By Don Misumi
In 2016, a group of volunteers were gathered around a table debriefing about our efforts that day walking door-to-door to talk to people about the upcoming election and win them over to our candidate, Sandy Fewer. We had adopted a new canvassing strategy of having volunteers take responsibility for organizing coverage of specific blocks instead of different areas with each shift. The idea was to create a sense of ownership and accountability to carry out our tasks.
It was effective, but it did not eliminate the frustration and stress of trying to talk to people who did not want to talk to us. We reflected how perverse it was to celebrate being able to talk to just a handful out of dozens of households, and how the thought of living in a community where we actually seek conversation about politics was such a far-fetched idea.
Our candidate won, largely due to an army of volunteers that persevered to educate voters on the issues. It was a bittersweet victory because of the election of Donald Trump and the four years of havoc that ensued, but it was that conversation and many others that led to the formation of Richmond District Rising (RDR).
We saw in that election how democracy can be manipulated by money, disinformation and a culture that isolates us from each other so that we can never see a collective truth, but are susceptible to the lies that foster individual self-deception. Having the right to vote does not ensure that we have a seat at the table. We formed RDR with a vision for what a real democracy is – one which brings people together to seek the things that serve us all rather than one which walls us off from each other so that we are concerned only with our own selfish gain. We believe that when we seek the things that serve us as a community, then we recognize that there are those without privilege and power who must also be given a voice.
But in the years since the Trump election, while we have fought for democratic civic engagement to change a system that is democratic in name only, the Republican party has gone in the opposite direction. The Capitol insurrection in January, blocking the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the voter suppression legislation in Republican-controlled states are clear examples of this. And make no mistake, we are experiencing this here in California with the recall campaigns against Gov. Gavin Newsom and SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin. These blatant attempts at subverting democracy through Republican-financed recall campaigns are no different than the efforts to ignore election results and reseat Trump in office. This is a dangerous threat that we cannot take lightly. Let’s not forget that many of us thought it inconceivable that Trump would be elected in 2016. An engaged and involved electorate is the only way that we can defeat these threats. We cannot afford to sit this one out. Vote no on the recall and tell everyone you know to do likewise.
Don Misumi is one of the founding members Richmond District Rising. Richmond District Rising builds electoral and political power for working-class people, people of color and other systemically oppressed communities to ensure a progressive, liberated, inclusive and just Richmond District community. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org