Grow the Vote!
Why vote? Why try to encourage other folks to vote? With permission from the comedian Nato Green, here are his answers. Always good to engage in laughter about subjects that make us morose! Please take 20 seconds to watch and listen:
“Hi there,” said Nato, ---
“My label put up this video of one of my jokes about politics and voting from my new standup album. Hopefully this will afford you twenty seconds of laughter in a sea of unrelenting horror. People seem to find it useful.”
As this graphic makes clear, the next generation is always peering over your shoulder or under your voting-booth curtain as you vote. Are you voting in their best interests – for a world of justice and compassion, for food, air, and water that are pure, for an Earth that is livable and joyful? Are you voting at all?
I would add (this is Arthur again, not Nato, and I am not pretending this is comedy) that the election on November 6 is the most important, the most consequential, in American history since the Civil War. This election will be a referendum between two profoundly different choices for the future of America and Planet Earth. The choice is now much clearer than it was in 2016.
So I would urge all our organizations and individuals committed to faith or ethics to pause for just a moment from other praiseworthy campaigns, protests, and creative work to heal the world, and to focus for just the next 18 days on Growing the Vote.
What do I mean when I say, “Grow the Vote”? I mean two things: Growing Numbers of voters, and Growing Understanding and Wisdom about the issues:
- Growing Numbers: Not only be absolutely sure to vote yourself, but also urge and help people to actually vote on November 6. Especially people who may tend not to vote in so-called “off-year” elections: College students. Millennials. Black folks. Latinx folks. Not only individuals but congregations, colleges, and all sorts of other groups are totally free to do GOTV work.
One way to Grow the Vote requires just a computer, a phone, and your time. You simply make phone calls to a computerized list of registered voters, reminding them to vote and asking them to urge their friends to vote.
Phyllis and I and other members of our congregations did this last night for two hours and will again on more evenings before the election. We reached dozens of households from a list of registered voters compiled by “POWER,” a network of Philadelphia-area churches, synagogues, and mosques committed to social justice. And we enjoyed the conversations!
In addition to the “Vote!” encouragement, we mentioned two issues: the need for more state-government money for impoverished local school systems in Pennsylvania, and the need to expand Medicaid for low-income workers and their families.
There may very well be similar Grow the Vote operations in your own community. The Philadelphia “POWER” organization is one member of a national network called “Faith in Action.” Check at https://faithinaction.org/ for your own local affiliate. If your own congregation is not a member, you might urge them to join.
One Jewish activist organization, Bend the Arc, has developed an easy, helpful program to help people from all around the country to Grow the Vote in two specific Congressional election campaigns where polls show the campaigns are neck-and-neck. (If you consider doing this, take into account that Bend the Arc's action affiliate has an explicit partisan stance.) You can check this out here: https://www.bendthearc.us/action
and a Bend the Arc staff member will support you. (You just need a computer and a phone).
2. Growing Understanding and Wisdom. Connecting the deep wisdom of the great religious traditions to the issues we face in this election. From my own perspective, these are Torah passages that point me in a direction about one or another of the issues we face:
- For behavior toward people fleeing oppressive violence and seeking asylum in the US, see Deut. 23:15-16, the most pointed passage in the entire Torah about refugees from oppression. And read the whole Book of Ruth. It’s not long, and it’s fun to read.
- For how to deal with the children of an “immigrant” people who follow a minority religion, see Exod. 1: 15-22; 2: 5-10.
- For a teaching on the relationship between the Earth (adamah) and human earthlings (adam) , see Gen. 2: 4-7.
- For how human communities should act to enhance and heal that relationship, see Lev. 25: 1-7 and 17-24. For the dangerous consequences that follow if we fail to carry out that practice, see Lev. 26: 3-6, 14-20, 34-35, and 43.
- For the way a “king” or any other powerful official should act, see Deut.17: 14-20.
It’s perfectly legal for your congregation or other tax-exempt organization to do this, so long as the organization as a whole or its official leadership in their role as leaders don’t support or oppose any candidate or any political party.
Individual members can say what they like. You can post your thoughts in congregational bulletins and listserves, write letters to the communal or metropolitan newspaper, send emails and post FaceBook pages and Instagrams and Tweets from, to, and in an organizational milieu.
Since you are probably hoping to persuade people, be polite. Use language like “It seems to me …” not “It’s obvious …” And keep repeating, “I welcome dialogue on these questions; what do you think?” and “Whether you agree with me or not, please be sure to vote.”
I want to practice what I preach. So I invite you to share your responses to this Shalom Report letter.
With blessings that the seeds of justice and of healing that you sow by Growing the Vote become the flourishing fruitful harvest of your pwn life -- Arthur