February 21, 2024

Columnist Sara Weinberger: A movement that’s all local ground game

MVP supporter and op-ed columnist Sara Weinberger just published a glowing endorsement of MVP in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the premier daily news source for the Massachusetts Pioneer Valley. In her op-ed, Weinberger makes a very compelling case for why, with so much at stake in the 2024 elections, "every donation [to MVP] is a lifeline for democracy."
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As the U.S. moves closer to November, many of us are engulfed in dread, pessimism, and panic. With each new rally, an emboldened Donald Trump shamelessly characterizes himself as a dictator, an enemy of our allies, and a lover of fascist leaders, especially Vladimir Putin. The news media is full of haunting predictions of the fall of democracy if Trump is elected, and yet, even the liberal media characterizes President Joe Biden as little more than a demented old man, too incapacitated to be the president.

When I meet friends for coffee, we shrug our shoulders and ask “why?” “Why doesn’t the media mention Biden’s many accomplishments?” “Why are Republicans in Congress treating Trump like a shadow president, following his every order?” Invariably, as we sip our coffee, somebody will ask, “Can we end this discussion?” With a sigh of relief, we acquiesce and move onto less threatening questions: “Isn’t it great that the Iron Horse is reopening?” “Will ‘Oppenheimer’ or ‘Barbie’ win the Academy Award for Best Picture?” “How was your trip to Aruba?”

Occasionally, someone will broach the subject of activism. “Are you going to canvas in New Hampshire? Make phone calls? Register voters in Ohio?” Over the years, I have engaged in all of those activities and more, including postcard writing, texting, and endless conversations with my daughter and stepson, imploring them to put their cynicism about politicians aside, long enough to cast a vote.

In 2016, I attended a talk given by Northampton resident, Billy Wimsatt. Billy was spreading the word about a new organization he was organizing, “The Movement Voter Project.” Its purpose was to raise money to empower grassroots activist groups in swing states to defeat Trump. I was intrigued enough by the idea to host a house party for about 40 friends and neighbors, who filled my condo’s living room to see MVP volunteer, Mickey McKinley inspire the audience with stories of how the Movement Voter Project (MVP) was funding groups of young people, BIPOC activists, women, blue collar workers, and others to enlist their communities in a huge push to get out the vote in order to elect people up and down the ballot to represent their priorities. Instead of spending a Sunday driving to New Hampshire, to knock on doors in unfamiliar places, I could use the money I’d be spending on gas to enable locals to canvas in their own neighborhoods, where they have credibility.

My husband and I used to write checks to individual candidates. It felt like going to Foxwoods. If our candidate won, that was great, but a loss meant our money had gone down the toilet. MVP funds continue to build capacity for activist organizations working on issues that matter to them, including the environment, mental health, abortion rights, combating racism, advocacy for immigrants and refugees, and LGBTQ rights. MVP is building a people’s movement to elect candidates who stand for social justice. When the election is over, these groups will continue their work to win the next local, state, and federal elections.

The house party I gave was my inauguration into what I call checkbook activism. MVP has made it easy. Their ability to do the research to determine which organizations are worth investing in and which elections are most pivotal, makes me confident that my money will be put to good use.

When I meet friends for coffee or a walk, as soon as election anxiety creeps into the conversation, I ask them, “Have you heard of the Movement Voter Project?”

Often, the answer is, “Oh, yeah, I think I attended a house party you gave and wrote them a check. I forgot all about them.” With some, the response is, “What’s that?” I flash a big grin and say, “MVP is a national organization that started in Northampton, has invested millions of dollars to get out the vote, win elections, and promote policies that strengthen our democracy.” And when the, “yes but,” response comes, I add, “In 2024 MVP is going for a win, targeting the nine states key to winning the presidency and the Senate, the forty most competitive House districts, as well as state races across the country necessary for Democratic control of state legislatures.” Then I add, ” Living in progressive Massachusetts doesn’t give us a pass on getting involved in this election.”

MVP is building a movement by identifying, mobilizing, and training groups ranging from hyper-local to state-wide to national organizations with “track records of registering, educating, galvanizing, and turning out…voters.” (MVP) They were key to defying the pollsters in the Blue Wave of 2022. MVP funded groups aren’t just active in federal election years. They have won statewide referendums to legalize abortion, state elections to block supermajorities and to maintain fair elections.

Admittedly, I continue to lie awake, haunted by the fear that democracy could die a painful death in November, but I refuse to be paralyzed by election anxiety. MVP’s “one stop shop approach for strategically investing in local organizations…” (MVP) makes good sense. I’ve been a donor since that first house party I organized, but this year, with so much at stake, I’ve increased my monthly donation. When friends join me for coffee or a walk, I shamelessly ask them to explore MVP’s webpage (movement.vote/).

I tell them, “Every donation is a lifeline for democracy.”

Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is a professor emerita of social work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at [email protected].

 


 

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