November 6, 2020. Acknowledging both grief and joy today. A mixed up ambivalent ambiguous morning, still a nailbiter for the presidency although the will of the people, the voice of the majority, will choose new national leaders… and in every state, we are determined to watch, wait, and #CountEveryVote with absentee ballots still to be counted, and run-offs coming in Georgia and perhaps elsewhere. Our system of democracy, flawed as it is, seems to be working because enough of us believe in it to make it work.
As the #UUtheVOTE post-election vigil begins tonight (watch it here if you missed it!), we share deep gratitude and solidarity with UU’s across Minnesota and the Dakotas for your astonishing efforts throughout this election season.
- we convened as a team of 300+ volunteers, led by liaisons from 30 congregations, linked with regional and national partners via the magic and science of the internet and our shared longings and commitment.
- we masked up and sanitized and registered voters with the Poor People’s Campaign, When We All Vote, and League of Women Voters.
- we protested threats to the USPS and rallied for secure and efficient mail-in balloting.
- we hand-wrote and mailed over 25,000 postcards and letters to voters in Arizona, Texas, Georgia Wisconsin, and Florida, with our partners Reclaim Our Vote and Vote Forward.
- we phoned thousands of voters, mainly younger people and voters in communities of color across rural Minnesota, as well as voters in other key states, with #UUtheVote, Reclaim Our Vote, and partners Minnesota Voice/We Vote, ISAIAH, MN350 and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light.
- we texted hundreds of thousands of voters, with When We All Vote and other partners. As the first group to post text-banks to the #UUtheVote events page, we recruited over 50 national texting volunteers.
- we supported and shared in the #LoveVoteRise community arts project, postering small businesses across the state, shining the “bat signal” at iconic locations and sharing the messages on social media.
- we trained and showed up as election judges, poll workers, and Election Defenders across Minnesota and the Dakotas.
- some of us ran for office, while others tirelessly supported those who did, with time, talent, and Political Contribution Refund donations (did you remember to use this “free money”, Minnesotans? if not, please do, before December 31st!)
- in our congregations, and together with the UUA UU the Vote initiative, we explored the spiritual basis of embodying democracy. Wise leaders like UU the Vote organizer, Nicole Pressley, and UUA Organizing Strategy director (and former MUUSJA director) Rev. Ashley Horan sustained our spirits and guided our steps along the way. Click on those names to read how they advise us now on resilience and remind us why we’ve done this work.
- MUUSJA is co-sponsoring and will be live-streaming the multi-organization march on Saturday, November 7th, in the Twin Cities, “Together We Rise: March to Decide Our Future”
As we wait for every vote to be counted, and for the peoples’ elected leaders to be sworn in, our congregations are moving forward with the work that we used the election to help accomplish: Building relationships, planning and learning, and clearing a path to move forward towards a more just and loving world.
It feels likely, though, that we are not seeing many big surprises at the local and state levels in Minnesota and the Dakotas. And that even a big national change may be greeted with the wan relief of a convalescent emerging from a serious illness, and not with the optimism and fanfare such change might possibly deserve. Like COVID, the viruses of supremacism and nationalism, greed and mistrust, suspicion and contempt, are still pervasive, unmasked and unvaccinated. And so we shall continue to be watchers, carers, organizers, first responders, no matter what happens this week. Resting, taking a break, is not quitting.
At a state level, I’m disappointed for so many candidates and causes I care about, yet celebrating with others. As we monitor the counting of the people’s ballots until our duly elected representatives are sworn in, I feel tender sorrow for half the country, along with prickly sorrow and, yes, considerable exasperation with those timorously or aggressively entrenched in a scarcity model of the economy and/or a white nationalist bunker (hey, being impatient for progress towards pluralism, justice and equality, health and safety for ALL, I’m no sanguine saint). Talking to that almost-half of this country can feel like trying to reach someone who’s hunkered down, deeply depressed or mired in a self-injurious habit, in deep denial, incapable (for now) of believing it can ever get better.
I believe it can get better.
Notice the changes from 2016 to 2020, on the New York Times election maps, those left-pointing blue arrows like shooting stars across our most regressive-dominated Minnesota Counties: Olmsted County, Wright, Benton, Scott, Carver, Washington, Martin, Becker, Crow Wing…
Notice the western counties in South Dakota where, I’m guessing, SD Native Vote and supporting organizations brought people to the polls to vote for change, in those counties where they set up roadblocks to insist that visitors mask up against pandemic. There is power in those arrows. Incidentally, I’m also happy South Dakota has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, but hoping their dispensaries will consider requiring people to wear a mask. Perhaps this will decrease some instances of unnecessary criminalization, increase cross-border tourism, and maybe decrease alcohol consumption in Minnesota and the Dakotas, in the days to come.
Notice that North Dakota voters rejected a thinly veiled attempt to institutionalize voter suppression in their state.
Notice these barrier-breaking candidates noted by the New York Times, including Cori Bush, the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress; Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, the first openly gay Black men to be elected to Congress (both in New York); and Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender state senator (in Delaware) and the highest-ranking transgender official in the U.S.
Celebrate that record-breaking numbers of voters showed up and cast ballots, many for the first time, including in communities where vote suppression efforts were egregious.
And know that the work we all did made a difference, all that work with MUUSJA and #UUtheVOTE and in your congregations and on your own … Together we made a network in Minnesota and the Dakotas of nearly 300 #UUtheVOTE regional volunteers and congregational liaisons, and our congregations, and partners…. this network is ready and resilient, no matter what comes. And as we wait for all the votes to be counted, and this crop of leaders to be sworn in, we re-center the interdependencies for which we chose to campaign.
It’s both incredibly difficult and ridiculously simple: we live as good relatives, carry the flame, persist in the work, and learn as we go.
Karen Wills, Executive Director, MUUSJA