Award Eligibility Post

I had only one story that came out for the first time in 2016: my short story “Zombies in Winter,” which was published by the new online magazine Persistent Visions.

(I was writing and submitting this year! I sold stories that will appear in 2017, and I wrote new stories that I’ve started sending around, I sold a short story collection that will come out in 2017, and I sold translation rights to “Cat Pictures Please” and some of my other stories…but only one story actually appeared this year, and that very late in the year. So it goes.)

 

 

Triangulation and Resistance

I saw a post linked on Twitter the other day about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. Like everyone chosen for Trump’s cabinet, there’s a long list of reasons to loathe her, although I’d say she’s basically a normal conservative pick, as these things go, unlike Sessions, who’s far more horrifying than any likely AG pick we might have seen from Jeb or Rubio. (Probably. I mean, you never know.)

But, she also provides a good example of something I want to encourage people to think about.

Hopefully you’ve seen the Indivisible guide (if not, you can download it here), which talks about harnessing some of the tactics used by conservatives against Obama to resist the GOP agenda. They talk about calling your Representative and your Senators, and beyond that, finding out about town hall meetings and other opportunities to show up and make things difficult.

If you have Democratic representation (like me: I’m represented by Betty McCollum in the House, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken in the Senate) you want to encourage them to stand firm. They’re less likely to cave if they know their constituents are on their side. Especially if you know the other side is mobilizing to pressure them, call and say thank you. Let them know you have their back. Show up at their town hall meetings and be the opposite of difficult. Etc.

If you have Republican representation, though, the goal is to get them to break with their party, at least some of the time. The thing is, this really will be more successful when you can frame the issue in a way that has the potential to make them look bad to their base, and not just the Democrats. I mean, they already look bad to Democrats and they don’t, generally, care. “I want you to support Planned Parenthood because women should have the right to choose” is not going to sway someone who campaigned on an anti-abortion platform. “Your plan to refuse to let Planned Parenthood provide non-abortion-related health services will cost the Federal government $130 million. Whose taxes will be raised to cover this extra cost?” is the sort of question that might make them sweat.

So that’s my first point: when possible, find ways to frame things that threatens to make your Republican representatives look bad to their supporters. (I’m not saying you should give up on pressuring them when you can’t do that. But when you CAN, embrace it.)

My second point, though, is that you need to follow one additional rule: do not beat up on an already-marginalized group. Especially a group that’s being attacked by the Trump administration already. Do not go after Republicans by demonizing trans people. Or Muslims. Or immigrants. Find another option.

Back to Betsy DeVos. She’s a proponent of vouchers — giving public money to religious schools. Most voucher proponents imagine children attending Christian schools of one sort or another on the public dime, with maybe the occasional Jewish school for variety. They are not picturing Muslim schools receiving public money, but in fact, there are some Muslim schools around doing just that through voucher programs.

Loudly pointing that out, however, breaks that second rule. The last thing Muslim-Americans need right now is Democrats shouting at Senate hearings about the lurking danger of Madrassas. (Fun fact: “madrassa” is just the Arabic word for “school.” I heard a radio piece some years back by an American woman who’d taught somewhere like Jordan and had been really taken aback when she heard people referring to madrassas in tones of horror and hatred. Imagine hearing people saying school the way you hear people say madrassa and you’ll probably get the picture.)

Also, there is a terrific alternate bogeyman out there. They don’t have any schools right now but if Trump starts trying to push voucher programs nationwide I bet they would be overjoyed to set one up. After all, they crowdfunded an awesome statue and started a lovely afterschool program a year or so back… I am referring, of course, to the Satanic Temple.

As far as I can tell, the Satanic Temple was started more or less for the purpose of demonstrating to pushy Christians why “separation of Church and State” is in their interests, as well. So demonizing them (heh) is not only fair game but something I expect they would embrace wholeheartedly. Especially if you promise to donate to the project if they do start crowdfunding a school. (I bet it would be an awesome school.)

“Senator Johnson, why did you vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, who supports giving taxpayer dollars to schools run by Satanists?” (Pause to allow him briefly to yammer about parent choice, but don’t give up mic.) “But you didn’t answer my question about Satanists, Senator. Why do you support giving taxpayer dollars to Satanic schools?

There are plenty of other topics which I think may turn out to be less partisan than Paul Ryan assumes – Medicare, the ACA (my sympathy for the people who are dependent on the ACA but voted for Trump is limited, but I’m all for mobilizing them whenever we can), banking regulations.

But there’s another benefit to this sort of triangulation that’s worth thinking about. The Republican coalition has held together as long as it has because it’s been a long time since they’ve tried to accomplish anything. In addition to blocking the Trump agenda at every opportunity, I think our broader goal should be to burn down the Big Tent. Turn Republicans against Republicans at every opportunity. The Republican party has shown itself willing to lie, cheat, and obstruct. They’re willing to give aid and comfort and alliance to literal Nazis. They’re willing to side with a Russian dictator against American democracy. These are not the actions of good and decent people who care about America. That’s a political party that cares about nothing but power. That’s a party that needs to go.

The ultimate purpose of triangulation is to turn your opponents against each other. Turn Republicans against Republicans and get out of the way. If the Big Tent is burning, evacuate the vulnerable but do not get a fire extinguisher. (I mean that metaphorically, to be clear. Obviously if you’ve, say, decided to visit a Republican gathering to encourage productive discourse, and a literal fire gets started while you’re there, grab an extinguisher and put it out. Literal fires are super dangerous!)

 

Election 2017: Free Advice Offered Here

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman is not running for re-election (instead, he’s going to run for governor) so people are starting to announce that they’re running to replace him. I am paying  at least a little bit of attention because for one thing, although the election isn’t until next November, the St. Paul DFL caucuses are in April and the St. Paul City Convention is in June, and if I’m a delegate to the city convention I could help decide who (if anyone) gets the DFL endorsement.

I’ll note that the DFL has a lists of people who were delegates to conventions in the past, and during the race for State Rep four years ago, the people interested in the soon-to-be-open seat used this list to contact people who’d been delegates in the past to ask for their support. I got letters, phone calls, and personal visits. A legislative district is pretty small, and it’s harder to do that when you’re running for mayor, but still, much more achievable than individually contacting every individual resident of the city.

You can also buy a broader e-mail list and start e-mailing people, and if you do that, here is the free advice I promised up top: start by introducing yourself. Tell me who you are, what you stand for, what your experience is, and why you deserve my support.

This honestly seems pretty obvious.

And yet, the first contact I got from one candidate looked like this:

Naomi –

I hope this note finds you and your family well this holiday season!

As the year comes to a close, my campaign to be Saint Paul’s next mayor is really starting to heat up. Just a couple of weeks ago Mayor Coleman announced he is not running for reelection; he’s been a strong leader for our city and I look forward to building on his work.

I’m ready to lead our city, building on our growth and progress while making sure that every family in every Saint Paul community grows and prospers along with it.

And that means I need your help at our year-end deadline. We’re building a strong campaign, but we need the resources to keep growing and win. Please contribute today and help me become Saint Paul’s next mayor!

There is a lot at stake, and Saint Paul is at a turning point. Our next mayor will shape our city for decades to come. I am committed to making sure Saint Paul is a city that serves everyone.

Your help today is critical. At our year-end deadline we’ll report how much we’ve raised, and we need to show our campaign’s strength and viability. Will you help before 2016 ends by making a contribution today?

I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming year and beyond to make our city stronger, more prosperous, and more welcoming than ever.

Thank you,
Melvin

P.S. – Let’s give folks something to talk about. Chip in now to help us top our goal and report the strongest number we can at our deadline!

“I look forward to building on (Chris Coleman’s) work; I’m ready to lead our city” is not a useful introduction. “I need your help at our year-end deadline” is what you say to someone you already know is a supporter, not a person for whom this is your first attempt at contact. At this stage, you should be telling me who you are and what your experience is, not hitting me up for money. You should be inviting me to your meet-and-greet, not your fundraiser.

Someone named Chris Kluthe (his campaign chair? I don’t know, as he doesn’t introduce himself either) followed up later the same day with:

Naomi – I wanted to be sure you saw Melvin’s email. With our deadline less than 72 hours away, it’s critical that we end the year strong. Please, click here now to chip in and help make Melvin our next mayor! 

Is Melvin Carter III awesome? He might be awesome, I have no idea. Having looked him up, he’s apparently a former Council Rep for Ward 1 and quit midway through his second term to work for the Department of Education. He started running a year ago (because he guessed that Chris Coleman wouldn’t run again). He would be St. Paul’s first black mayor.

I got fundraising e-mails from Melvin Carter or Chris Kluthe on December 29th (twice), December 30th, December 31st (twice), and January 2nd. On the 30th I e-mailed a reply to the “it’s critical that we hit our goal before this deadline” message with, “Who even are you? Nonstop nagging me for donations is not how you introduce yourself to possible supporters!” to see if anyone would reply to me in a more personal way. Nope!

It’s maybe a little early to say that he’s lost my vote, because … maybe he’s awesome? But I find it obnoxious to be hit me up for money, six times in ten days, via a mailing list I did not sign up for, from someone I’d never heard of before he started asking me for money. (Should I have heard of him? Maybe? But remember, I only moved to St. Paul in 2012, and he quit his council job in 2013, and at that point I was still trying to remember the name of the rep from my own ward, let alone anyone else’s.)

I probably ought to unsubscribe from his e-list, but at this point I’m honestly curious how many times his campaign is going to ask me for money before reaching out to tell me anything about him.

Also, hey, if you live in either Minneapolis or St. Paul, both mayoral races are shaping up to be pretty interesting. Chris Coleman is not running again, and Betsy Hodges has a bunch of serious candidates running against her. You can go to your local caucus and become a delegate to your City Convention and help decide who gets the DFL endorsement! (Or, as has happened at many such conventions, help block the person you don’t like from getting the DFL endorsement! It’s exciting either way.)