Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Call To Action: It's Up2Us

Wendy's latest in her "A Call to Action" series...

Yesterday I attended a meeting of Up2Us, a grassroots advocacy and activist group in Westchester County.  For those who don't necessarily read to the end of every piece (maybe even any piece), I'm going to begin with an important Call to Action take away from the meeting.  At least an important political action.  I do encourage you to read on though because my suggestions begin with strategy but end with heart.

This April 18 there will be a Special Election in Georgia’s 6th District to fill Tom Price's vacated Congressional seat.  (Price was appointed to Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services.)  While this district is solidly Republican, Hillary Clinton lost there by only a hair, and many see the outcome of this election as a referendum on the Trump administration, an early indicator for the 2018 midterms.   So our marching orders, which I pass to you, are to use the coming month to get out the vote. 

It's going to be messy.  There are eleven Republican candidates and at least five Democrats taking us into runoff land.  We were encouraged to support Jon Ossoff, seen as the Democrat with the greatest potential for a win.  Nita Lowey, Congresswoman (D) from New York's 17th district, will be hosting phone banks to get out the vote and I volunteered to make calls.  Perhaps your own Representative is doing the same. 

So back to the Up2Us meeting. Up2Us was originally formed to support Hillary Clinton's candidacy and after Election Day, regrouped, renamed and moved on to its current mission of advocating for a liberal agenda.  Their huddle meeting was well attended by roughly 150 people in a little church in Chappaqua on a cold Saturday afternoon.  As the leader of Up2Us said, Chappaqua is, of course, "the home of a former president and a should-have-been president!"  I was so pleased to see among the attendees several friends from my own town as well as representatives of both Hope's Door, a domestic violence agency, and our Planned Parenthood affiliate. I volunteer at both.

Wherever you live, I encourage you to put your name on the Up2Us email list or to follow them on Facebook (https://www.up2us.us/).  They're extremely well organized -- and I mean that both as resisters and as communicators.

The meeting opened with the organization's ED reading a letter from Hillary which got the crowd jazzed; that was followed by conversations with three elected officials -- Nita Lowey, US House of Representatives, David Buchwald, NYS Assembly, and Mike Kaplowitz, Westchester County Legislature.  The group was also joined by George Latimer, currently a NY State Senator and potential candidate for Westchester County Executive (challenging incumbent Rob Astorino (R) who lost the governor's race to Andrew Cuomo in 2014) .  And then we formed break out groups to talk about specific issues: education, the environment, women's issues, immigration, community support.

One of the themes of the discussions was to flip from the “bottom up.”  That is, many of us haven't heretofore paid a ton of attention to local politics, but it all matters.  (As Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local.")  Here in NY, we have a Democratic governor and State Assembly but a Republican Senate.  And until that changes, we're stymied.  The crowd applauded as David Buchwald talked about the Assembly passing a version of the Dream Act, an Immigration Protection Act, a NY Health Act, and bills supporting a woman's right to choose, but was quickly deflated when he explained that none of these got past our Republican controlled Senate.  Gotta change that. 

Congresswoman Lowey believes that the volume of calls and letters, the attendance at Town Hall meetings, the heat we're applying, is making her Republican colleagues edgy.  She encouraged us to keep it up.  At the same time, when talking about the ACA, she acknowledged that we can't depend on the US House of Representatives; it's the US Senate that stands between the bill and disaster.  We need to flip those seats.  She encouraged us to register voters, to support Jon Ossoff in Georgia, and in a lighter moment, to send pink slip postcards to the White House.

And then Congresswoman Lowey humanized what we're seeing in Washington. She talked about budget cuts to Pell grants and Headstart.  Of course, we've all heard about cuts to Meals on Wheels, which to me, is symbolic of cold-heartedness. We heard heartbreaking stories of Hispanic parents, our neighbors, going to their children's schools with the names of guardians in case the parents facing threats of deportation are no longer there at the end of the school day, of children being told where to turn if they don't find their parents at home.  This is not a worry that any child, anywhere, should ever, ever experience.

My breakout group was focused on how we can help local nonprofits.  I believe this is critical.  Changing our government will take time, and while that time is passing, families will go hungry, men and women will be victims of domestic violence, women will go without reproductive health care, immigrants will live in fear.  So as we all make our phone calls, write our letters, march in our marches, and contribute our dollars, we also need to work at the micro level to help those in need, those who will be stripped of their safety net by a Draconian budget, those who will be stripped of their health care by the dismembering of the ACA.  And we help them by volunteering at local agencies.  I can't think of a better way to spend a little time each week than by touching another human life in a meaningful way.


So please keep it up, with your efforts in Washington and your efforts nearer to home.

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