Take a Cue From Texas, Y'all
As Democrats flee the Texas Capitol to save their state from disastrous new GOP voting restrictions that mark a point of no return, it's time to take note and lend a hand.
A large group of Democratic state lawmakers from the Texas House of Representatives arrived at Dulles International Airport last night, after making a break for it in a pair of chartered jets. The plan is reminiscent of what democratic state leaders did in 2003, when members of the Texas House and Senate independently fled Texas for neighboring Oklahoma and New Mexico over redistricting plans.
This time, Democrats chartered two private jets that departed for Dulles Airport yesterday. At least 51 members were on those flights and at least seven others were en route to Washington, DC, as well. This plan was a last-ditch effort to counter new Republican voting restrictions, and will effectively freeze all current business in the chamber until the lawmakers return to Austin, or the session ends on August 6.
The lawmakers will spend nearly four weeks in Washington, DC if need be, to urge Congress to quickly pass the For the People Act, which will protect the democratic process. This watershed bill proposed by Congressional Democrats seeks to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of dark money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.
Texas Democrats have created a brief reprieve that will be fruitless if federal law can’t be amended now to expand voting protections, and despite the slim Democratic majority in Congress, the For the People Act will not pass in the Senate without the elimination of the filibuster. Therefore, this next Democratic strategy has to include a two-pronged attempt: continuing to increase public support of this critical bill and securing enough votes to eradicate the filibuster so that Senate Democrats can pass these new pivotal voting protections.
Greg Abbott, the Republican Governor of Texas, told the media yesterday that he will continue to call for a special session in the Texas House, which would mean that Democratic lawmakers would have to remain out of state for the next year if no new national legislation is passed to counter the laws proposed by state Republicans.
Abbott also said that he intends to arrest the Democrats who have left and have them “cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.” It’s important to note that while Abbott claims that the statehouse Speaker can issue a call to have Democrats arrested, there is no legal basis for the arrest that would withstand legitimate court scrutiny.
Texas Democrats have now risked everything to head to the Nation’s Capital to assist with the effort to pass the For the People Act —the only current solution to stave off Republicans in several states. Now is the time for everyone to get involved to protect the last line of defense for preserving the democratic process, and your help is greatly needed.
There is something for everyone to do, regardless of time or money limitations. There are also four predominant ways to immediately help: you can give your money, your voice, your time, and your vote. Voting is free and registering to vote is free. You can donate to an organization that helps to increase voter turnout, or you can volunteer your time to a group that works to register new voters.
Step One: Call Your Senators
You can take ten minutes right now to call your two Senators, regardless of party affiliation, to demand that they reform or end the filibuster and that they support the For the People Act. It is always best to call their local offices because your chances are better at reaching a live person and that is the key — when a staffer takes your call, it has to be logged and reported. The goal is a mass wave of pressure from citizens that shows support for both of these things and it has proven to be the most effective tool for corralling votes when done effectively. Here is a great checklist:
Set a reminder to make your calls. Calling all three of your congressional representatives should take less than five minutes and calling both Senators will take even less time. Make voicing your opinions part of your daily or weekly routine.
Read this H.R. 1 policy fact sheet that explains the details of the For the People Act so that you are informed. If you are someone who gets nervous while speaking on the phone to a stranger, practice what you will say and consider using a script. Here is another resource hub for information on H.R. 1.
Make it personal. Members of Congress want to hear personal stories about how voting rights affect their constituents. For example, if you or a loved one has benefited from the vote by mail procedures recently enacted in some states, talk about that. You can also discuss your concern for minorities being disenfranchised significantly without the passage of new protectionist laws. Think about why this matters to you and tell them — passion and authenticity are the key here.
Accentuate the positive. If your Senator has done anything you admire or respect, thank them for doing the right thing at the time. Optimism is great, but it’s also fair to say that some people might have a hard time finding something here to praise, depending on where you live.
Make suggestions. Here is an example for an actionable suggestion that you can use in your call that includes telling your members of Congress exactly what steps you are expecting them to take: “I am asking that the Senator vote for reforming or eradicating the filibuster so that a simple majority of 51 votes is all that is required to pass a vote in the Senate. I am also demanding that the Senator support voting law reform by voting in favor of the For the People Act.”
Be a constituent boss. Be confident when you call your elected politicians because you are informed, valued, and they work for you — but, always remember to be respectful. The key is firm but polite.
Step Two: Donate Money
This is a crucial aspect of a grassroots movement and the perfect solution for anyone who is limited with their time but wants to help. Below are the names of several organizations that are helping to eradicate the filibuster and to promote the For the People Act.
Donate to Eliminating the Filibuster at Indivisible.Org. Another great way to push the liberal platform is to donate to Swing Left; they are not as specialized for this issue, but they are working to maintain the Democratic majority. Another great all-purpose group to support is Voters of Tomorrow, which is focused on registering new “Generation Z” voters.
Donate to the End Citizens United Action Fund (this helps the For the People Act).
Donate to individual campaigns: if you see a Democratic lawmaker doing something bold, like one of the Texas State Dems, the best way to quickly let them know you like it is to donate to their campaign.
Donate nationally to the DNC: I know a lot of people have started to hesitate because this is a very broad fund and people want to get more specialized with their contributions. But, right now everything in the Democratic Party is going to be focused on the passage of this bill.
Step Three: Take Action
The best way to get involved in the long term is to find a group that is working on these issues and volunteer or explore ways in which you can help. Here are a few names to get you started:
Participating in promoting the For the People Act and the need to eliminate the filibuster on social media is also helpful. Feel free to post a link to this article on every platform by clicking this button:
You can also post a link to my article, We Must End the Filibuster, which lays out all of the best reasons why the filibuster must go. There are three major suggestions that can accommodate anyone’s schedule or resources. Please consider getting actively involved in the fight to save democracy today. If the Democrats in Texas can risk everything, surely we can help them out.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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