July 2, 2018
To the Future in the Distance, Give Yourselves

Image credit: Katherine Hanlon

June was painful. The Supreme Court issued radical opinions attacking women, voting rights, workers, immigrants, and our LGBTQ community. As if that was not enough, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement. This all but ensures that the Supreme Court will take a violent swerve to the right for generations to come, and it puts every civil right we hold dear, including Roe v Wade, in actual jeopardy.

But that’s all I’m going to say about it. We all know what the stakes are, and we should make sure we understand how we got to this point. But our focus must be on the future.

The only thing that matters now is what we do next.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the women’s suffrage movement. It took women 72 years to win the right to vote, and passage of the Nineteenth Amendment came down to one vote by one man in one state — in other words, it almost didn’t pass. Year after year, men in power denied half the population the most basic democratic right. After a particularly stinging defeat in New York in 1915, women’s suffrage leader Carrie Catt was asked how long the loss would delay her fight. Her response: “Only until we can get a little sleep. Our campaign will be on again tomorrow morning.

Helen Gardener & Carrie Chapman leaving the White House, c 1920. (Library of Congress)

Trust me, I feel as gut-punched as you do. But when the world is closing in, I know that the only thing to do is to get a little sleep and then get back to work. Take heart that there have been signs of hope throughout the country, and our Sister District community has been hard at work laying important groundwork for success this year. The midterm elections are a huge opportunity for us, and they are just four months away. We move forward with these guidelines in mind:

The circumstances we find ourselves in did not just happen.

They are a result of decades of careful, strategic planning by forces on the right, both shadowy and overt. (For an overview, see our Book Club Reader’s Guide for current selection Dark Money by Jane Mayer.) Now, it is up to us to write and execute our plan. It may take years to realize. Things may get worse before they get better. But we must focus, and we must keep the faith that, with hard work, the tide will turn.

States are more important than ever.

Our plan starts with the states. States have enormous power over the issues we care about, including the environment, women’s rights, immigration, and healthcare. The federal winds are not in our favor right now, but if we win the states, we can protect the marginalized communities currently under attack by electing people who will champion progressive values and write them into state law. Remember that because of Sister District’s state legislative victories last year, Virginia has expanded Medicaid, and Washington now has automatic voter registration. We can grow this list of achievements by continuing to win power in the states.

Less doomsday, more action.

President Obama recently told us: stop moping! “If what you are doing requires no sacrifice at all, then you can do more.” It is time to give up your weekends for the cause, write bigger checks, and rally your friends who have not yet gotten involved. Do not let your dismay paralyze you — take action! Sister District has a plan that has already born fruit. Do not be distracted by the noise; stick with taking action that will make a difference.

The only thing that can save us is us — and the only way to do it is to win elections.

Do not tell yourself Mueller will save us — he won’t. Do not insist the courts will save us — they won’t. Do not proclaim that there is something Trump will do that will turn his supporters against him — there isn’t. Do not assume the Democrats will win big in the midterms, and do not assume that Trump cannot win a second term. We are the people we have been waiting for. Keep hope alive, and when setbacks occur, get up and fight another day. Nobody else is going to do this for us, and we won’t win if we don’t try.

There are signs of electoral and grassroots hope this year.

Even the most cynical among us must believe that change is possible. Sister District is currently supporting 21 fantastic candidates running for state legislative office in 8 chambers across 5 states, and as primary season rolls through, it is encouraging to see them perform well. For instance, just last week our Colorado candidates Tammy Story and Faith Winter each received 5,000 more votes than the incumbent Republican Senators they are challenging. These signs are encouraging, but our candidates will continue to face dark money and dark tactics, and we must supplement our hope with action to help them win this year.

Sister District is making a difference.

With so much work to do, we are proud of our Sister District teams who are stepping up to the plate all over the country. So far, our incredible community has raised over $200,000 in small-dollar donations for our 2018 candidates, made 40,000 phone calls, written 100,000 postcards, and organized scores of small fundraisers, canvasses, and other events. Now is a great time to get connected to your local team so you can do your part.

My friends, keep putting one foot in front of the other. We have a plan, and with your help, we will see it through.

In closing, I will leave you with a rallying cry of the suffragettes:

To the wrongs that need resistance,
To the right that needs assistance,
To the future in the distance,
Give yourselves.

In solidarity,

Rita Bosworth
Founder, Sister District Project