Voting Record

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Government Knowledge and Administrative Skill

Hillary Clinton

I’d been working on a piece about reasons to vote for Clinton, but it was becoming huge and unmanageable. So I’m breaking it down into bite-sized morsels.

I recently did a poll of my Facebook readers, asking, “Clinton supporters — what are the main reasons you’re voting for her? Not reasons you’re voting against Trump, those are easy, but things you positively like about her and make you want to support her.” The entire thread is well worth reading, especially if you’re planning to vote for Clinton but aren’t wild about it — or you’re not planning to vote for Clinton and are wondering why other people are. And one of the themes that came up again and again: Clinton’s administrative skills and knowledge of government are fierce.

Clinton knows government inside and out. She knows how to get things done. She has years of experience in government, in the Senate and as Secretary of State: even when she was First Lady, she engineered the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a compromise she forged from the defeat of her attempts to create universal health care. Her platform is detailed, with specific policies and proposals for how they can be accomplished (a fact that, weirdly, may be detrimental to her campaign),

And she is well-known in Washington, even among her opponents, for her policy expertise, her willingness to study and increase her already prodigious knowledge, her work ethic, her ability to work with others and make effective deals while maintaining her tenacity, and her willingness to share credit (a useful and underrated trait in long-term political strategy).

Trump, on the other hand… Continue reading “A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Government Knowledge and Administrative Skill”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Government Knowledge and Administrative Skill

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights

Hillary Clinton

I’d been working on a piece about reasons to vote for Clinton, but it was becoming huge and unmanageable. So I’m breaking it down into bite-sized morsels.

Here’s a reason to vote for Clinton: reproductive rights. Clinton isn’t just more pro-choice than Trump. She’s more pro-choice than any major-party Presidential nominee in decades. She’s pushing to stop Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood. She’s said she wants Planned Parenthood to get more funding. She understands the role that income and poverty play in this issue, saying that “low-income women deserve health care” and “a right without the opportunity to exercise it isn’t a right.” Very importantly, she’s pushing for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions — something she did without being prompted, and something no other major-party Presidential nominee has done since the amendment was enacted.

And she hasn’t been shy about any of this. Her record on reproductive rights has been well-established for years, it’s full-throated, and it’s front and center in her campaign. Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards even spoke at the Democratic National Convention. (Here’s a run-down of Clinton’s positions and record on reproductive rights.) Continue reading “A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights”

A Reason to Vote for Clinton: Reproductive Rights

Hillary Clinton Nominated

Hillary Clinton

This has been a difficult primary, with inspiring things and shitty things on both sides. But I’m going to take a moment and be weepy and proud at the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated as a major party Presidential candidate.

(Hillary haters: please, don’t post it here. There’s plenty of other places, and there will be lots of other times. Thanks.)

Hillary Clinton Nominated

Clinton and Trump are Not the Same

Fascism in dictionary

If you think Clinton and Trump are basically the same, I urge you: Please, PLEASE, read this. It’s an extensive summary documenting large numbers of ways in which Trump is a literal fascist. That’s not hyperbole.

And if you think Trump could never be elected: People said he’d never be nominated, either. This is a close election — much, much closer than it should be, given that one of the candidates is a literal fascist.

If you have problems with Clinton — say so. I would urge you to take some time and fact-check your opinions about her: there’s been a decades-long right-wing smear campaign against her, much of which is being repeated by people on the left. I would also urge you to look at some of the ways many attacks on her, including attacks from the left, are sexist. If you’ve checked the negative things you think about her and they turn out to be true and fair and not a sexist-double-standard, say so.

But if you think there’s no difference between the candidates, that’s just flatly mistaken. Clinton is a moderate-to-liberal Democrat with some troubling things in her history. Trump is a literal fascist.

Clinton and Trump are Not the Same

5 Reasons to Stop Talking Sh*t About People From the South and Midwest

Midwest field with airplane trails in sky

“If I ever hear another elitist jerk use the term flyover people, I’ll punch him in the mouth.” —John Waters, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America

I don’t approve of threats of physical violence. Not even hyperbolic ones. But I absolutely know where John Waters is coming from. And while I don’t intend to punch anyone in the mouth, I completely understand – and share – his anger at this bullshit notion of “flyover country.”

I recently did a speaking tour of the Midwest, promoting my new book. This isn’t new for me: I’ve been doing public speaking for years, and I do it a lot in the Midwest and South.

And every time I come home from one of these trips, I bring back a huge suitcase full of respect for people in the Midwest and South – and a hearty desire to say “Fuck You” to anyone who makes snotty remarks about “flyover country” or “flyover people.”

Not all progressives do this, of course – but I hear it often enough that I need to say something.

Here are five reasons coastal progressives need to permanently purge these phrases from their vocabulary.

*****

Thus begins my piece for Everyday Feminism, 5 Reasons to Stop Talking Sh*t About People From the South and Midwest. Reprinted from AlterNet. Enjoy!

5 Reasons to Stop Talking Sh*t About People From the South and Midwest