Micro-organizing: a model in MoCo

Taking electoral outcomes for granted (including, maybe, staying home) has brought us Larry Hogan and Donald Trump. Did we learn a lesson about taking democracy for granted – including what happens when we don’t vote? A new grassroots group in Montgomery County’s Council District 1 is taking steps to make sure that lesson is always in front of us and the countdown to voting opportunities is completely explained.


 

/By Woody Woodruff/ How did we get here? A Republican governor in this Blue state, an Orange Menace in the White House just miles across the state line – each disarming and disruptive in his own way and both enabling some genuinely nasty and self-serving minions who are rolling back pro-people and pro-planet practices and institutions that we have been taking for granted.

Did we learn a lesson about taking democracy for granted – including what happens when we don’t vote? A new grassroots group in Montgomery County’s Council District 1 is taking steps to make sure that lesson is always in front of us and the countdown to voting opportunities is completely explained.

And so we hear from Bobby Lipman of District 1 Neighbors that:

“As folks may recall, in the last gubernatorial primary (2014), voter turnout in Montgomery County was the lowest in the State of Maryland at under 17% ... and some news reports about the general election suggested that one candidate's victory was a result of low voter turnout by particular voters.”

Lipman reminds us of the question posed Nov. 5, 2014 by analyst Derek Willis of the NYT’s “Upshot,” a wonkish and numbers-obsessed section of the paper that nevertheless put the finger on what happened in Maryland. Progressive and centrist-liberal voters assumed that the future would be like the past and that government would roll smoothly from the O’Malley-Brown administration to the Brown-Ulman administration:

"How did Larry Hogan, a Republican commercial real estate broker who had never run for office, pull off such an upset in Maryland’s governor race on Tuesday? By benefiting from a huge drop-off in Democratic turnout in the state’s largest population centers and winning big where it counts for Republicans."

Willis’s details are worth pursuing, but the bottom line -- and the core of District 1 Neighbors’s mission -- is to remind everyday folks that elections have consequences and that it matters enough – if Hogan wasn’t a lesson, the Orange Menace sure has been – that part of watching our backs is watching the election timetable.

This is front and center in the MoCo group’s practice, and Lipman reminds us that

“voters can visit the D1N.org web site for information and to subscribe to email reminders about:

  • how to vote by mail ... which you do even if your only reason for doing so is that you want to fill out your ballot while sipping your morning coffee ... or if you will be on vacation ... or if you just want to vote by walking your dog to the mail box ....
  • how folks who are registered as "Independent" (and are therefore ineligible to vote in the primary), can go online and change their registration to a party so they can participate in the primary
  • early voting dates and locations

The site has a handy "count down" clock for the beginning of early voting:  http://d1n.org/

This accessible do-list for citizen activism at its core has features that could be adapted to every neighborhood.

The scale of District 1 Neighbors is also an important model for organizing within the Progressive Maryland statewide effort. Before, during and after both the primary and general elections of 2018, we will be doing canvassing activities to organize and energize folks at street level. We’ll be training for canvassing at different levels of detail but the important thing to remember is that canvassing is not an arcane, weird activity. Sometimes it seems that way – it’s hard enough just to remember to spell it with two “s-es.” But what we are talking about here is meeting your neighbors and talking to them about aggravations and issues you have in common, and how to remedy them by getting together.

We’ll be doing a big canvass on the weekend of Jan. 27 and 28 – including one in MoCo Dist. 1 as well as in Frederick, Baltimore, Howard and Prince George’s counties and the Lower Shore – and that’s just so far. There will be more every month as the Primary, and then the General Election approach.

District 1 Neighbors is showing us the scale at which our activism starts – neighbor to neighbor, door to door. We can swell this action to win big, not only primaries and elections but the crucial work of being activists together in between, to put pressure on those we elect. It is amazing how much easier this is when you are not alone. Together is how progressives win, in MoCo District 1, across Maryland and throughout the US.