Letter To The Editor – Oconee Enterprise

See below for a letter published in the August 2, 2018 Oconee Enterprise, written by Oconee Democrats’ own Alice Zwaagstra!

Great job, Alice, we couldn’t agree more!

Congress Needs Courage On Border

A few thoughts on our border/migrant situation.  Let me begin with a quote from a letter to the Enterprise dated July 19, 2018:  from Matthew 25:40, Jesus said truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.  Now, with regard to cruel and inhumane policies at our border, where to begin?  

First, I would expect our president to work with congress to pass meaningful legislation on immigration, not initiate, on his own, poorly thought out measures intended to punish, not ameliorate conditions requiring flight.  We are so fortunate here that we cannot imagine weeks of travel, mostly on foot, privation and danger to escape even worse.  Neither I, nor anyone I know, wants open borders, but we need lawmakers with the intestinal fortitude to lead and pass intelligent laws to deal with immigration.

Second, I would expect government to have adequate personnel and facilities to handle an influx of refugees, not turn them away saying “Sorry. No room at the inn.”  With no home to go to, no well-stocked refrigerator with food and no bed to sleep in, where would anyone go?  

Third, what is our government doing to ease conditions in the countries from which the migrants are coming?  Are we attacking the opioid crisis full force, since the drug trade is responsible for much of the violence and our own country of addicts requires a constant supply?  Or are we doing everything possible to prevent treatment and medical care by gutting the affordable  care act?  Are we sending well-seasoned diplomats to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help quell the violence?  None of these reasonable measures are happening.

So I ask you, among the many positive things we could be doing, what are we accomplishing?  Keep the above reasonable measures in mind when you vote for members of congress this fall, because very few of them are helping.  Trump is not correct on immigration, but he is aided and abetted by those in congress meant to be a check who don’t have the backbone to speak up.

Alice Zwaagstra

Bishop, Georgia

Upcoming Events!

There are a lot of great events coming up in and around Oconee County.  All of these are posted on our Calendar page, so be sure to check them out!

  • August 14:  Oconee County Democratic Committee Social Hour.  5:30-7:00pm at The Pub On Main.  Come meet like-minded Oconee county residents.  There are more of us than you think!
  • August 21:  Oconee County Democratic Committee meeting at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 6:30-7:30pm
  • August 28:  Silent Art Auction – Come out and support local artists and your favorite political party at Live Wire Athens.
  • During the Month of August the Oconee County Democrats are collecting hygienic items needed by school-age children right here in Oconee County and delivering them to Oconee Schools.  Information can be found here: HygieneKits.
  • Canvassing, Canvassing, Canvassing!  With just over 3 months until the mid-term elections, and local GOP trying to hold off the #BlueWave, it is vital that we lace up our shoes and hit the streets in support of Debra Gonzalez, Jonathan Wallace, and MariSue Hilliard.  Details on the Calendar page!

Who are the real patriots?

The primaries are over and Democrats across the country are gearing up for the General Election (November 6th!).  With the barrage of political ads we’ve all been subjected to, I’ve been wondering for a while now:

Who are the real patriots these days?  Who is carrying forward the vision of the country’s founders?

The GOP lays claim to the “patriot” title and it seems that they tend to define it as whoever carries the most guns, pays the least taxes, and has the most red, white, and blue t-shirts.  They quote slogans like “America First” and concepts such as “American exceptionalism” readily and question one’s patriotism if they don’t wear an American flag pin on their suit.

View post on imgur.com

Is that patriotism?

The GOP also claims ideological ties to the Founding Fathers, claiming they alone understand and uphold the original intent of the founders of the country.  Too often, I’ve seen Democrats roll over and just let them have it.  After all, the founders were all slave holders and what they did over 200 years ago doesn’t necessarily translate to today’s world.  Right?

As something of a history buff, I have to disagree with the right claiming this affiliation and with the left letting them have it.  There are several examples that illustrate this point, but I’m going to choose one that all of us should recognize from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The bold part was added by me, of course.  If everyone is endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which party is supporting those rights the most in the modern political landscape?

Life?  Do we even have to ask? Those of us on the left favor ideas like universal healthcare while the other side actively works to ensure that only those with the right financial resources have access to life saving medicine.

There is a public debate going on now about whether healthcare is a right or a privilege.  I’d say Thomas Jefferson seems to think it is a right.

In addition, as we were all taught in elementary school, there are three basic human needs:  food, water, and shelter.   While the GOP has taken every possible step to limit access to food & shelter by decreasing funding for benefits programs or erecting stiff requirements, it is the Democratic party that is pushing to protect those lifelines for our fellow citizens in need.  Don’t even get me started on the EPA-led attack on clean water.

No, I never thought I’d type that sentence.

Liberty?  The United States has one of the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the world.  Many of these people are serving long sentences for non-violent crimes.  Some are serving time for crimes that aren’t even crimes any longer in some states.  Is that liberty?

Democrats are seeking to overhaul our criminal justice system by keeping dangerous people off the streets but re-thinking the failed “War on Drugs”.  What are the Republicans doing?  Doubling down on efforts to imprison non-violent drug offenders.

Pursuit of Happiness?  This is a broad topic that can mean many things, but the one issue coming to mind to me at the moment is immigration.

Note that the quote above does not say “all Americans”.  It was written at a time when the author was a British subject, but it doesn’t say “all Englishmen” either.  It says “all men” have these unalienable rights.  Everyone.

Study after study shows that immigration has a net positive impact on the economy, even illegal immigration.  The vast majority of immigrants in this country are here to work and live the American Dream.  We Democrats are working to help DACA recipients and provide a path to citizenship that works.  What are the Republicans doing?  Fanning the flames of xenophobia, cancelling DACA, refusing to replace it, and building a wall.

Walls don’t help people exercise their unalienable rights.

So who are the real patriots in today’s political landscape?  Who is carrying on the founding vision?  Is it the group waving the flag while they suppress the minority vote and take away people’s healthcare or is it the group fighting for the principles that the country was founded on?

It’s clear to me.

Primary Wrap-Up

Primary season officially ended at 7pm last night, and the Oconee Democrats would like to take a moment before we all dig into the General Election (November 6th!) to extend our thanks to all candidates for a great race.  Remember, it was only 2 short years ago when Congressman Hice ran unopposed, and we had 3 Democrats in the hunt for his seat this time. We have truly come a long way!

In addition, we Democrats have a lot to be proud of that we had so many women and minorities running for office.  We are truly changing the face of politics for the best!

Of course, the battle is not over, and we have a lot of work to do!  Here is a quick rundown of the general election candidates and their opponents:

Race Democrat Republican
Governor Stacey Abrams Runoff
Lieutenant Governor Sarah Riggs Amico Runoff
Secretary of State John Barrow Runoff
Attorney General Charlie Bailey Chris Carr
Comm. of Agriculture Fred Swann Gary Black
Comm. of Insurance Janice Laws Jim Beck
School Superintendent Runoff Richard Woods
Comm. of Labor Richard Keatley Mark Butler
PSC, District 3 Lindy Miller Chuck Eaton
PSC, District 5 Dawn A. Randolph Tricia Pridemore
US. Rep., District 10 Tabitha Johnson-Greene Jody Hice
State Senator, District 46 Marisue Hilliard Bill Cowsert
State Rep., District 117 Deborah Gonzalez Houston Gaines
State Rep., District 119 Jonathan Wallace Marcus Wiedower

We had some wonderful candidates in the primary season, and it was simply incredible to have so many progressive ideas in the conversation.  It is truly a shame that all candidates can’t win, but in a democracy, that is just how it works. Now is the time for everyone to come together to support our chosen candidates.  Regardless of whether your particular candidate won the nomination, we can all agree that the Democratic nominees are better for our communities than their GOP opponents.

It is worth pointing out that the top state offices will have runoffs on the GOP side, giving Democrats the advantage of campaigning for the General Election (November 6th) NOW while they are still sorting out their candidates.  This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander!

It may seem like a long time until Election Day (November 6th!), but it will be here before you know it.  All of these fine candidates will be needing your support over the coming months, so please get involved and do what you can to help them succeed!

Did we mention that the General Election is on November 6th?

The Blue Wave

Newsletter Reader Column: The Blue Wave

Eric Gisler

 

It is not just spring and its associated pollen that is in the air these days.  If you are like me, you are getting excited about the 2018 election. There is no doubt that election of “the twitterer in chief” in 2016 has energized the electorate, and not in his favor!  Democrats across the country are mobilizing, getting out the vote and winning historically “red” districts. Yes, friends, there is a blue wave a-comin!

With all of this energy and momentum it is important to keep our “eyes on the prize” and not get too over-confident or just assume it is going to happen.  There is still a long way to go until November and nothing is a sure thing, especially in politics!

Ever since President Obama was elected 10 years ago, the conservative side of the political landscape has run further and further to the right.  If you ask me, nothing could be better for the Democratic Party. This is our opportunity to be the “big tent”.

I am a case in point.  If the 2016 Presidential election had not gone the way it had, I probably wouldn’t have thought about getting involved.  If the subsequent antics of this dangerous and embarrassing administration hadn’t occurred, I probably never would have walked into a Democratic Party meeting last August.  In short, things got to the point where I felt that I had to choose sides, and there are a lot more people out there just like me.

Here in 2018 we should attract independent and moderate Republican voters by allowing the other side to sink themselves.  I personally know people who used to identify as Republicans that did not and will not vote for Trump or anyone like him. For that matter, I personally know people who did vote for Trump in 2016 and have stated that they will not do so again.  The Fox News / Koch brothers strategy has gone too far if you ask me, and I think they will see that come November.

This is all because the Republican party has gone too ideological.  In doing so, they have ceded the middle ground to us and it is important that we welcome those independents and moderate Republicans into our ranks as much as possible.  This is a numbers game, and the numbers are in our favor!

However, we must be cautious, especially here in Oconee.  We should not run left when they run right. Here in Oconee county, the Blue Wave is going to have a lot of opposition.  While Oconee and Clarke are probably a little more open to the coming change, GA-10 has a lot of deep-red rural counties where it’s going to be an uphill battle.  Even though many of us know in our hearts that comprehensive gun control legislation and universal healthcare are no-brainers, they are also non-starters in districts like ours.  That conservative strategy may have gone too far, but it’s been around for a long time, it is well embedded, and it will be difficult to unseat.

We need to embrace common sense, middle of the road candidates that are running on obviously stable positions.  Let the alt-right shoot themselves in the foot and we can welcome those that abandon them when they do. Let’s use this wonderful opportunity to be more inclusive and make changes that are ethical, non-partisan, and long lasting to build the community, state, and country we all want to be a part of.

Break out your sustainably sourced, locally crafted surfboards and your free-range organic sunscreen (SPF 30+ and broad-spectrum!), there is a Blue Wave on the horizon and it’s going to be a great ride!

Oconee Young Dems Host “Good Cause” Tournament for ACTS

Area Churches Together Serving is an  organization supported by local churches to provide food and clothing for the needy.   ACTS accepts referrals from its member churches and others, but also from  Oconee County Social Services Agencies such as DHR and ACTION.

The Oconee Young Democrats from both our high schools are hosting an event to benefit ACTS, an all-abilities Ultimate tournament, fundraiser, and can drive.  Sign up with this form, pay a small ($15) registration fee, and take up a can collection to bring to the tournament on April 15th at 1:00pm at Oconee High School.  We’ll be on the football field and also the practice field.

What is this about?  It’s a benefit for a cause that helps families in Oconee, and a chance for participants to have a fun time, and—

No, I meant what’s this “ultimate” about?  Oh, that.   Ultimate is a really fun and kind of off-beat sport, played with a frisbee .  (Except “frisbee” is a trademark of Wham-O, so it’s played with a “flying disc.”)

There are official rules, but the really short version is that it’s teams of seven on a field with end zones like a football field.  You aren’t allowed to run with the disc, so you have to pass it until someone on your team catches it in the endzone for a point.  There’s a 10-second stall count like baseketball, and anything that isn’t a completed pass is a turnover—the other team immediately gets the disc and tries to score in the other endzone.  So it can be a fast-moving game.

If that’s enough that you want to hear more, but don’t want to wade through the complete rules, there’s “Ultimate in 10 Simple Rules,” if that’s all you need.

Okay… How does this work? We’ll assign you to teams, mostly randomly, but trying to keep the teams balanced according to how strong a player you tell us you are.  If you have a buddy you want to stay with, we’ll try to keep you together (you both have to name each other on your registration forms, though.)  We’re hoping to have enough players for four teams, which means each team gets three games in the tournament.  We’ll have frisbees for the winning team as a prize.  ACTS keeps the donations and proceeds, you go home with bragging rights for having done good.

But I don’t know how to play!  That’s fine; neither do lots of the other people we’re signing up.  We’ll spread out the people who do know, and they can help coach you.  And we’ll run a bit of a clinic ahead of time to explain things.  (Show up early if you want that!)

What should I bring?  Your registration check, running/athletic clothes, soccer cleats if you have them (but no metal, please!), and a good attitude for fun.  A water bottle and maybe some sunblock would be smart.  We’ll have gym “pennies” to tell the teams apart.  Other than that…  cans to donate for ACTS, friends and family to cheer for you, maybe a chair if you don’t like sitting on grass?

Right.  Talk to me about ACTS again?  Area Churches Together Serving.  They provide food to needy families in Oconee and nearby, but also other services as well—clothes, school supplies, that sort of thing.  We’ll have someone from the organization there, too; they’re there to thank all of you for participating, but they can also answer all the questions you have—and tell you how else you can help!

Aren’t “Young Democrats” a political group?  Politics bores me…  That’s fine.  Yes, we are, but this is a charitable event.  Come have fun!

I still have questions… but this is the end of the post!  You can email them to the OCHS Young Dems coordinator, Jennifer Strickland, at  JStrickland@oconeeschools.org

Where to Send Your Donations

At our last meeting, we were asked about the plethora of groups vying for your political donations.  There are many, many options, and it’s hard for anyone to make sense of it all.

The way I look at it, there are basically four kinds of causes asking for your political donations:

  1. Individual candidates, to directly fund their election efforts.
  2. Political party operations, for party operations and special events as well as supporting candidates,
  3. National campaign umbrellas (DNCC, DGA, etc), who distribute donations to candidates,
  4. Issue-advocacy groups and PACs: Everytown, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn, etc., who advertise for or against candidates based on their pet issue.

The top of your list should be the candidate(s) you support.  Give directly to the election result that’s going to affect your life, to candidates you like for their position on the issues.  Everything else is indirect. So support candidates, first and foremost. Giving to the county party should be almost an afterthought.  Think of us, please, yes… but a token afterthought is all. Support your candidates first and foremost, and then support them again!

In the bygone days of uncontested races, the national umbrellas made sense if you didn’t have a candidate to support, nor know which of the other states’ candidates was worth backing.  Today, Democrats in Georgia have been so successful in recruiting that you probably have to decide which local candidates to support!  So leave the umbrellas for people in the Northeast and the West Coast, or in Wyoming and Utah, whose local contests aren’t hot.

Even then, there are too many candidates to ask you to support them all.  Pick a total recurring donation that you’re comfortable with—recurring because it helps the recipients plan over their campaign—and divide it up however you like.  If there’s a contested Democratic primary and you have a strong preference, give to help win the primary. If you care against the incumbent more than for one Democrat, wait until the primary shakes out and support the winner.

Support the local races; they affect you most directly, and can’t get the attention of people far away, whereas a state-wide race draws on millions of Georgians and maybe the national umbrellas also.  Local races are cheaper, but have fewer donors: a small donation to a county race has more impact, proportionally. But state races need support, too, and if everyone only looks local, we can’t win them.   So pick a mix, whatever you feel good about… and then feel good about it.  You’re donating what you can do, thank you.

Issue advocacy groups only steer conversation; it’s candidates who get elected who do things.  So if there is an issue dear to you give to candidates supporting the issue more than to the advocacy PAC.  You’d be asking the PAC to support candidates, so just do it directly. You can give to the PAC also, if you like, to help with media buzz and in other states.  And there are reasons to do so—attack ads, for example, work from a third party, but not well from the candidates.

But mostly, it’s all about the candidates, so support them.  And remember that for the next couple weeks, our incumbent state legislators (Deborah and Jonathan) can’t take donations… but they’ll need them as soon as the session ends!

 

We Have Candidates! … And They Need YOU

Qualifying week is now over for all candidates in local, state, and federal seats…which means we have campaigns to run! 💙

We have a slew of campaigns that we will be working in the Oconee County local, state, and federal elections. That is amazing news, and a huge success compared to earlier ballots full of uncontested races! But it requires all of us stepping in to support these candidates.

Attached is a link to our new Master Volunteer Form that will let us match skills and legwork to the campaigns needing assistance. Please complete this form and let us know what you can do, what you are willing to do, what you are interested in, so that we can hit the ground running with these courageous community members who have stepped up to be our voice!!

“March for our Lives” Rally: March 24, 2018

“March for Our Lives Rally” will be held at 11 am – 1 pm, Saturday, March 24, at the Pavilion in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, in support of thousands of high school students across Georgia and the nation who are insisting that lawmakers everywhere put an end to the mass killings of school children. The event is sponsored by the Oconee County Democratic  Committee.

We invite the public to offer its sympathy for the slain and support for young students everywhere as they seek solutions to school violence.  Jonathan Wallace and Deborah Gonzalez, Georgia House Representatives from Districts 119 and 117, respectively, will offer brief remarks in support of the goals the young students are seeking, as will Chalis Montgomery and Richard  Winfield, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Democratic Primary in May.  Several high school students will speak as well, and civic leaders in the county have also been invited to attend and address the audience.

After the remarks, there will be time for the speakers and audience to talk with one another about the difficulties and obstacles faced to make communities safer.  At the conclusion of the program, many may choose to walk the trails in the Park in memory of those who have lost their lives in mass shootings.

The Issues You Care About

About two weeks ago we asked all of you to let us know what issues were important to you.  Even if you haven’t filled the survey out yet, you aren’t too late—watching that is going to be an ongoing thing for us for a while.  The goal, of course, is to better understand what things to pay attention to.  We’ve gotten about 20 responses so far, but that’s enough to see some interesting things.

Let’s look first at the issues we listed for you to rank:

The first item, Gerrymandering, was accidentally left out at first, which accounts for its low rating (it’s tied for top since we restored it).    What’s a bit surprising is that both Wastewater and Highway Infrastructure have support overall… but nobody’s going to go door-to-door for them (green).  Yet Highway Infrastructure gets more people to “click ‘Like’” than anything else… you just don’t think you’d get off the couch for it.  (Good to know, and we’re not judging!)

The winner for engagement is Gun Safety, perhaps top-of-mind because of the tragic events in Florida… and we’re glad to say we’re already working to do something visible about that.  Second place goes to Medicare Expansion, which our new state representatives have both pushed.

So, we think we’re working on the right things.  We all need to make it clear these are voting issues, and we need to recruit for those issues outside our own bubble.  Those flipped elections suggest that broader support is out there, so it’s okay to talk about it!

The other interesting note is about the write-in issues.  Half of the respondents have added write-in issues, which lets us know what you’re thinking of that we didn’t already guess was on your mind.  The most common were for jobs and for K-12 education issues other than funding and safety.  We’ve also seen several variations on racial equality, both economic and judicial; cannabis decriminalization; and environmental concern (local and national).

For the K-12 issues, we’re glad to report that we’ve found candidates to run for county school board; that’s where we get the leverage to influence those decisions.  For pay equity at least, our representatives have also sponsored non-discrimination and living wage bills.  The other issues you added… not so much progress yet; it’s good to know what to watch for!

Finally, we added the self-identification questions late, but we see a good mix of the left spectdrum in how we identify.  I’m particularly pleased with teh several “non-partisan” voters who are coming too us; we want a broad and inclusive reach!