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Below is a collection of recommended links and downloadable PDFs to help support your informed, effective activism. We are stronger together!
What to postcard about
Resourceful progressives have sprung to action and created many different lists of daily or weekly actions to help you wade through the overwhelming volume of news. I’ve looked through and tried out quite a few and found my four favorites in tone, presentation and relevance to postcard writers. Here they are:
Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience– I love the friendly writing in this weekly no-frills email with clear, no-hype actions, no name calling, a mix of phone calling suggestions and writing suggestions with contact links, and some ideas for gratitude actions to support elected officials doing good things. Created by Oregonian, concerned citizen and writer Jen Hofmann.
Postcards for America Facebook Group - If you’re a Facebook user, this Facebook group is absolutely the best source I've found for postcarding topic ideas and the support of other avid postcarders. There's a true treasure trove of info for postcarders in their Files tab, including PDFs of addresses, committee memberships and action items. Also it's a great place to ask questions and get support for your postcard activism. Highly recommended!
Couch Activism has nicely organized action items available on their website and on Facebook. Some are Learn items and some are Call/Write items suggesting what you might want to say to your representatives or other relevant officials.
Solidarity Sundays - Feminists hosting in-person gatherings with neighbors and friends on the 2nd Sunday of the month, for learning, camaraderie and card writing. Find one to attend or sign up to host a Solidarity Sunday yourself! They also have a monthly email and a Facebook group that you can join.
Make yourself a postcarding address list of the officials who are in office to represent you and the people of your district. This is something you'll only have to do once. Start with the address card included in your postcard pack for your Members of Congress (your 2 US Senators and your 1 US Representative). On another sheet, write down your State legislators (State Senator and State Representative) and your state's Governor. Besides these high level officials, it is important to focus some of your postcarding energy on more local issues where individual citizens actually have the most influence. So eventually you may want to include in your master address list the contact info for your city's mayor, your city councilors, your county commissioners, your police chief and county sheriff and others.
Find your MoCs - Not sure who your Members of Congress are? Plug in your address to this simple online tool from govtrack to get their names and a link to their website where you can copy down their local office addresses and phone numbers.
Find your state legislators and local reps - Not many people can name who their State Senator or State Representative is. The best way to find out is to go to your state legislature's website and use their online tool. For an overview of the many levels of representation you have and a somewhat up to date list of who your officials are, even on the level of city councilors, police commissioners, county sheriffs and county commissioners, use this cool online tool from The League of Women Voters. It may not be up to date on all of the individuals, but it is surprisingly comprehensive listing and does offer the addresses as well.
Governors list - Want to contact your state governor or have something to say to the governor of another state? Here's a contact list of all US governors compiled by the Admin Jenny from Postcards for America.
Each congressional office handles their constituent correspondence in their own way so there is no single foolproof way to get your message heard. The Tips and FAQs on this website summarize the most common advice for how to effectively get your point across in written correspondence. But for a more in depth look, here are a few current resources on the topic.
Indivisible Handbook - A group of former congressional staffers got together in the early days of the current administration, and created this handbook on how to use the grassroots tactics that the tea party had so successfully used to block many of Obama's efforts. The Indivisible Handbook went viral early on and has been updated several times. They even have a copy in Spanish! It's a very readable and practical guide. And many local Indivisible groups have sprung up to do this work together. On their website you can find your local Indivisible group, or start one of your own.
Advice on contacting your rep - Way back in November, writer Emily Ellsworth who spent 6 years as a staffer for two Utah Representatives, put out a much retweeted twitter stream giving advice on how legislators listen to constituents. In her day, phone calling was more impactful than all other forms of communication, and this is still very important, though so many people are calling now that you will often get a busy signal or a full voicemail. Here's an article that put together her informative tweets into an easy to read form.
What calling Congress achieves - In this long article from the venerable New Yorker Magazine, writer Kathryn Schultz really goes in depth about the upsurge of activism that has happened since the election, how the scores of individuals have started contacting their MoC's on a regular basis, and how these communications are being received by Members of Congress.
Many of us are wanting a more detailed understanding of how government works, so we can work smarter to get our views turned into action. Here are a few useful resources I've found.
How laws are made - Here's a concise PDF document on how laws are made and another on the difference between a bill and a resolution Both documents were created by Admin Jenny of the Postcards for America Facebook Group. Understanding this will help you target your postcarding with specific and timely asks.
American Government - Want to really get a full understanding of how our government operates? Then you might like to sign up for this free self-paced online class in American Government from Harvard University. There are also a lot of short videos on particular topics available on Kahn Academy.
Civics in the classroom - If you're a teacher, check out former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's project to bring back the teaching of civics in the classroom. iCivics is a great collection of free print-and-go lesson plans for teachers, interactive tools and even cool games for students.
Creating the kind of laws, policies and societal norms that we believe in requires us to actively participate in our communities and our representational democracy. This begins on the most local of levels in how we connect with and support people in our neighborhoods and our cities. We need to start thinking on these levels as well as getting really good at communicating to our Members of Congress. Did you know that many local governments have advisory boards and working groups that unelected individuals volunteer for and participate in decision making? Your city website probably has a list of vacancies and meeting times.
Another thing we need is for more people in underrepresented groups and people with progressive values to run for office at all levels. If you're interested in running but have never been a public figure and don't know where to start , there are some awesome training programs where you can learn alongside a cohort of other newcomers how to run a campaign, how to form coalitions both before and after getting elected, and many other skills and supports. Depending on where you live, there may be a Wellstone training you can access. Emerge is an organization that helps ready women Democrats to run for office. And there are lots of other local leadership training cohorts.
Another important way to help move the needle towards a more just and equitable society is by supporting local and national grassroots organizations with your financial donations and volunteer time. Consider setting up a monthly sustainer donation with an organization you really believe in. Even if it's only a small amount, when aggregated with other small donations, this can provide a vital and dependable finding stream for organizations, allowing them to focus less on fundraising and more on their mission.
Despair and burnout are very real risks in the current high alert environment. So taking care of your self and those around you is more important than ever. Take breaks from the news for a few days. Pay attention to life enhancing things like listening to music and comedy, going outside, playing with your kids, walking your dog, reading fiction.... And reserve at least the last hour of each day for positive things. As a final pep talk to set yourself up for successful activism, I offer you this wise counsel from Jennifer Hoffmann, writer and author of the weekly Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience:
"Although there are a lot of things to freak out about this presidency and its cabinet, I've really downshifted my mental state to a slow burn. I encourage you to consider this too. Our passion and energy need to last for the next four years. We can't afford to freak out. It's too exhausting.
We're only at the beginning, and political change takes time. A lot of it. So be sure to take care of yourself and stay connected to people you trust. We are stronger together."