as published in The Huffington Post
Our resistance to the corrosion of democracy and freedom must now move from frenzied outrage to strategic action. It’s time to think beyond marches, beyond symbolic acts of opposition (as important as these moments of defiance are and will continue to be over the coming months and years). It’s time, today, to focus on our two year plan, our four year plan, and our eight year plan to forge a future worth inheriting. Do not be distracted by absurd tweets and bread and circuses.
A few weeks ago I described how we can retake the Senate in 2018, and what each and everyone one of us should and must do, every single day, to fight back against rising hate attacks.
Next in our Action Plan to Save America: build a base of resilience in our own states and communities. The dark turn of national politics demands that we push now more than ever for our policies to match our promises and our principles—to build blue states and cities into genuine beacons of inclusion, fairness, freedom, and opportunity.
We can fight, and we can win, on five fronts.
First, Blue States must deliver where the federal government is failing. This is the beauty of America’s federal system of government. States are laboratories of experimentation. We do not need the approval of voters in other states, who do not share our views and our values, to champion policies that truly make America great. Blue Beacons, like California and New York, can act immediately and unilaterally: to establish affordable, universal healthcare for all residents; to end the corrosive influence of money in politics; to provide free public education from preschool through university to anyone in need; to regulate catastrophic climate emissions, and invest in green infrastructure that puts us on the path towards a low-carbon economy; to defend against discrimination and hate, and guarantee equal rights; to expand access to justice for immigrants; and to end tax giveaways for the wealthy and well-connected, close tax loopholes, crack-down on the companies and rich investors currently hiding massive profits in offshore bank accounts, and ensure a fair tax system that works for everyone.
California is the sixth largest economy in the world, outranking France, India, and Italy. New York is the eleventh largest economy globally, nearly equal to Canada, and ahead of Russia. Just California and New York together make Blue States the third largest global economy, behind only the rest of the United States and China. If Japan, Austria, France, the U.K., and Italy can have universal, affordable healthcare, so can we. When we set carbon emissions caps, tax financial transactions, invest in education and green growth, fund access to justice, and act like the Superpowers that we are, the impact is global.
Second, cities and counties likewise must lead with progressive policies. Los Angeles County is setting aside millions to provide lawyers to immigrants facing deportation. Other counties like San Diego and San Francisco should do the same. The city of Portland just passed a law slapping a surtax on all companies that pay CEOs 100 times more than what they pay workers. From 1978 to today, CEO compensation increased nearly 1000%, while average workers’ pay grew just 11%. CEOs of large companies now make 300 times more than the average worker. This is the rigged economy, which socializes the risks of volatility and dislocation, while privatizing and concentrating the profits. If New York, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles passed more progressive tax laws, the impact could be global. The affordable housing crisis is a municipal problem, with local solutions. Local development and energy policy is where the rubber truly hits the road for environmental sustainability, especially natural resource conservation and climate change. Regions across the country, from Napa to Westchester, are breaking dirty energy monopolies to jumpstart the transition to cheaper, greener, alternative energy: establishing collectives to buy clean electricity through Community Choice Aggregation. We can all do the same. Indeed, planning is already underway in my own county of San Diego, but citizen involvement is essential to push through a good plan and prevent dirty fuel favoritism. Our cities and counties have enormous power to lead us towards more sustainable and inclusive societies by incentivizing solar and energy-efficient building, investing in green infrastructure, and improving mass transit.
The Blue States right now remain rife with injustices. We may have voted against Trump, but far too many people in New York, California, Washington, and other beacons of democracy are still left out and left behind, and our natural resources remain under existential threat. Students graduate with crushing debt. An affordable housing crisis has made home ownership increasingly out-of-reach for the middle class, especially young people, and is fueling class-based housing apartheid in major cities like San Francisco and New York. Workers young and old have precarious healthcare, with 1 million people in New York and over 3.5 million people in California at risk of losing healthcare coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Immigrants who fled violence in their own countries, and children who grew-up here and know other home, face arbitrary deportation without a fair hearing or access to legal counsel. When I surf in the ocean, I get sick from toxic stormwater run-off. Cars spewing carbon clog our roads, and sustainable mass transit outside the big cities is still nonexistent. In short, we have real work to do to make our homes into the Blue Beacons they can and must become. Meaningful progress in our own states and cities will reverberate nationwide. Success spawns imitators. As we demonstrate that inclusion and sustainability foster shared prosperity and strengthen democracy and freedom, other states will eventually follow (and so too the nation, when the moment is ripe).
Third, we can focus our energies on our local fights to defend and take back Congress in 2018. Dozens of seats in the House of Representatives are held by Republicans from staunchly blue states. Many of these races were razor thin in 2016. If we start organizing now, we can take these seats in the 2018 midterms. Some of the closest are the California 49th (incumbent Darrell Issa), California 25th (incumbent Steven Knight), Minnesota 2nd (incumbent Jason Lewis), Nebraska 2nd (incumbent Don Bacon), Iowa 1st (incumbent Rob Blum), New York 19th (incumbent Claudia Tenny), and New York 22nd (incumbent John Faso). Democratic House Members will also be vulnerable in tight districts across the country; we all need to organize to defend these seats, so our elected representatives can continue fighting for us in Washington. Midterm elections are historically harder for Democrats because less people tend to show-up to vote, and lower participation hurts Democrats more. We cannot allow this slide to apathy. A central goal of each and every one one of us over the next 21 months must be to inform and galvanize our neighbors and communities—to organize historic turnout for the 2018 midterm elections, so we can win Congressional seats across the nation. One thing we can all do today? Get informed about your own local House and Senate race, so you can get involved.
Fourth, lets be ready to support our state legislatures as they gear-up for fierce legal battles against Trump’s illegal policy agenda. If he threatens our states’ rights to regulate fossil fuel emissions and support sustainable energy, we will sue. If he takes away our public lands, we will sue. And if he tries to bully sanctuary cities who are protecting access to justice for immigrants, we will sue. The law is our sword and shield to fight back against the Trump agenda.
And fifth, each and every one of us can adopt another state, another city, another county where we can volunteer as foot soldiers to retake the Senate and win crucial State legislative and governor races. Take a roadtrip, or a family vacation. Make phone calls to local voters from your own living room. Get educated on the candidates. Hold bake sales to raise money. Epic 2018 midterm battles are brewing to prevent the Republicans from winning a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, and stop them from ramming through Trump’s most abhorrent policies. My family and friends are adopting Nevada. Also in need of adopting: Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Maine. We also can and must pitch-in on crucial and too often neglected state races. States, not the Federal government, draw the district lines that determine who can vote for whom, and how we are all represented in congress and state capitols. State legislatures and governors decide whether to create fair and impartial voting districts, or instead to stack the deck and draw lines that ensure one party always wins. Partisan gerrymandering to impose contorted voting districts has led to unfair and unrepresentative elections across the country. These lines will be redrawn in 2020, by whomever is in power in state capitols. The long-term future of our country depends on winning the critical 2018 and 2020 state elections that impact redistricting.
How we resist is just as important as winning. Process is outcome. We must empower through action. Our values have broad public support, but for far too long we’ve punched below our weight. As we work to transform the Blue States into genuine beacons of freedom, democracy, and fair and inclusive societies, we must build progressive power through genuine community engagement. This means educating ourselves and our friends on the issues, so we are not vulnerable to demagogues who promise the impossible and prey on our fears. This means spending the time it takes to connect the dots about complicated and counter-intuitive policy challenges, so people are empowered to vote in their own best interests. This means building cadres of local leaders skilled at influencing the political process. And this means working and organizing for progressive elected representatives who will fight for us, not sell us out for soundbites and big donor money.
If there is a single silver-lining to the Trump disaster, it may be a once-in-a-generation chance to revitalize American political engagement. We all no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines, meditating and practicing vinyasa and thinking we are making enough of a contribution just by recycling and eating organic kale. The era of “politics as consumer preferences” is over. Yes, our small daily acts of integrity are essential building-blocks of a kind and just and generous society. Our daily practices of loving kindness to the earth and to each other make us who we are. But they are not enough. Not by a long shot. We have now entered a raw struggle for power, a struggle that will determine whether or not we have livable planet, whether or not we are decimated by nuclear war, whether or not people of color and immigrants and women have equal rights and opportunities in our country and around the world, whether or not the precious American democratic experiment implodes under the weight of post-truth and obfuscation and polarization, and whether or not we can forge a fairer society built on inclusion and shared prosperity. We all must engage.
We are District 13. We are the Rebel Alliance. We are the Blue Beacon Project.