Electoral Solutions (and how to contribute to them)

David Iscoe newsletter, Weekly Update #7

Man, I don’t really feel like talking about my week, which was fine more or less, or my life, also more or less fine for now, and probably you’re not into that right now either, though I’ll share a few mundane snippets because sometimes mundanity is soothing.

Other than that, I’ll be one of the many people in the echo chamber echoing the message that there is an electoral solution to a lot of our problems. Having a majority of Democrats in the House and/or the Senate won’t solve everything, but it will stop us having to beg for scraps from a party that won’t do anything. We all know this. I don’t think you have to be a Democrat to see this right now. The Democratic party is mediocre, but the current Republican party is in denial about global warming, inequality, racism, and sexual assault and unwilling to confront a president who is undermining electoral integrity, rule of law, and civil rights. No national legislator from that party has meaningfully or reliably stopped its roll, and there aren’t any other parties left as an alternative because we don’t have a parliamentary system. There is plenty of time to build power outside the party or build bipartisanship or pressure people to do better in the offseason, but this is the season for voting and voting’s what we have to do and the only party fielding votable candidates who are likely to do anything right now is the Democratic party (even if all they do is take control of a chamber away from maniacs).

(Also: if you’re in New York and not registered Democrat by now, what you doing? The primary is the more decisive election usually. One more week to register with a party for next year’s primary, because of our crazy deadlines.)

Some people can vote for ‘em if there are competitive races in-district, but here are some other things we can do:

  1. Give ‘em money

    From what I gather the most “bang for your buck” is on Congressional races outside the top dozen or so most-funded contests (you start getting diminishing returns as star candidates get more money, and there are dozens and dozens of potentially competitive seats that need love), and on a different level state legislative contests where a few thousand dollars can mean a lot.

    I need to research the specifics more, and let me know if you have good lists of lower-tier competitive races that are lacking money, but this Swing Left leaderboard is pretty good, and for now I think “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” is the way to go. I’d recommend going with a collection of races with low-to-middling funding.

    For state legislatures, all I know is New York where there’s a big battle in the senate (the assembly is well in hand). Here’s all the competitive races I’m aware of (lots of these are competitive and none are sure things, but one I wouldn’t recommend is Amanda Kirchgessner because it just came out that she was violently abusive to her ex-wife.)

    I’m sure there are other places to give money but wherever you’re looking this is about the time.

  2. Text bank for ‘em

    Text banking is less scary than phone banking and I think it’s more effective for your time. You can contact a whole lot of people relatively quickly through an online interface, and a decent number respond. This gets more valuable closer to the election as money gets less relevant. On election day itself, it’s good for turnout. The main text-banking org I’d recommend is Red2Blue, which is focused on swing districts and also does phone banking. There are probably lots of other good ones but I know about that one because it started nearby in Brooklyn.

  3. Volunteer with ‘em

    Volunteering is easiest locally where you can go into the office and meet people and knock doors which is still the MVP of voter-turnout activities. This finder is pretty good for congressional-level stuff, and you can also just go to campaigns directly. In Brooklyn, the nearest legislative race is Andrew Gounardes’s and there are some good ones on Long Island too (Gaughran, Kaplan, and maybe Thomas).

  4. Talk to people who might do something

    The converse of this is don’t talk too much politics to people who won’t do something soon, because it’s a waste of time and energy right now. It’s do it or don’t season.

If you’re just trying to keep your own head above water that’s of course the most important but these are pretty good ways to spend money and energy if you got it I think.


THINGS TO WATCH

The Good Place is good in my opinion. I like its absurdist jokes and ethical frame, and the cast is great. It’s got a little bit of the corniness that often comes from Michael Schur shows, especially in the later seasons, but it’s holding its own and I think the absurd frame and the number of constitutionally un-sappy characters helps stave that off better than most. It’s also less relationship-supremacist than some of the other Schur shows (especially late-season Office), more fundamentally concerned with introspection and community, which I find relaxing.

On Friday I’m going to see The Simple Show at Caveat. Never seen it before but I know Kady Ruth Ashcraft from the comedy world and also she is friends with my cousin, and she is very funny, and I have seen John Reynolds and he is also funny, and I know Ziwe Fumidoh from The Onion and the comedy world and she too is very funny, and the rest of those motherfuckers I don’t really know but they’re in good company in that lineup and I like the venue which is in the Lower East Side instead of way the fuck out in Hell’s Kitchen. They sent an email to promote it. I hate going to comedy shows in general because I’m sitting in the audience like an idiot instead of participating, I’m the kind of person who would feel extremely uncomfortable during a spa day because you have to sit there while other people work, but I think I’ll enjoy this one. Anyway book me on stuff or ask me for labor, that’s more my wheelhouse, but maybe go watch that show too.


THINGS TO READ

I bought a copy of The Plague by Weird Al Camus on the street for cheap when I was looking for something to read while I ate lunch a couple weeks ago, and it’s good so far. There are rats dying, which is too bad, but I like that people are paying attention to rats. I think we should pay more attention to our rats. If we did, this so-called “Pizza Rat” wouldn’t seem too exceptional, I feel like rats do things like that on the regular and someone just happened to get the right shot of one, but I’m glad it raised rat awareness. Just know that it’s not Pizza Rat but just a pizza rat.


ANECDOTES/SNIPPETS OF WHAT’S UP

On Monday I went down to the Brooklyn Democratic Party office to help take pictures of and enter data about the proxy forms that the party used to outvote hundreds of people in a room last week. It was fun in a way. The place was a mess, which I liked. Always like seeing a good cluttered office or kitchen. The one party official who was there hovered around us and occasionally cracked wise in a Ben-Stein-like monotone for a couple hours trying to rile us up but we stayed friendly. Later the dude in charge of our team organized a bunch of other volunteers to break down the data further online and crunched the hell out of some numbers and we learned a lot at a meeting on Thursday.

Also on Monday I interviewed for a job I didn’t really have time to do, an additional assignment through my temp agency. It pays better than my current job but seems more stressful and the timing is a lot more rigid. I’m going W-2 on one of my contracting jobs right now and doing 15 hours on my other temp job so I won’t be broke or starving unless I have to move to a more expensive place, so right now I need time more than money, and basically we talked about how the job might fit into my schedule and it seemed that it didn’t. It was a friendly conversation.

On Thursday I managed to get to the gym when there weren’t a lot of people there and lift heavy weights with my legs at a leisurely pace and then sit in the sauna. This whole process is relaxing to me but it takes a long time so I don’t get out there more than once a week these days. But it’s good to keep the energy up and I should keep it in mind. If I go two or three or four times in a week I feel better but then I run out of time.

Today I finished writing a thing I might send in to a place or two. I like doing comedy more than I like doing most things I do, I need to be doing it every day and carving out time to write, because that is the career I’m trying to do and what I like to do, but I get distracted with this other shit.