SwingLeft connects users with their closest swing congressional district that voted Republican. The site has a specific goal—to turn the district Democrat—but this focus makes it one of the most strategic tools currently available.
The idea is that the voting margin was so narrow that a concerted effort can be made to swing the district left. The site focuses on the House of Representatives, because it perceives the Senate as having a more difficult to contest majority (at least for 2018).
The user can join a passive e-mail list to receive weekly tasks to affect this outcome. The user can alternately or additionally complete a more comprehensive form for volunteer activities.
For issue-minded activists, this may not appear to be the most attractive form of direct action. However, a considerable portion of the government’s impact on citizens (as well as those around the world) comes from the actions of Congress. The House makes policy concrete by passing legislation; the contents of these bills span the whole spectrum of interest groups. For those that are seriously pursuing the impeachment path, please note the House can bring charges against federal officials. Ensuring the right individuals are placed in the House then becomes imperative for any cause.
As previously mentioned the wealth of resources for facing the coming Trump administration means there is something for every activist. Clara Beyer’s Holy Fuck is the most aptly-named resource of the bunch (kudos to the melanin in that middle finger emoji), as well as one of the most structurally streamlined and intelligently written.
Users are first asked, “Are You Okay?” to gauge whether some self-help (in the form of puppy & kitten videos, topical coloring books, or inspirational Buzzfeed ‘content’) is needed or whether one is “ready to fuck shit up.” The latter response feeds into several banner issues that arose during the election cycle: increasing Democrat representation, racism, LGBTQ, misogyny/sexual assault, and climate change. Each topic is sub-divided by whether the user can spare “money” or “time,” and then branches out again to other resources to explore.
The tone of the site strikes a balance of outrage, humor, and compassion, which is helpful for people less familiar or put-off by the language of progressive politics and/or activism.
Less than a month after Election 2016 there are already a number of fantastic resources for collecting one’s thoughts, researching issues, and taking concrete steps to plan a full-court press on the coming Trump Administration.
Of note is the “Protect Yourself” section on security. There are separate sections based on types of security—web, sexual/gender identity, personal—all of which are worth investigation, regardless of one’s background.
Also worth highlighting is the site’s resources for fostering new collective/group action. The “Inspire Friends” section provides resources for creating “Action Pods” to structure, support, and direct the energies of an individual and a manageable number of loved ones.
Thanks to Marit for sharing this and several other fantastic resources (which will be shared in the coming days)!
For those interested in becoming more active or knowledgeable members of their community, attending or participating in community board meetings is a useful first step. Local government websites should outline relevant locations and dates; residents of New York City can consult the city’s website.
The “look up your community board” link actually directs the user to the useful NYCityMap tool. Using the Advanced Search function to the right of the map allows the user to quickly drill down to specific buildings (where data is available). Reams of information are included: as granular as specific building ECB violations and tax and property records, to broad information about capital projects, city programs, health facilities, cultural institutions, etc.
Included in an advanced search result is an expandable facet “Neighborhood Information.” In this section is the name of the building’s community district, as well as a link to the district website.
Each district website varies in appearance and navigation, but all should include dates of monthly meetings, along with minutes of past meetings and/or agendas for upcoming meetings.
Calling representatives is frequently characterized as an accessible form of direct action. Perhaps this apparent ease explains why calling campaigns circulate so regularly on social media. However, for anyone who experiences social anxiety calling may not be such an easy task.
The list highlights bureaucratic protest (e.g., calling elected officials), administrative tasks (filing labor complaints, downloading public data sets) and daily routines (media consumption, donating) that seem mundane, but can form the basis for solving larger problems down the road. Some of these tasks are manageable and easily actionable, which can give clear guidance and goals for the user. Others make assumptions about users’ access to resources (paying parking tickets, clearing criminal records). Most of these are best viewed as individual long-term tasks to incrementally chip away at injustice.
Election 2016 was the fourth presidential election where the winning candidate did not win the majority of the popular vote. Subsequently, the Electoral College has come under renewed fire; the most recent instance of a majority-electoral-minority-popular split was in 2000 between Bush and Gore. Though there is a considerable gap between 2000 and the first two instances in 1876 and 1888, criticism of the system is not new. As recently as a 2013 Gallup poll, 63% of polled adults said they would vote for getting rid of the Electoral College.
In practical terms, there is little short-term recourse against the Electoral College. Changing the system would require a constitutional amendment. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, currently do an alternative system where a proportion of electoral votes are given based on the percentage of popular votes received. However, it is worth noting that mathematically speaking a “fair” voting solution is difficult to find.
One initiative worth mentioning is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The bill would assign a state’s electoral votes to the state’s popular vote winner. Currently, the coalition includes 10 states and the District of Columbia, or 165 electoral votes. In order to be made law, 105 electoral votes worth of states would have to join. The effort is worth attention because of the progress it has made. Beyond that, support for the cause follows the familiar routes of either contacting legislators and donations.