Who needs cheering up?
I do, apparently.
Some of you wrote after Sunday’s column to urge me to get a handle on my despair. In the course of a piece on Elizabeth Warren — and the notion of electability, an issue that seems to hobble only her candidacy — I suggested that nobody could beat the corrupt autocrat in the Oval Office in November.
I agree, I was too certain in my dark thoughts. Even given the resilience of President Trump’s cultish base, the GOP’s structural electoral advantages, and their willingness to cheat their way to reelection, the vote is nine months away, for heaven’s sake — a political lifetime.
Besides, defeatism is super unhelpful, and very possibly vote-discouraging.
And so, as tempting as it is to lament Warren’s awful showing in New Hampshire, or more urgently, to freak out about the fact that the Department of Justice appears to be the lapdog of a lawless White House, today will not be about despair.
Instead, it will be about some possible antidotes, and some hardy souls still somehow wedded to hope.
The heartening fact is that not everybody who is horrified at our current predicament is curled up in the fetal position. A bunch of groups have sprung up to marshal volunteers and donations for candidates in close contests, to make sure every vote counts equally, to beat back gerrymandering, and to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on issues like climate change.
A few such groups have started work in Massachusetts, this blue state where progressives don’t have much to fight about close to home, but want to swing back the national tide. We may have more liberal angst per square mile than in any other state. It needs an outlet.
“I totally get the need for comforting,” said Tom Mendelsohn, donor organizer for the Movement Voter Project, a national activist group headquartered in Northampton. “We’re all feeling it. We try not to get caught up in the incessant noise around the very real and depressing news, but instead to think about the long arc bending towards justice.”
More bending of that arc, please. And less long would be peachy.
The group raises money for local organizations to build engagement in their own communities and grow voting habits in places where turnout has been less reliable. They focus especially on those working in communities of color and with younger voters, particularly in five crucial states up for grabs this year: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona.
This cycle, MVP is hoping to raise and move $50 million into those communities, in hopes of fostering new groups of progressive voters who will be as devoted to casting ballots as, say, the denizens of a Florida retirement community.
And they’ll do it with donations from all over the country, from people who seem grateful to have something to do with their frustration.
“We are letting people live their values,” said Julie Gordon, one of the leaders of another group, Force Multiplier, based in Brookline, which raises money for MVP, Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight, and other groups, as well as for Democratic candidates in close contests.
“We’re telling people, ‘Yes you can do something,’” Gordon said. A former psychiatric social worker, she knows a little something about despair. Volunteering, or donating a few bucks, can really help a dejected voter feel less powerless, she said.
This country is sliding away from democratic values not just because of a reality TV star whose bigoted rants captured the hearts of less than half the nation, but because of years of grass-roots efforts by conservatives to capture electoral and legislative power at every level. Many of those efforts were years-long, and operated under the radar.
What MVP, Force Multiplier, and other progressive groups are doing is trying to catch up. Mendelsohn sees that effort going way beyond November.
“We’re going to build a progressive decade, and hopefully our institutions don’t take forever to rebuild,” he said.
Will they at least be able to swing us back to sanity by November?
The likely truth is, sadly ... Oh right, I’m not doing despair today.