Note from Annie: I am devoting my blog posts this week to honoring two of the tens of thousands of Americans who have been doing the hard work for us all prior to these crucial midterm elections.
Scott Steward and Peggy Bernardy are active in the progressive organization Indivisible Yolo in Yolo County, California. (Indivisible is a nationwide organization that has blossomed since its beginnings in reaction to Trump’s election in 2016.)
In the political campaign world, it’s widely believed that contact with individual voters is the most productive way to persuade them to vote. And of all the methods of communication in this tech-heavy era, face-to-face contact tops the list.
In his Today’s Edition newsletter, Robert Hubbell referred to those “who are doing the incredibly difficult work of ‘retail democracy’ in hostile territory. When I hear their stories,” Hubbell said, “I renew my resolve.”
And so do I.
Here, in Part 1, Steward, a self-described six-year veteran of such personal contact, writes about his experience in Reno, Nevada–a critical state in this election. And he introduces Peggy Bernardy, who’s making her sixth trip to Nevada just this season.
In Part 2, Peggy answers my questions.
Peggy Bernardy picks me up at 7:45 to head to Reno for a day of registering voters. “Can you help me with a project to protect women’s reproductive rights?”
We are talking with young and old, t-shirted, tie-dyed, and those in slacks, dress shoes and collared shirts (not as many collared shirts): Nevadans who are on their way to and from the “Great American Crafts Fair.”
It’s a beautiful October day, and I’m nervous, yes me, a 6-year veteran, because just like everyone else, I’m hearing about the hostile people in a region of the country that is not my own decidedly blue Yolo County.
I get my clipboard and step onto the sidewalk to talk to a young couple who look a little bit hurried, as they are on their way to the fair. And I ask them: “Are you registered? I’m working on a project to help women’s reproductive rights in Nevada.” They ask me, “What did you say?” But they give me a chance to ask again, “I’m working on a project to help protect women’s reproductive rights; can you help?”
As I stand there in my blue jeans, sun hat, blue checked shirt, with water bottle sticking out of my windbreaker, fumbling a bit with my clipboard, I see they are very interested. But they’re also hopeful that I’ll get to the point so they can be on their way.
We find that they, like most of the fair goers, are registered. What I also find is that most voters don’t know how to vote down ballot for county judges and other small–but still important–races. So when I give them a prepared quarter-page flyer that shows just where they can get the information on which of the candidates are most likely to support women’s reproductive rights, even at the county level, they are genuinely appreciative.
I ask that they make sure to call their county registrar if they have not received their ballot by October 22. As they leave, they say “thank you,” and I can see they mean it.
Lots of thank yous. Not everyone stopped to listen when I asked if they could help me with a project to protect women’s reproductive rights. A few who paused made clear that they were not for legal abortion for any reason.
So where did I get the backbone to ask passersby about helping with women’s reproductive rights, their registration status, and their willingness to take some information to help with down ballot voting?
Well, it was strengthened by this very energetic 5’2″ woman from the Sacramento Valley.
Peggy had taken the time to prepare me with some of her experiences. It’s not always a safe feeling when you meet a new group of people, and to do this over and over again takes getting past the fear you have inside that people don’t want to hear from you.
But Peggy knows that most people do, in fact, want to connect–even if they don’t always agree with you. Almost everyone we talked to on the corner of Jones and Vine streets, even those who did not agree with a legal right to abortion, thanked me. They were kind, and it was very rewarding to be there making that connection.
Will it be enough? This is our last chance to make a difference. We are in the last 37 days of the election. The Dobbs decision has already cast a shadow on tens of millions of women, teens, and children.
The Amy Coney Barrett Court Majority has driven the state of California to place Proposition 1 on the ballot: Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom.
“Amends California Constitution to expressly include an individual’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which includes the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives. This amendment does not narrow or limit the existing rights to privacy and equal protection under the California Constitution.”
After November 8, California women will have an amendment protecting their reproductive rights. The states that ban abortion will be filling their jails with women who no longer have control over their bodies–and with their physicians, who can no longer use their training to care for their patients’ health.
Eleven states have complete abortion bans or are contemplating total bans. Fifteen more have severely restricted a woman’s right to reproductive health and access to some forms of contraception, and are moving to eliminate privacy between a patient and her doctor.
Most of the population in the United States exists in jurisdictions that respect women’s reproductive rights. You probably live in one of those states and counties. So it’s up to you to find a way to help Arizona, Texas, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada voters.
Stand up, put on your blue checkered shirt or blouse and some jeans, and grab a clipboard. Get in the car, and head to where you are needed. There will not be another November 8, 2022. What awaits you are a lot of thank yous. Most important, you’ll be thanking yourself.
NOTE: It’s now clear that while Republicans are doing all sorts of contortions on the campaign trail to sound as though they’re less radical on the issue of abortion, state legislators continue their assault on our Constitutionally protected freedom. In addition, those like Senator Lindsey Graham and all the Big Liar candidates have stated that they absolutely want a federal ban on abortion.
6 thoughts on “Part 1: Civic Goodness”
Inspiring story. Yes, it’s people like these who make a difference!
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Thank you, Dennis. They sure inspire me! In Part 2, just posted, I ask for readers’ experiences…just thought I’d mention that.
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I had occasion to hear essayist, humorist David Sedaris read from his newest work in a crowded theatre. Like his work or not, I admired how he used his platform to do a few things: (a) give a young unknown the chance to read her short story, repeating her name several times in the hope that we, the audience, would remember and look for her work; (b) provide a recommendation of a book, this time a graphic novel on cats, again simply to spread the word; and finally (and my point here) (c) a serious plug for those who go out and register voters, specifically Voteriders. He was persuasive, identifying his own support, urging his audience to consider doing the same, announcing that the organization’s contact info/brochure was in the lobby next to his stack of books, urging us to take the info home, to digest it, to consider a donation, and then, like all good storytellers, he made it personal by explaining that he never learned to drive and thus had no ID until he finally got a passport. He made the case, calmly, intelligently, that they do good work that benefits us all. Vote. Is it asking so much to participate in democracy? I admired him for using his platform to try to do some good: for the unknown writer, for a new book of a colleague that might well escape notice, and for all us who value democracy. Inspiring, for sure.
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That’s wonderful, Denise. I am most appreciative that you related this story, in detail, so well. I am a David Sedaris fan and also had the pleasure of hearing him in person a few years ago. Terrific that he used his platform pro-democracy. And VoteRiders is one of a number of excellent grassroots orgs filled with dedicated volunteers for the greater good.
I mentioned VoteRiders in my July post “How to Be a Part of the Solution.” https://annieasksyou.com/2022/07/15/how-to-be-a-part-of-the-solution/
Anyone reading this who needs help with IDs, please contact them.
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God, it’s like reading The Handmaid’s Tale 😔😔😔😔😔 Bravo. It must be terrifying to take such a stand…🙏🙏🙏💕
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That’s what I found so fascinating, Patti. Both Scott and Peggy said most people really wanted to connect—even those who disagreed with them on abortion.
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