How Your Voices Made a Difference: Unraveling

Some weeks are tougher than others, and this was a rough one—between Donny giving companies the right to deny women health care coverage for birth control, to the EPA’s Scott Pruitt rolling back the Obama-era protections of the Clean Power Plan to replace it with his own dirty version and threatening to remove tax incentives for wind and solar power, and of course demented Donald’s latest disgorgements of bile:  trying to circumvent the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA with an executive order, flouting our First Amendment by threatening to revoke media outlets’ licenses for publishing news he doesn’t like…and the soul-draining childishness of the man-baby-in-chief’s petty feud with Sen. Bob Corker, and GOP lawmakers’ collective cowardly silence in its wake.

But the weird upside of all this awfulness is this: Lately it’s Donny’s own voice making a difference. Don John’s behavior and actions are becoming egregious enough that some of the GOP is beginning to find its spine (and moral compass). Backlash against Donald’s attack on the First Amendment was immediate and bipartisan, including GOP Sen. Ben Sasse’s sharp call-out on Twitter (apparently the new forum of political discourse…sigh). Donald’s attacks against women’s health care have women’s health experts speaking out to refute his premises. His Twitter-tantrum threats to remove aid from Puerto Rico in a crisis “largely of their own making”(while he plays golf yet again) is an attack on and abandonment of more than 3 million Americans drawing broad censure—and his failures as a leader are starkly underscored by five former leaders’ (the five living ex-presidents) banding together to help hurricane victims (of all shades). His undermining a health care system that a majority of Americans now approve of is fueling criticism from states on both sides of the aisle. And his attempts to undermine NAFTA will undoubtedly bring a backlash from the industrial and rural base he so often panders to, who will be most hurt by it. Even Rex Tillerson, after Donald demanded a tenfold increase in nuclear armaments despite decades of policy designed to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide rather than expand it, has realized his boss is a “fucking moron.” (Mensa has kindly offered to host an IQ test to answer the question definitively after Donald tweeted out an “I know you are but what am I” to his secretary of state.) An array of White House insiders report versions of Donny “unraveling” in jaw-droppingly unstable ways.

Meanwhile, the Harvey Weinstein scandal is rocking Hollywood—not only showing conservatives how you handle a sexual predator (by calling it out loudly and publicly, and taking sharp actions against the predator to stop the actions—rather than by defending it and offering it a cable show, or electing it president), but by bringing this rampant sexism and harassment into the light, and showing that women (and James Van Der Beek, one of the disappointingly few courageous men speaking up) will no longer be silent in the face of institutionalized sexual misconduct and abuse. The tide for sanctioning the sexual-predator-in-chief may be turning.

Steps forward are incremental, and not always steady—some weeks it can be hard to see all the progress we are making. But remind yourself of the huge victories the resistance has already won, most decisively stopping every attempt to repeal the ACA, and comfort yourself that Donny’s ratings—sorry, approval numbers—are tanking faster than his loose hold on rationality, even in his rural base, and according to pollster Quinnipiac, 55% of voters believe he is not fit to be president.

Donald’s own actions will wind up bringing him down, as long as we continue holding him and all his defenders in the GOP accountable, and demanding our lawmakers do the same. To that end, on the Russian-investigation front, it’s looking like Bob Mueller is getting close to something that’s making the Donny John camp pretty uncomfortable: Carter Page—Don John’s former campaign manager who got benched after confabbing with Russian diplomat and top spy Sergei Kislyak last year (despite denying speaking with him) and who subsequently met with Putie’s top associates in Russia—has refused to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel in their Russia investigation. You know, like you do when you have something to hide and fear incriminating yourself and perhaps the leader of the free world. Reince Priebus spent an entire day with Mueller’s team, talking about who can only guess what…? Now’s a good time to call your MoCs and ask that they support the two bipartisan bills in Congress proposed to prevent Donald from firing Mueller as he tightens the noose around the man-baby-in-chief’s neck.

You’re not imagining how hard this battle can be—this administration is taking a deep emotional and mental toll on many Americans. But in a glimmer of hope for our collective future in these divided times, 55% of Americans now believe politicians should work more bipartisanly and embrace compromise. (You know, like you do in every single other relationship in your life.)

Hang in there, warriors. If all else fails, Hustler’s Larry Flynt is offering $10 million to anyone who can provide info leading to 45’s impeachment. Really.

Tell John Cornyn to Withdraw Support for Judicial Nominee Jeff Mateer

We call upon Senator John Cornyn to publicly withdraw support from Jeff Mateer, who is nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.  We request that the senator vote against his confirmation both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

Mateer has called a first grader part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender. Regardless of where Sen. Cornyn stands on civil rights for the LGBT community, surely he can agree that someone who would make such a cruel and biased statement is not fit to serve as a judge.

We were heartened to hear that Sen. Cornyn is reviewing with his staff the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer, and we believe the only appropriate response to the nominee’s bigoted remarks about Sen. Cornyn’s LGBT constituents (and his other disqualifying statements) is for the senator to immediately withdraw his support.

Mateer doesn’t believe the Constitution protects  any LGBT civil rights. He says, “I’ve read the 14th Amendment thousands of times…I don’t see anything about right to same-sex marriage. I don’t see anything saying right to homosexuality. I don’t see anything about right to privacy.”

But that’s not surprising from someone who doesn’t even believe the Constitution protects religious freedom, saying that there is no “provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim.”

We encourage the senator to take his role of advice and consent on behalf of Texas, and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee very seriously. If he rubber stamps this unfit judge, he puts loyalty to President Trump above ensuring that the people of Texas can rely on an fair and decent judiciary.

Call to Action

Please call Sen. Cornyn today and say:

Thank you for reviewing the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer who is up for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Calling a young child part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender makes Mateer unfit to serve on the federal bench. Please publicly withdraw support from this nominee and vote against his confirmation in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

How Your Voices Made a Difference: McCain Has the Stones

John McCain once again has the stones (and character) to defy his party to do what he feels is best for his constituents, announcing he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the half-baked Cassidy-Graham health care bill (zombie TrumpCare 3.0) that will jeopardize health care for the elderly, the ill, and women, and has been denounced by a growing number of Republican governors (as well as the bipartisan Medicaid directors from all 50 states, the American Medical Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, the American Heart Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Cancer Society). The battle isn’t yet won, though—the GOP could still muster 50 votes if there are no more defections from the party line, and in that case Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. (And we can all imagine which way that would go down.) Keep calling and showing up at your senators’ offices!

Despite Donald John’s federal ban on sanctuary cities, California—lately serving as America’s conscience in lieu of any guidance in that arena from the White House—voted to make itself an entire sanctuary state. If passed, this legislation will prevent already overburdened state and local law enforcement from being pressed into service as an ad hoc ICE force, and keep communities safer by preventing racial profiling and residents too afraid of being deported to report crimes and help in prosecutions.

Don John’s superfluous election commission, his vanity project whose real goal is to suppress Democrat votes, shake the country’s faith in our election process, and manufacture justification (and perhaps an ego salve) for his baseless claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election he lost by more than 3 million popular votes, is running into rough road. First an email came to light from one of the most conservative members of Donald’s vanity project in which the committee’s intent to exclude moderate Republicans and Democrats was spelled out; followed by a fact-free op-ed by chairman Kris Kobach in alt-right news site Breitbart calling into question—with no evidence—the results of New Hampshire’s most recent U.S. Senate race; and then another committee member feuded on Twitter with a journalist whose academic credentials he claimed she’d fabricated (she hadn’t). Now even some Republicans are beginning to question the purpose, motives, and methods of the spurious committee.

Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is developing interesting tentacles. His techniques—including aggressively pursuing Donald intimates Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—are consistent with other investigations that attempt to find the weak link in a chain of illegalities and pull hard on it to yield the big fish (to mix metaphors). For now the White House seems to have deemed it wiser to cooperate—or at least appear to—than to continue dismissing the investigation as a “witch-hunt” and attack Mueller (despite some Keystone Kops-type public vacillating by two of Donald’s lawyers, overheard by the NY Times’s top political reporter). A great rundown on both these stories can be heard on the New York Times’s excellent Daily podcast from September 19, here. Meanwhile, Mueller stepped things up yet again this past week with a request to the White House for 13 categories of extensive records and email correspondence. Seems like he’s circling in on something pretty juicy…. If I were somehow involved in activities on the end of these ever-escalating investigations, I think I might be sweating pretty hard at this point. Maybe trying like hell to distract attention with, say, world-ending threats to a nuke-happy adversary, or recklessly conceived health care legislation, or a complete 180-degree flip on a key campaign issue along with unprecedented bipartisan outreach. Or something like that.

In a delightfully ironic way of drawing attention to the United States’ abnegation of our moral standards under the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (thanks, Kim Jong Un) in shutting out so many seeking asylum here (including Donald’s suppression of reports from his own Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees contribute more than $261 billion to our economy…unlike Donald, whose taxes seem to contribute zero), during the UN General Assembly in New York global aid organization Oxfam rented Donald’s childhood home in Queens to house refugees.

CALL TO ACTION: Submit Trumpcare Comments to the Senate Finance Committee by Monday, Sept. 25

The Senate Finance Committee is accepting comments on Graham-Cassidy (aka Trumpcare aka Zombiecare) until 12 P.M. (CENTRAL) ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25.

Here are instructions from our friends at Community Catalyst:

Working against the September 30th deadline for the budget reconciliation instructions, Senate republicans are trying once again to ram a repeal bill through the Senate. After some members of the Senate called for regular order – a public process with committee hearings, expert testimony and opportunity to offer amendments – the Senate Finance Committee will meet on Monday, September 25th at 2:00pm EDT in a hastily thrown together attempt at “regular order.” However, without a full CBO score detailing the impact on how many consumers will lose coverage and with no time for actual debate, this hearing is nothing more than a distraction from what is really happening: the latest attempt to gut Medicaid and strip health care from millions of Americans.

The hearing record needs to be filled with strong statements of opposition from organizations and individuals!

  1. Draft comments detailing the harmful effects of the Graham-Cassidy bill.
  2. At the committee’s request, be sure to submit comments with the following formatting instructions: a typewritten, single-spaced statement, not exceeding 10 pages in length, with title and date of the hearing and the full name and address of the individual or organization on the first page of the statement.
  3. Email to GCHcomments@finance.senate.gov by 12pm CDT on Sept. 25.
  4. We recommend that you also provide a copy of the letter to your own Senators.

Talking points from Community Catalyst (PDF)

PSA: Ted Cruz Appearances in Texas

As a public service, here is where Ted Cruz will be during the next recess. We’ll update this post as we learn more. If you know of more Texas lawmaker appearances, email us at tips@indivisibleaustin.com.

Tuesday, July 4 – McAllen

City of McAllen Independence Day Parade

Starts at 8 a.m.

Source: McAllen Monitor

Wednesday, July 5 – McKinney

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

CVA Defend and Reform Tour

Sheraton McKinney
1900 Gateway Blvd
McKinney, TX 75070

Thursday, July 6 – Austin

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

CVA Defend and Reform Tour

Renaissance Austin
9721 Arboretum Blvd
Austin, TX 78759

Saturday, July 8 – Houston

12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

CVA Defend and Reform Tour

Sheraton Brook Hollow
3000 North Loop West Fwy
Houston, TX 77092

 

 

 

So you’re meeting with a staffer. Now what?

During the Cornyn Stakeout last week, I, on impulse, walked into the Chase Bank Building, rode the elevator to the 15th floor, and knocked on the door to Cornyn’s office. Next thing I knew I was sitting face to face with a young staffer. Now what?

I had my talking points about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s–and especially John Cornyn’s–lackluster response to Russian election interference, but it seemed weird to launch into that. When there is a human being sitting a few feet away, the dynamic is very different compared to speaking on the phone or firing off angry tweets.

She may have been more nervous than I was. I’m a tall man in an Indivisible Austin t-shirt and for all she knows I am about to start shrieking at her, or worse. So I explained, calmly, that I was from Indivisible Austin, one of the organizers of the stakeout, and that we aren’t scary. I joked that most of the Indivisible activists look like our moms, and in fact, my mother is an Indivisible activist in rural Texas. (See, we’re not all Austin hippies, either.)

The staffer smiled, and let her guard down a bit. Sure, she was being paid to listen to my concerns, and we might disagree vigorously on many things; but it was clear that a human connection was forming.

I believe these human connections, seeking common ground, will save our Democracy.

Paraphrasing what I said:

On the AHCA

“Getting people to question facts is a hallmark of authoritarianism. When John Cornyn called CBO data ‘fake news,’ that sent a dangerous signal. The CBO score may not be perfect, but it’s the only data we have, and the Congressional Budget Office is as nonpartisan as it gets. For our Democracy to function, we need to have agreed-upon facts. If we can’t agree on facts, our Democracy dies.”

On withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

“Sen. Cornyn signed a letter encouraging Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Cornyn and other Republicans like to point out that the treaty is not legally binding. But one thing we have learned from the Trump presidency is that norms and traditions uphold our Democracy far more than laws do. By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, we send a message that we no longer take seriously the bonds, however symbolic, between the U.S. and our global allies. Additionally, climate change is a nonpartisan issue, affecting everyone. We can disagree about the means with which to solve the problem, but we first need to agree on the basic fact that it is happening.”

On Russian election interference

“The original purpose of the Cornyn Stakeout was to send a message to Sen. Cornyn that Americans take very seriously the issue of a foreign power interfering in our Democratic process. Sen. Cornyn’s seemingly flippant attitude toward his own committee’s investigation is inappropriate. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. If Russia, or any foreign power, is influencing our elections in any way, that is dangerous to both parties, and to our nation as a whole. We need Sen. Cornyn to take this issue more seriously.”

I spent 15 to 20 minutes sharing my concerns with the staffer, who was very professional and polite, and took notes that she said she would deliver to the senator. It is quite possible that she was seething inwardly, disagreeing with everything I said… but I don’t really think so. Human beings are social creatures and instinctively seek common ground. And it is much easier to find that common ground in person, than on social media or phone calls.

This summer we’ll be kicking off a series of “air-conditioned activism”* events, centered around meetings with congressional staffers. We’re planning a toolkit to make your meetings with staffers as effective as can be, and we would love to hear what has and has not worked for you. We would especially welcome feedback from staffers. Please email vp@indivisibleaustin.com or leave a comment here.


*Many thanks to the Indivisible TX-25 Eanes / West Austin group for coining the term “Air-Conditioned Activism.”

 

 

How to Tell Your Senators to Oppose Trumpcare (Without Accidentally Letting Them Off the Hook!)

Cross-posted, with permission, from Cover Texas Now

Over the next couple weeks, it’s critical that we continue to raise our voices about health care in phone calls and emails to our U.S. Senators, rallies in our communities, social media posts, letters to editor, and any other ways you can think of.

We also need to make sure our message doesn’t let them off the hook.

Many Senators are saying that they won’t support “the House bill.” They say they’re working on “improving” the bill

So if we just ask them to “oppose the House bill,” we run the risk of letting them off the hook.

That’s why we recommend delivering this message to our Senators:

Oppose ANY legislation that:

  • Causes millions of Americans to lose health coverage;
  • Slashes Medicaid for kids, seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities;
  • Guts protections for people with pre-existing conditions;
  • Cuts billions in health care funding to pay for billions in tax cuts to large corporations and wealthy individuals.

We also urge you to take a moment to explain why protecting health care is personally important to you.

Here are the phone numbers to contact our Senators:

Thank you for raising your voice!

Cornyn Stakeout: A Statewide Success

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

The stakeout was amazing, y’all. Thirty-one groups came together from all over the state to hold John Cornyn accountable at each of his Texas offices, all day long, for four days. (See highlights here.)

As an all-volunteer community of citizen activists, this was a big commitment of time and energy, and we definitely got Sen. Cornyn’s attention. (We know because we talked to staff.) What Cornyn chooses to do now that he knows he’s under scrutiny is on him. So far he seems to be doubling down on his fecklessness. That will change, or he will be voted out.

But this is just the beginning. We Texans are stronger together, and won’t let our beautiful, but vast, geography get in the way of organizing. These are the groups that organized the stakeout, to whom we owe a Texas-size thank you.

Austin

TX21 Indivisible

TX25 Indivisible Eanes (West Austin)

Pantsuit Austin

TX-10 Indivisible

Indivisible South ATX

Indivisible TX-17

Women’s Action Group – Cedar Park/Round Rock

Wilco Indivisible

Dallas

Indivisible TX-03

Indivisible Oak Cliff

Indivisible TX-24

Indivisible06

Houston

Neighbors in Action – Indivisible!

PSR Houston

Visible Indivisible

Indivisible Houston

Indivisible Katy Huddle

Liberty County Indivisible

PSR Houston

Indivisible Cypress

Golden Triangle Indivisible

Indivisible TX-02

Indivisible TX-36

Emerson UU Advocates Indivisible Action Team

Lubbock

West Texans Concerned About Vladimir Putin

San Antonio

TX21 Indivisible

Indivisible Seguin

Concerned TX-27 Democrat

TX20 Indivisible

Indivisible NB

Tyler

Indivisible Smith County

Day One: Why We Need the Cornyn Stakeout

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

Today is the first day of the Cornyn Stakeout. Citizen activists are making their concerns known at Sen. Cornyn’s offices all over the state.

Sen. Cornyn himself has reacted, if obliquely. His Houston office has a sign on the door cautioning protestors not to demonstrate on private property.

And there was this tweet:

Put aside that the article Cornyn’s references in the tweet gives clear examples of the mounting evidence that Russian interference tipped the election to Trump. As a member of the Senate Intel and Judiciary committees, it is John Cornyn’s JOB to find and parse that evidence, and above all to take that evidence SERIOUSLY.

This is why we are protesting. This is why, statewide, we are rallying outside Cornyn’s offices. John Cornyn’s fecklessness on Russia and other issues has entered dangerous new territory.

It’s not just Russia. Take this tweet, sent over the weekend:

What John Cornyn calls “fake news” is data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)! If this is fake news, then there is no such thing as real news. This is so completely irresponsible of the second-most powerful person in the Senate, and he needs to hear about it, loudly and frequently.

Five questions to ask John Cornyn and Ted Cruz about the AHCA

From Indivisible Project’s “Defend the ACA and Medicaid”:

Since the fight to save the ACA is now in the Senate, the following question are for your two senators. Questions for your representative, see here.

  1. Republicans in the House sided with Trump over the wellbeing of their constituents when they voted to pass TrumpCare. They voted for it without a CBO score, meaning that they didn’t even know how much it would harm their constituents. We now have a CBO score and know that TrumpCare would kick 23 million people off of their health care. As your constituent, can you promise me that you:
    • “…won’t vote for a bill that would lead to millions of Americans losing their health coverage?”
    • “…won’t vote for a bill without first knowing its full implications from a CBO score?”
  2. I don’t believe that ensuring “access” to health care, which doesn’t take into account affordability or quality of care, is good enough. Can you guarantee that any replacement plan will cover AT LEAST as many people that would be covered under the ACA? Can you guarantee that no one will lose their coverage as a result of your vote?
  3. I [or someone I know] has “x” condition and I’m afraid that I [they] will be unable to obtain affordable health coverage because of my [their] pre-existing condition. I want to know if you can assure me that I’ll be able to get the same consumer protections as the ACA, including for a pre-existing condition?
  4. Thanks to the ACA, I was able to enroll in my state’s Medicaid program for the first time. I’m afraid that a replacement plan will end funding for state Medicaid expansions. Can you assure me that funding for Medicaid won’t get cut under ANY replacement plan?
  5. Currently, anyone who is eligible for Medicaid is able to get it. I’m one of those people. I’m afraid that I may lose my Medicaid coverage if the program is restructured. Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?