SOC 110: Social Justice
Social Justice: Final Paper
I have talked to many people who feel that their vote doesn’t count. In the words of Rules For Radicals author Saul Alinsky, these people are “copping out” and refusing to participate. A self-fulfilling prophecy of nihilism is their response to troubling social conditions. Well I didn’t want to be that kind of person. I wanted to try as hard as possible to have an impact, and to see what happened, and it worked! I can only hope that my experience and writings such as this essay will help to inspire people to do what I did, rather than copping out and becoming the nothing that happens in response to the real problems we face today. Things truly won’t change unless we change them.
I work at a very political, though ostensibly apolitical nonprofit in San Francisco. A colleague there invited me to come with him on the weekend before the election to canvas in a nearby red district. We would be put up in a nice hotel in Reno with all our expenses paid by the Culinary Workers’ Union. I accepted. We arrived in Reno that Friday night. The next morning, we arrived at the Union’s local headquarters for breakfast and training before receiving our turf and heading out. Reno, we learned was expected to be a close election, just like all of Nevada. Furthermore, the Union had signed up over a hundred-thousand new Democratic voters in the lead-up to this election. (Jamieson) This was critical because this historically red state had a large Republican registration lead. We would need to make sure that every possible Democratic voter showed up to the polls, and hope that many Republicans did not. We also had several other factors on our side. In Nevada, marginalized non-white groups have historically voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, by as much as a 70 point difference. (CNN) These groups are growing, and their influence grows with their population. They were a major deciding factor in this election, and the Union’s efforts to empower them to vote by providing free transportation and information and canvassers in their languages was a major factor in making sure their voices were heard.
I went to Reno with several coworkers from San Francisco. Many rich liberal tech people in SF Venmoed us lots of cash to help with things like gas and drinking money. This turned out to be very helpful, as the gay bars were an area which was largely overlooked by many canvassing groups until we showed up. Together with my SF coworkers, we knocked on hundreds of doors. And not just that, but we knocked many times. We had daily lists from the secretary of state which showed who had already voted. All the likely Democratic voters who had not yet voted were subject to as many as a dozen knocks per day until they agreed to a specific time they were going to go and vote. Then, they would continue to receive a dozen or more knocks per day until they confirmed that they had voted. We even offered free transportation and translation services to anyone who needed them. In addition to this work with the Union, my group extended the conversation to the bars where we went every night encouraging queer people to vote.
This extremely aggressive strategy paid off. I saw many other organizations
canvassing the same houses we were, and almost without exception, all of those other canvassers were canvassing for Democrats. I saw only one person canvassing for a Republican, and that was for the sheriff’s race. Not a single person that I saw was canvassing for the senate or governorship for a Republican. There was an army on the ground, and it was a blue army. I mentioned before that the Union signed up 100,000 new Democratic voters. Well the Democrats won by just half that amount. (Politico) the Union’s efforts directly made all the difference in these races. the Union and the Democrats were the only ones that showed up, and the Democrats took both important open positions in the election, despite the Republicans having far more voters registered. (Apparently nobody reminded them to vote?) Democrats also took the vast majority of the smaller positions; (NYT) Democrats won Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, 3 house seats, 6 state senate seats, and 27 state assembly seats. Democrats are now very much in control of Nevada. This has not been true for decades. And it was directly due to the efforts of people like me who decided to do something about it; who decided to get up and go out and work to create change in the world.
The only way the Democrats won in Nevada this year is because people
volunteered to do this kind of important justice work. Working to break the cycle of oppression by empowering marginalized groups in Nevada is intrinsically linked to the liberation of groups elsewhere. As my research has showed, it was only through empowering marginalized groups and breaking the cycle of oppression which Republicans have used for decades to silence those groups that Democrats were able to win in Nevada. The group that I went with included people of color, trans people, Jewish people, queer people and people in other marginalized groups. Our liberation is intrinsically tied to the liberation of marginalized people in Nevada. Empowering them to take control of their state and be represented means our voices will carry with theirs in the new Democratic majority.
CNN. Charles Posner and Lizet Ocampo. “Key Facts About Nevada Voting
Demographics.” Dec 9, 2015. Accessed Nov 13, 2018. https://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/immigration/reports/
Jamieson, Dave. Huffington Post. “Las Vegas Union Registered More Than 10,000 Voters For The Midterm Elections.” Nov 5, 2018. Accessed Nov 13, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/las-vegas-union-voter-registration-midtermelections_us_5be0b487e4b09d43e321e7a8
Politico. “Nevada Election Results 2018.” Accessed Nov 13, 2018.
NYT. New York Times. Nevada Election Results. Nov 13, 2018. Accessed Nov 13, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/06/us/elections /results-nevada-elections.html