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Columnist Sara Weinberger: Importance of midterm elections

August 20,2018 00:14

Two years after 57.1 percent of the population voted in the 2008 presidential election, only 36.9 percent voted in the midterm elections, handing back control of the House to the Republican Party, which has remained in control ever since. Living under ...


Midterm elections don’t rouse much excitement among voters until after the fact.
Two years after 57.1 percent of the population voted in the 2008 presidential election, only 36.9 percent voted in the midterm elections, handing back control of the House to the Republican Party, which has remained in control ever since. Living under Republican rule in all three branches of government has been intolerable, leaving many people feeling discouraged and disempowered.
Democracy is hanging by a thread, but the midterm elections present us with an opportunity to take back our government, beginning with the House of Representatives.
Of the 435 seats in the House, 78 are considered to be flippable districts that can potentially swing from Republican to Democratic control. Taking back the House requires that Democrats flip only 23 seats currently held by Republicans. A Democratically controlled House is within our reach. Imagine how different the outcome of votes on immigration, gun control, the environment and health care might be if Democrats were the majority lawmakers.
Victory will only happen if each of us commits to engage in the fight to flip the House in November. Activists in our community have been working since last fall to organize the Take Back the House Coalition, which includes the voices of those determined to replace self-serving politicians who put party ahead of country. You can start by visiting its website: www.tinyurl.com/flipthehouse. Click “action” to find out how to get involved.
Better yet, stop in at the Take Back the House headquarters at 18 Center St. in Northampton. Their hours of operation are on their website. You’ll be greeted by a volunteer who will give you an array of activities you can sign up for.
The coalition is engaged with several swing districts in New York and New Hampshire. In New York 19, bordering Massachusetts, volunteers are helping Democrat Anthony Delgado in his effort to unseat incumbent conservative John Fasso. They recently wrote 2,000 postcards to summer homeowners in New York 19, who live in New York City, inviting them to switch their voter registration to New York 19, so they can vote for Delgado.
Each weekend, canvassers are traveling to New Hampshire 2 and knocking on doors to help Annie Kuster keep her House seat.
You can also sign up to be part of the office’s weekly phone banks to call voters in these districts, encouraging folks to get out and vote.
Although research has shown that engaging people face to face and by phone are the most powerful ways to influence voters, volunteers often say, “I want to help, but I don’t want to knock on doors or talk on the phone.”
The first time I traveled to New Hampshire for Al Gore’s campaign, I was a reluctant volunteer, encouraging my partner to do all the talking. The more I did it, the easier it became. At the end of the day, I felt a powerful sense of accomplishment.
I also confess that I get tongue-tied on the phone, but once I survived my first call, the rest were so much easier. Everybody who canvasses gets thoroughly trained before they begin, and those who staff the phone banks also receive scripts and helpful advice from volunteers. And then there are the perks of meeting new people and eating all those cookies and granola bars!
The Take Back the House organizers have been canvassing and phone-banking for years and are convinced it works. In organizer Elizabeth Silver’s words, “The number of volunteers that worked in New Hampshire tirelessly over the months leading up to and through the election put Hillary Clinton and Maggie Hassan over the top … without them, that wouldn’t have happened.”
You are also welcome to grab a clipboard with sign-up sheets, and roam around your neighborhood or hang out at your local farmers market, recruiting volunteers. If vacation travel takes you to a swing district, consider volunteering.
Take Back the House staff will connect you with groups working on the ground, even helping you find free accommodations. My newest endeavor has been to gather information about a specific swing district that will go into a compendium made available to those who want to work all over the United States.
The volunteers at 18 Center St. are delighted to take your donations to offset their costs. After the election, the coalition will decide which viable candidates in flippable districts any remaining funds will go to. Take a button and donate a buck!
On Sept. 5, following the Massachusetts primary elections, rather than taking a break, the hundreds of people who campaigned for their candidates need to retire their buttons and bumper stickers and start fighting to take back the House and save our country.
Swing Left figures that if everyone who voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election turns out and votes in the midterms, we can flip 120 house seats from red to blue.
The choice is yours. You can stay home and watch endless Omarosa interviews or you can step out of your comfort zone and join the movement to win back our country, starting with the House!
Sara Weinberger, of Easthampton, is a professor emerita of social work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.

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