Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What’s at stake when we vote this year

Now, we have a choice: we can continue to talk at each other, or we can invest in one another, and do the deep listening that is required to win real improvements in people’s lives.

Image Credit: Justin Grimes/Flickr CC/HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A lot is at stake when we go to vote this year. It’s about restoring our faith in our leaders, but more than that, it’s about restoring our faith in one another.

Members of United Vision for Idaho at a Community Cookout in Garden City

How did we get here? Let’s step back to November, two years ago. For some, that was a vote of privilege – a statement of dissent. But for others it revealed the deep and painful wounds of the oppression they’ve always experienced. It uncovered just how pervasive discrimination is, precisely because it was so shocking to others.  It uncovered just how entrenched institutionalized discrimination has become in America.

Thank God we don’t all have to have the same experiences, but we must understand that we don’t all have the same experiences, or face the same limits and consequences for being who we are. We have much to learn from one another if we truly seek justice for all.

Many of us woke up after that Election Day shocked; we thought we were different than the results suggested. But then we realized much of rural America – our America – has been abandoned by progressive organizing, and extreme political forces have stepped into this vacuum.

A far-right foothold

The far right has secured a foothold in Idaho’s rural and remote areas, which now drives our narrative and provides the political context of how – and if – we can move together from pain to solutions. The divisions among people are deep and growing along generational, racial and gender divides.

People are starving for connection – especially in the places most forgotten. In 2016, Trump’s base emerged in rural areas because poor and working-class people felt their pain was acknowledged, even if it was by reactionary forces.

As individuals try to navigate these challenging times, further polarization is intensifying among some, and causing others to retreat. It is fundamental to the success of an emergent movement that we learn to talk to our neighbors where they are, and engage on our shared issues and values.

Now, we have a choice: we can continue to talk at each other, or we can invest in one another, and do the deep listening that is required to win real improvements in people’s lives.

Our vision

United Vision for Idaho began in 1995, as underrepresented Idahoans sought to advocate for economic, social, and environmental justice in our state. UVI is Idaho’s only progressive coalition, made up of 25 affiliates across the state and over 30,000 individuals.

We are part of People’s Action, a powerful national network with 400 organizers and over 50 national staff members working in 33 states. Together, we are organizing millions of people around a bold agenda for real change and building a powerful movement for systemic change.

In 2016, UVI launched RiseUp, Idaho! It’s part of a rural populist organizing initiative People’s Action has launched in thirteen states. It is a campaign advocating a bold agenda; not a list of policies the establishment says we can win, but what the people of Idaho, and other states like ours, must win.

The majority of Idahoans don’t believe they are being represented by either party. They do believe special interests have superseded individual rights and opportunity, and that we have lost our ability to have respectful and meaningful conversations that can create real solutions.

Real solutions

So now, from cities to family farms, Idahoans united on issues and values are reaching out to 136,776 unaffiliated, registered voters who constitute nearly half of the voting public.

We won’t create multiplication through division. We can’t afford to have even one more split, one more single issue, or one more organization to compete against others. We have been on that path for the last three decades. We need to get the real representation Idahoans deserve, and real solutions for real problems, like Medicaid Expansion.

This is what’s at stake. This is bigger than one campaign, or one election cycle. Now is the time to fulfill the promise of a broader struggle to unite people for generations to come.

What people want is a movement that doesn’t just critique the status quo, the White House, or somebody’s vote, but a movement to inspire and demonstrate that there is a better way to live. This is not a left-wing period, it’s not a right-wing period. It is a turbulent, volatile, scary period for everyone.

Everyone in – no one left behind!

In 2018, none of us can afford not to to “do politics,” because we know now how politics does all of us. We are, quite literally, all in this together. Everyone’s investment matters. We won’t all contribute the same things, but if we all contribute, a movement to make real improvements in people’s lives now and into the future is possible.

The good news is that our government and its institutions are creations of people. People like us, working together, have the power to remake them. Our work is to create intentional communities that represent the spectrum of our diversity that work together to break down the barriers that divide us, deepen our understanding of one another and realize that in fact our lives, all of them are inextricably linked and our futures bound together.

This isn’t just resistance, but visionary resistance. This is not a normal crisis. It’s not just a political crisis, or an economic crisis: it’s a civilization crisis. It is a crisis of bipartisan making and failures from the very top, across all of Western civilization.

So now, ordinary people have to step up. And that is just what is beginning to happen.

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