My COVID experiences this week in part revolve around helping one of my patients now permanently disabled from the after-effects of COVID; large numbers of patients refusing needed treatment due to extreme anxiety about COVID exposure, and patients who were COVID positive with continued symptoms almost certainly related to anxiety.
Local COVID Outbreak
A few days ago a local health facility, that I am affiliated with, identified several COVID-19 infected employees and patients on a clinical unit. The facility, being the transparent and thorough facility that it is, identified 23 COVID-positive employees and 12 COVID-positive patients. Contact tracing and testing is being conducted for any patients who test positive. It is likely that the outbreak resulted from several factors: employees who traveled to areas within the United States identified as “hot spots” and were found to be infected after return; staff convening in breakrooms and removing their masks without observing proper social distancing protocols; some staff members coming to work with symptoms; and inappropriate or inconsistent mask use in common- and public areas of the unit. Likely, a combination of these factors contributed to the transmission of the virus. As stated by the hospital, the best tools we currently possess to stave off any resurgence of this virus remain our proven public health interventions:
Hand Hygiene: long before COVID-19 appropriate hand hygiene was known to be highly effective in preventing the transmission of infectious diseases.
Not coming to work with symptoms
Face Masking: There is absolutely no down side; it is a high-value proposition.
Do not participate in communal meals or share food sources (e.g. pizza parties, sandwich platters, cakes, etc.): although this infection is not food-borne, it is transmitted from person-to-person via respiratory secretions. These can contaminate inanimate objects, such as serving utensils, boxes, food, etc. and also contaminate your hands.
Avoid travel to high-risk areas: the reason for this is that such travel will increase the statistical risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and thus, could increase the risk of transmitting it to others upon your return. This is the rationale for the Travel Policy.
No National Plan
We still have no national policy that advocates firmly for these measures and provides the financial and organizational resources to implement them. In fact, we will never have a national policy from this administration. For example, because of federal incompetence, we cannot get testing efficiently done, thus missing most cases. I have submitted an op-ed with a colleague advocating that the Democratic-controlled House should step into the spotlight with a plan and use the bully pulpit to advocate for it.
Just in case Lee Zeldin and company forget how irresponsible they are, see our prior post about Zeldin in Tulsa, at the Trump rally, and Zeldin on Airforce One without a mask. And now we are seeing the direct consequence: Herman Cain has just died of Covid-19.
Herman Cain, the former pizza chain executive who sought the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has died weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to an announcement Thursday on his website.
His death was confirmed to The Washington Post and the cause was COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
While it is unclear where Cain, who was 74, contracted the disease, he was among several thousand people who attended a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20, most of whom did not wear masks. Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was pictured maskless and not socially distancing at the event.
Turning Out The Vote In Battleground States Will Decide This Election: Learn About Handwritten Postcards To Voters (the first in a 3-part series on non in-person voter outreach)
Over the July 4th weekend, in two speeches, Trump laid bare the blatant racism and divisiveness that are the underpinnings of his personality, his presidency and the rationale for his reelection campaign. No dog whistles, no code words, no nuance. It was deeply disturbing. He wants to bait us into a race war where, he believes, he will emerge the winner. He has no interest in uniting, no interest in soothing the frayed nerves of an anxious nation. That was left to Vice President Biden in his comments on the meaning of Independence Day in 2020. The choice between the two men could not be starker.
The weekend heightened my own sense of urgency about the 2020 election. And it reminded me of the message President Obama conveyed on the virtual fundraiser for Biden a few weeks ago: “Whatever you have done so far is not enough.”
I have been muttering this sentiment to myself since election night, 2016. I didn’t do enough to help elect Hillary. I should have done more to flip our district in 2018. And now, stuck at home, how the heck am I going to get-out-the-vote for Joe Biden this year?
Trump and the GOP know there is only one formula that leads to him winning reelection. He deployed it in 2016. Trumpism does not have the support of the majority of the country. He can only win if he suppresses the Democratic vote, through outright voter suppression and by smearing his opponent, and then he has to rile his base to such a fever pitch that nearly 100% of his 40% of the country cast their ballots. That is how he eked out an Electoral College win in 2016 and that is his plan for 2020. In 2016, he used immigration as red meat to inflame his base; this time he is using fear of our fellow Americans. It may be disgusting, but if Democrats don’t vote, then it could succeed.
In my book, The Resistance and Me: An Insider’s Account of the Two-Year Mission to Stop the Trump Agenda and Take Back the House, the reader learns, just as we learned, the incredible importance of speaking directly to voters. Across the country, in-person canvassing helped to power the blue wave. We cannot meet voters face-to-face this year, making turning out the vote just a little bit harder, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have weapons in our arsenal, other ways of reaching voters that will boost Democratic turnout. I implore each of you to learn about them and start using them because whatever you are already doing, it is not enough.
There are basically three forms of non in-person voter outreach: snail mail with letters or postcards, phone-banking and text-banking. Over the next few weeks, I will focus on each of these. Each method can be done from your own home, each is available to everyone. You can try them all and choose the method that you are most comfortable with; you can do a combination of two or three. Once you learn about these initiatives, my hope is you will be ready to get started. None of us want to wake up on November 4th and have any regrets, or say to ourselves, as we did in 2016, if only I had gotten more involved. Because the truth about Trump, the truth that was there for us all to see in 2016, is he is unfit for this job and the combination of incompetence and corruption that mark his administration is literally killing us. We will not survive a second term.
To begin, this blog post will take a look at handwritten postcards to voters. I first got involved in mailing postcards to voters for the midterm election with my Indivisible group, East End Action Network (EEAN). We hosted a lot of activities for the midterm election, including one-on-one interviews and debate forums with the primary candidates as well as get-out-the-vote door-knocking weekends. But probably our most popular general election events were a series of postcard-writing parties, in conjunction with the campaign of our Democratic congressional nominee, Perry Gershon. They provided the postcards and the mailing lists of Democratic voters’ names and addresses and together with other grassroots groups who did the same, thousands of handwritten postcards were mailed out to voters in CD#1 right before the election. The idea is that when a voter receives a handwritten message about voting that it cuts through all the noise and clutter to make an impression. The goal is to create a card so engaging, so colorful that it will go up on a refrigerator door.
In my book are descriptions and photos of our 2018 postcard parties. People who wanted to get involved but were not comfortable going door-to-door or even phone-banking, were thrilled to participate and really enjoyed the experience. EEAN provided all the markers and stickers to make the cards creative and colorful, and everyone brought food and drinks to make it a party. Our master at organizing these events is leadership member Sharon Adams, a retired elementary school teacher.
Already this year, Sharon has organized two postcard-writing events for EEAN, both of them virtual. The first was for Common Cause to alert New York voters about their options to vote in the primary and the second was our first event reaching outside of New York, to voters in a battleground state. We have known that 2020 would be very different than 2018 because we would be adding involvement with the presidential election along with the congressional. Unlike our congressional race, the presidential race will not be decided by who gets the most votes, but by who reaches 270 electoral votes. Trump lost the popular vote, but won the presidency by small margins across a few states. Most states, including New York, are already in the red or blue column which means that voters in a handful of states, called swing states or battleground states will decide the outcome of this election. Given that, it is crucial that we reach these voters and encourage them to vote for Biden.
In researching the different groups that are involved in sending postcards to battleground states, we chose Postcards To Voters (PTV), https://postcardstovoters.org/. This was an easy decision since Sharon was already very familiar with how PTV works because she has been involved with PTV from its inception. Alongside all of the activities she is involved in for our district, she explained why being an active volunteer with PTV has been important to her.
“Volunteers feel that the stakes are so high that they have to do something to assure that our democracy will survive,” she said. “Volunteering to write friendly handwritten reminders to targeted voters has become a movement thanks to Tony McMullin, who founded Postcards to Voters in 2017. I’m proud to have been a part of this grassroots group of volunteers since its start.”
Founder Tony McMullin goes by the nickname Tony the Democrat. The website has a photo of Tony, along with an explanation of how his background led him to create PTV:
Since March 2017, many people have called me Tony The Democrat.
I have a career in business process and technology project management for specialized insurance and financial services companies. Since 2003, I have had the privilege to work on numerous municipal and state campaigns coordinating volunteers, field operations, and data-driven decisions.
While in Dallas, Texas, I was a founding member of a grassroots group that turned a red house district blue, and served as both a Precinct Chair and House District Coordinator responsible for recruiting, training, and mentoring Precinct Captains. This experience with campaigns and volunteer coordination are the foundation for my new initiative.
I live in Metro Atlanta with two rescue Miniature Schnauzers, Lex and Pierce.
Tony was first bitten by the campaign bug when he quit his job to volunteer full-time for Howard Dean’s campaign in the 2004 presidential election. There is a great profile of Tony on the website New Faces of Democracy, a group thatspotlights many of the grassroots activists who are part of the anti-Trump Resistance. https://newfacesofdemocracy.org/spotlight-tony-the-democrat/.
You can also read about Tony and PTV in a 2018 article in The New York Times entitled, “Writing Postcards Brings Voters Back From the Edge: ‘It’s Sharpie Therapy’.” According to the article, “In the big data era of politics, where campaigns are betting millions on software that can harvest hundreds of pieces of information about a single voter, Tony McMullin is making a decidedly different wager. He is trying to show that elections can be won through the persuasive power of a plaintive handwritten postcard. It is a battle of quaint vs. quant.”
The home page on the PTV website is warm and welcoming and filled with photos of colorful and creative postcards. Here is the description on the PTV site of how it works:
Postcards to Voters are friendly, handwritten reminders from volunteers to targeted voters giving Democrats a winning edge in close, key races coast to coast.
What started on March 11, 2017 with sharing 5 addresses apiece to 5 volunteers on Facebook so that they could mail postcards to voters in Jon Ossoff’s race grew in one month to 1,200+ volunteers nationwide and over 51,000 postcards mailed.
Now, we consist of over 75,000+ volunteers in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) who have written over 9 million postcards to voters in over 200 key, close elections.
We use an interactive texting service (Abby The Address Bot) to assign addresses to our trusted, returning volunteers. For new volunteers and those organizing postcard parties around the country, we use a commercial Help Desk system to streamline and automate email requests.
Another commercial business intelligence package crunches the numbers so we always know who our top volunteers are by campaign, a heat-map showing where the postcards are being written by zip code around the country, and other essential dashboards to manage an operation that now averages 15,000 voter addresses assigned daily.
We felt this group was perfect for our postcard action and we were eager to write to voters in a battleground state. Because all our meetings and events have been virtual since March, we could not provide tables of volunteers with materials as we did in 2018, but our founder, Rebecca Dolber, explained in our weekly newsletter how a virtual postcard party would work. Members were asked to RSVP with Sharon if they were interested. Sharon then followed-up in an email to those members who signed up:
Thank you for being the first group to volunteer this week to write Postcards To Voters. (PTV)
I started writing with this awesome organization when it started in 2017. There are now over 75,000 volunteers in every state that have written close to 8 million postcards to voters. (Now you’re really excited to be part of this movement!).
Postcards To Voters are friendly, handwritten reminders from volunteers to targeted voters giving Democrats a winning edge in close, key races coast to coast. After you become an approved writer you may be able to choose the target group you want to write to (depends on the addresses available) and you choose how many cards you want to write (you are usually given 3 days to complete/send). I like to do 5 or 10 at a time. Aside from that, you are given everything you need. There are only 3 MUST HAVES for each card, tons of extra ideas, background information and of course the addresses.
I’m going to give you the link to get SIGNED UP and then you’ll receive an email with exact instructions. On the website, https://postcardstovoters.org/, go to JOIN in the menu. After you’ve sent the photo of your practice postcard and been approved, you’ll receive additional instructions on how to request addresses whenever you feel the urge to write. I am here to help with any questions. The website is awesome! It’s very complete, so take some time to explore the site.
Please let me know when you’ve been approved and are ready to start writing. Keep a tally of how many cards you write please.
Facebook and Twitter have PTV accounts that are fun to follow. There is a whole community of writers across the country that share on social media. (I even get excited when followers like my postcard designs) #PostcardsToVoters
So…you will need postcards, postcard stamps and art supplies. As you will see on the website, it’s supposed to also be a fun activity. We can share our creative designs, sources for preprinted cards and fun new stickers or markers. I am fond of using colorful 81/2″ x 11″ card stock that is cut to 4 pieces. This is the cheaper way to go, but I also have a variety of printed cards. If you need ANYthing, please just ask me. The PTV website has great options for buying postcards, 100 for $15.
Due to the pandemic, most of the writing groups that formed across the country are not meeting in person. We would like to have a virtual writing party on June 25th if everyone is approved and ready. We are flexible. Again let me know when you’re approved and we’ll plan from there.
One last note…a postcard writer from Colorado commented on a photo I recently posted on twitter of my completed cards. He commented that his goal is “to ensure that the cards he sends will be looked at.” Let’s get our cards on those refrigerators, my friends!!!!
If you go to the PTV website and click on the tab for “results” you will see the list of campaigns that PTV has been involved in. The action that we participated in was postcards to registered Democrats in specific Florida counties with information on how to enroll in vote-by-mail. Turns out, much to my surprise, that Florida has a wonderful vote-by-mail system that enables a voter to enroll and for two federal election cycles, they will automatically be sent a mail-in ballot for every election. I wish New York had that. Given the pandemic and the fear that people will not feel safe going to the polls for in-person voting or, like in several primaries around the country, many polling places were closed due to staff shortages, all of this confusion in November can be avoided if people have signed up for vote-by-mail. Our cards gave Democratic voters all the information they needed to enroll in this program and ended with the tag line, “When FL Dems vote-by-mail, Dems win!” And needless to say, few battleground states are as important as Florida.
We all ordered postcards and stamps, signed up on the PTV website, created our sample cards and got approved and started working on our address lists. Our virtual Zoom Postcard-Writing Party on Thursday, June 25th would be a social gathering to schmooze together while we all worked on our cards. Some folks had already finished several lists and others were just starting. Some members preferred to finish and mail their postcards without joining the Zoom, which was fine, while others looked forward to the group interaction.
For those of us on the virtual party, the event was a lot of fun and it was wonderful to catch up and share the time together. It was also gratifying to have younger women with kids at home join us. It is one of the ironies of this pandemic that being forced to go virtual has opened up our meetings to more members, particularly younger members with children at home.
“The pandemic has actually affected my activism in mostly positive ways,” said leadership member Lisa Marrin. “Stay-At-Home orders have given me much more time for postcard writing, Zooming and learning more about the history of party politics in the nation. Since so many of my children’s activities were cancelled and I am working from home on my own schedule, I have been able to meet more often with the EEAN leadership committee and we have developed a great framework for our upcoming actions. I have committed to three different postcard projects and have just finished training on phone-banking. I am excited to engage in this way. The downside of political action during a pandemic is the lack of face-to-face contact with like-minded individuals and my reluctance to join in-person protests. As I try to put the health of myself and my family first, I just have not been able to bring myself to attend. Luckily, I can take satisfaction in my virtual activism and the fact that I am able to participate in those ways on a larger scale.”
Lisa’s friend, Stacie Coppola, is a new member who also has children at home and was able to join the postcard party Zoom. It was so uplifting to watch them participate and to hear how Stacie turned it into a teachable moment for her son and daughter, who are 12-year-old fraternal twins.
“I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to help out and to use it as a way to teach my children about the importance of participation,” said Stacie. “My children and I ended up having a really great discussion about the struggle that women and African Americans have had in getting the right to vote and how important it is not to squander that right. COVID-19 has really driven home the fear I have that my children will be facing a very different world than we all have. My husband usually expresses hesitancy about introducing them to the heaviness that comes with political topics but we both realize that this next generation will be facing challenges that will make it impossible for them not to be ‘political.’ Working on the postcards allowed them to see that participation, even on small levels, can be fun and comforting. The women at East End Action Network have a kindness of spirit that is very motivating and has encouraged me to take the edge off of my anger at where our country is and just get to work.”
At the end of the Zoom, everyone held up their cards so we could see all the amazing designs. I was blown away by the creativity of some of the designs and there was no doubt in my mind that Florida voters receiving these will take notice of them. Here are a few examples:
It is our hope that members will continue on their own requesting lists and mailing more postcards to Florida voters since no group activity is necessary to get more address lists. Once approved, when you finish a list, all you have to do is text the word “hello” to the mobile number and another address list with instructions for what to write on the card is emailed to you. Even once we start writing postcards for our Democratic nominee in CD#1, we plan on continuing our work with PTV. (Due to the large number of absentee ballots that needed counting, we have only just gotten the results that Stony Brook University Chemistry Chair Nancy Goroff has won the primary and will be the Democratic candidate to take on GOP Trump-clone Congressman Lee Zeldin in the fall).
The PTV system is user-friendly, interactive and fun. I was so intrigued by PTV that I reached out to Mr. McMullin to learn more about him and about PTV. He was open and friendly, exactly what one would expect from someone called “Tony the Democrat.” My first question was about the vote-by-mail action to Florida. I had assumed it was because of COVID. Turns out it wasn’t. They started this action with Florida voters in 2018.
“I don’t remember how it came to my attention,” he said, “but in Florida, you can enroll in vote-by- mail simply by making a phone call, only one phone call needed, and you are locked into automatically receiving a ballot by mail for every election. This is a powerful incentive for a volunteer trying to figure out how to spend their time and postage, because with an enrollment process as easy as a phone call, the likelihood of a positive outcome is much higher than with a different state where you have to request a ballot application, fill it out and mail it back, then fill out the ballot and mail that. All those steps reduce the number of people who will complete that enrollment. When I pitch to volunteers that I need their help to do this action, I want to give them an action that has the biggest chance of success. I hear from people why don’t we do this in Michigan or Arizona and the answer comes down to the ease of enrollment and the length of the term which can’t be matched by any other state. I can’t in good conscience ask our volunteers to spend the same kind of postage when there is a much lower success rate of enrollment.”
Tony also explained that having worked on this initiative over several years, it helps the county supervisors process these vote-by-mail requests. “This way they are not inundated, not flooded with requests which would happen if we held onto the postcards and mailed them all at once, then they would get swamped with new enrollments and their office staff would be beleaguered. That also would not serve the voter as well. By our volunteers writing and mailing them along the way, we are good partners and give the county supervisors an easier time.”
It is serendipitous that Florida has an excellent vote-by-mail system that makes it worthwhile for the time and expense of his volunteers and at the same time is arguably the most important of the battleground states. “We have known for a long time,” said Tony, “that Florida can be the firewall because there is no path for reelection for Trump without Florida. If Florida turns blue, that is all we need to stop Trump.”
There is another added benefit of vote-by-mail that extends beyond the presidential race. “Once Democrats are enrolled, they then get ballots for every election. Every study proves that if you are mailed a ballot automatically rather than relying just on voting in person, that this increases turnout throughout the state at every level of government.”
This connects so nicely to what Dr. Lara Putnam, historian at the University of Pittsburgh, talks about in my book, which is the need to create an ongoing progressive ecosystem that begins at the local level. I mentioned Dr. Putnam’s analysis to Tony. “I have goose bumps listening to you describe focusing on local elections. This is what I tell our volunteers, that their efforts with the postcards will help change behavior and strengthen the voting habit. It is hard to make voting a habit, we are talking about people with two jobs, single parents, people burdened with elder care issues and so they could be forgiven for missing a special election for county commissioner. But now, if they can get the ballot in the mail, it is just inevitable that they will participate at a higher rate.”
As good as Florida’s vote-by-mail system is, Tony explained to me that it used to be even better. No surprise, the change came once Republicans took over the state legislature. “Florida has a lot of pride in their vote-by-mail program, which used to be permanent. You would always get a ballot as long as you lived at the same address. Then when the GOP took over, they modified it to make it expire after two federal election cycles, generally four years. But to show that they really have no fundamental problem with voting by mail, they really just want to make it harder for everyone to vote, they grandfathered in those already enrolled so that they would still be permanent. At that point, the GOP had an advantage in vote-by-mail enrollments. It was an insidious way to game the system.”
But thanks to all the efforts to enroll Democrats in vote-by-mail, that GOP advantage is gone. According to a recent article in Politico, entitled, “Florida Democrats Gain Vote By Mail Advantage,” Democrats now hold a significant lead in vote-by-mail enrollments. “Democrats have opened up a 302,000-voter advantage over Republicans in vote-by-mail enrollment, an edge that could pay big dividends in President Donald Trump’s newly adopted must-win state.”
Helping Florida turn blue is so crucial, that Tony told me PTV will continue to focus on vote-by-mail this summer. “We are going to continue for the next couple of months, hopefully with another 600,000 postcards,” he said. After that, they will point their army of volunteers towards helping candidate campaigns. Right now, he can’t say which campaigns they will be helping. “I can’t know in the beginning of July which campaigns we are going to be writing for. I have some guesses based on conversations with people leading multiple candidate efforts in different states, such as Ohio and Texas, but it is a fluid situation and different campaigns sign up every week.” There is a web form on the PTV site that campaigns can fill out. “But the more volunteers we have, the more campaigns we can help. People are signing up and writing over 15,000 postcards a day, which is terrific. We try to forecast our writing capacity and I have a spreadsheet of different campaigns. We have 76,000 volunteers; think what we could do if we could double that size by November. And we are ready for that. We have the technology and the infrastructure to do that. In 2018, we did 1.9 million postcards in September and October. I think we could do 4-5 million this year if we have enough people involved. Really, I have to thank our volunteer writers, they are the backbone of this work and they recruit their friends and family. We don’t have a marketing budget. When we grow, it is because the volunteers are happy.”
I asked if the Republicans had a similar operation. “I have seen a handful of specific GOP campaign postcard activities, but nothing close to our volunteer base or to broad campaigns, that is one of the things that we have an advantage,” he said. “Imagine what it would take for another group to start what we do and build that volunteer base. If another group is just starting up, they will have a long road to get to where we are.”
I thanked Tony for taking the time to speak with me and for all he is doing to reach voters. I only had one last question. I was curious to know if any of the sample postcards ever get turned down. “It doesn’t happen often,” he said. “When it does, it might be because the writer didn’t pay close enough attention to the rules and then we tell them what they need to do to fix it which most people are happy to do. Unfortunately, we do occasionally hear back from people that this is too picky for them and it’s not a volunteer activity that suits them. But that is pretty rare.”
PTV was an activity that ideally suited our group. Our virtual event was a success and our members had enjoyed participating. And we were especially pleased that members were continuing to ask for more lists on their own and continued to mail more postcards. We will be planning more PTV parties this summer, virtual and possibly in-person with social distancing. And just maybe PTV could help us in our fight to unseat Zeldin.
For Sharon, who started with PTV on her own in 2017, she said it has been gratifying watching PTV grow. She also said it has taken on an even more meaning for the volunteer writers after watching Trump double down on his divisive and racist messages.
“I’m very impressed by the incredible amount of volunteers, all across the country, who are so seriously invested in Postcards To Voters,” she said. “On this fourth of July weekend, one volunteer shared on social media that they’re using their postcard writing as ‘a distraction from the horrible speeches being made about America.’ Another writer felt ‘this is the most patriotic thing I could accomplish today.’ Volunteers stated they will save their celebrations for November. As the holiday weekend unwinds, I’ve just completed another ten postcards which are headed to Broward County to encourage vote-by-mail. I’m looking forward to our next virtual writing party or possibly an outdoor writing party with masks and social distancing guidelines a key factor. “
Go to the PTV website and give it a try. If you are part of a grassroots group or a book club, you can add a virtual event to your postcard-writing. But it is also an easy action you can do by yourself. I like writing and designing my cards at the end of the day while I sit and watch television, a good antidote to the news. You will find the time of the day that works best for you. And if you need a guidebook to show you how to integrate grassroots volunteerism into your daily life, read my book and meet the women who did exactly that. The book is available on Amazon.com and at Canio’s Books (631) 725-4926. A book talk hosted by Canio’s Books can be found on the following link: https://www.facebook.com/caniosbooks/videos/983767798721737/
Speaking of my book, I have set up a fundraiser with the book as a way to say thank you to Tony for all he is doing for voters. PTV stays afloat from donations and to help them in that effort, I will be sending a signed copy of the book, free of charge, to the first 20 people who donate to PTV in response to this blog post. To help PTV track those donations, please add $.46 (46 cents) – in honor of the 46th President we are all working hard to elect – to whatever amount you would like to donate. Here is the link for the donate tab on the PTV website: https://postcardstovoters.org/donate/. Follow the instructions to donate either with Paypal or by mailing a check. And don’t forget to add the 46 cents so that I know to mail you a copy of the book. Let’s grow their army of volunteers and make 5 million postcards for November happen.
In my next blog post, I will focus on phone-banking. There are many opportunities to phone-bank. Every candidate and campaign has phone-banking for volunteers. You can go right now to the Biden campaign’s website at https://joebiden.com/take-action/ and become a volunteer. You can also go to the campaign of any candidate in your district. All campaigns will set you up to phone-bank.
But like PTV, there are also groups conducting phone-banking to battleground states for vote-by-mail. The Florida Democratic advantage in vote-by-mail enrollments is being created not just by the postcards but by phone-banking as well. There are some advantages and disadvantages of each. With postcards, you have the advantage of working on them at any time of the day that is convenient for you. Your whole family can get involved and designing and coloring the postcards is fun. By contrast, phone-banking is a solitary experience and setting it up is a little more complicated than mailing postcards. But phone-banking offers one big advantage, the ability to directly interact with the voter, enabling us to answer their questions and help them get enrolled in vote-by-mail. For this reason, at EEAN, we decided to do both.
To get us started, EEAN leadership member Alex Margolis who is a powerhouse when it comes to voter outreach, both with postcards and with phone-banking, offered to give us a presentation about the phone-banking she has been doing. She has been working with a Florida Democratic group, FL Dems, who have organized a phone-banking outreach to enroll registered Democratic voters in Palm Beach County (PBC) in vote-by-mail. The action is called PBC VBM. They have a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/GrassrootsPalmBeach/
Alex, who is a corporate attorney, told us about PBC VBM on the postcard party Zoom, explaining how this initiative works.
“There’s really a unique opportunity in Palm Beach County, because the election supervisor though a Republican, seems to be pretty good and is working with the Democratic Party to facilitate enrolling voters in vote-by-mail. These calling list are all Democrats and it’s a very easy phone call. You’re not asking for money. You’re not asking for support for a candidate. You’re just asking if they’re enrolled in vote-by-mail and stating that we want to help them enroll if they are not signed up for it. If they say ‘yes’, you enter that and it is automatically communicated and the supervisor will follow up with this voter to get them enrolled in vote-by-mail. I’m doing postcards also but with the phone calls, you’re actually signing them up.”
We discussed that many of us are still a bit squeamish about talking to voters on the phone. But, as Rebecca pointed out, the nature of these calls should make it easier.
“What I find so alluring about this is that you’re not asking people for money. You’re not asking them to give you information that maybe they don’t want to talk to you about. You’re calling to provide a service for them, which in these times of everything being so confusing, I could see people really appreciating it,” said Rebecca on our Zoom call. “I also keep saying to myself, if I’m not going to do it now for this election, I’m never going to do it. This is the election to do it.”
We all agreed that if ever we were going to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and commit to phone-banking, this is the time to do it. And Alex said it is true that, in her experience, many voters she spoke with were appreciative. “This one guy, after I asked him if we can count on him to vote for Democrats this year, he said, ‘I’d vote for a tuna fish sandwich before I’d ever vote for Republican again.’ This other call was with a veteran and he was great. He said, ‘All women should be elected. Women should run the world. It would be so much better.’ Then on another call I spoke with some younger voters who really want to volunteer to help out. Some of these conversations have been really uplifting.”
Many of us signed up with PBC VBM as well as a training session with Alex who will take us through the process step-by-step. In my next blog post, I will be able to bring you this hands-on information about how it works. Hopefully that will help you get past your own reservations about phone-banking. Then, for the last blog post on voter outreach methods, I will focus on text-banking. In the meantime, sign up with PTV and get started on your postcards!
Appeared as Letter to the Editor, The East Hampton Star, July 23
Price to Pay
July 20, 2020
To The Editor:
We all want nothing more than to get on with our lives without worrying about contracting the coronavirus. While we have done our part by working from home (or being furloughed or laid off) during the lockdown, wearing masks, and socially distancing, the Trump administration has failed to do its part. Incredibly, in an interview this past Sunday, the president was still minimizing the seriousness of the virus, and falsely claimed that the U.S. has “one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.”
Like a petulant child, Trump keeps demanding that the economy get back to normal, as if by simply saying it will make it so. Apparently he is incapable of grasping the fact that in order to get back to a world where children go to school, adults go to work, restaurants have patrons, and stores have shoppers, the virus must first be suppressed. And so the country staggers on, buckling under climbing hospitalization rates and more than 140,000 American deaths.
In November, let Donald Trump know that there is a political price to pay for his malicious incompetence. Vote for Joe Biden, who has the humility and intelligence to listen to the advice of medical experts. And let our congressman, Lee Zeldin, know there is a price to pay for putting the interests of a delusional president before those of his constituents. Vote for Nancy Goroff, Democrat, who will harness her years of scientific training to craft policies that are firmly based in fact, not fiction.
I know most of the arguments against “Medicare for All.” I’ve been making them for most of my professional life as a physician:
1) We don’t need it; our current mix bag of public and private insurance coverage is adequate
2) Disrupting the private insurance industry would result in too many job losses
3) The government cannot be trusted to run a program of this size
4) We don’t have buy-in from a majority of constituents
5) We simply can’t afford it.
I’ve said all of these for 30 years. I now know that I am wrong.
Health care policy can be simplified to answering the basic question of who gets covered and at what cost. Universal coverage was once championed only by the most progressive. Then came COVID-19.
COVID has taught us that every member of our society needs adequate health care. This is not just a progressive talking point, it is the reality of infectious disease: those without proper care run the risk of acquiring and transmitting the disease to the rest of us.
The most marginalized segments of our population such as the homeless, undocumented workers, and the incarcerated still have contact with clerks in coffee shops, police officers, and staff in our emergency rooms. This was made evident when a homeless patient came to my practice’s office for wound care seven times over a two weeks period at the beginning of the pandemic before strict safety protocols were instituted. This patient subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, none of the staff in my practice contracted COVID from this patient. This scenario is just a microcosm of what can go wrong if we do not care for everyone.
Universal coverage is no longer charity or a luxury, it’s now medically necessary as protection for us all.
COVID has also taught us that tying insurance to employers no longer makes sense. It’s a historical accident that we even have this system: The Stabilization Act of 1942 was passed to limit war-time inflation and limited employers’ ability to raise wages, but there was an exemption for “insurance and pension benefits” which could grow “in a reasonable amount” during the freeze.
Suddenly, employers were in the health insurance business as health benefits could be considered compensation but did not count as taxable income.
When Congress rewrote the tax code in 1954, it preserved the tax subsidies for third-party insurance, and by 1964, almost 80 percent of the population had some form of employer-sponsored health insurance.
This system sort of worked until the cost of health coverage became too expensive and companies, especially small companies, reduced or eliminated coverage. Today, Kaiser Permanente estimates that only about 49 percent of Americans get their coverage this way.
COVID made it clear what a weak link this is as sudden massive unemployment can quickly result in public health catastrophe. More than 30 million people lost their jobs — and for many, their health insurance–in just a few months of lockdown. Many of these people run the risk of being suddenly uninsured.
Yes, Medicare for All will cost a lot, and it will cause huge disruptions. But disruption is part of free enterprise and innovation. Why should health care companies be exempt? It makes little sense and is almost un-American. Think electricity replacing whale oil, combustible engine replacing horse and buggy, the invention of the computer, the internet, smartphones, fax machines. Each innovation caused massive job restructuring but they also made our lives better and easier. By some estimates, Amazon has resulted in the elimination of 1.5 million retail jobs. Are health insurance jobs more vital than retail jobs? In the case of Medicare for All, displaced private insurance workers are the very ones the government would need to hire and help implement the new program.
For many years I didn’t trust the government to run a system as large as Medicare for All — not when the DMV can barely handle your license renewal. Consider our newest department, the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in 2002. DHS now has over 240,000 employees and a budget of nearly $50 billion. Bureaucracy exists within any large organization. We now readily accepted this new department after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Aside from the extremists, no one is calling for the dismantling of major departments due to bureaucracy.
Medicare for All will certainly be expensive. Projections range from 13-47 trillion dollars over 10 years.
Critics claim that this enormous amount would bankrupt our treasury and unfairly pass down this debt to our children and grandchildren. However, other than for a short duration in the 1990s, the U.S. government has run a budget deficit every year since 1970. Our national debt is now over 25 trillion dollars and will surely grow in the future. Economists continue to debate about the meaning and consequence of this large debt.
The United States government has spent more than six trillion dollars to help support the economy during the pandemic with widespread support from both politicians and the public and very muted dissent from the traditional deficit hawks. That’s because it’s clear to politicians that the stimulus is preventing a broader crisis. Deficit spending is considered not only reasonable but a wise use of resources when it provides benefit to a large segment of our population.
The sizable cost of 1 to 4 trillion per year for universal health coverage is justifiable and may even appear to be a bargain considering the amount we have already spent on COVID, and the amount people will continue to spend on the most expensive health care system in the world. We currently are already spending nearly $4 trillion per year on U.S. healthcare. Despite this enormous amount, we still have gaps in coverage and we rank poorly as measured by healthcare access and quality index compared with other developed countries.
COVID has made clear that we need to reframe the way we think about universal health coverage. It would be naïve to think that COVID will be our last novel pathogen or last economic shock. The disruption and cost of permanent universal coverage is indeed high but the cost of not pursuing this policy will likely be much higher.
Li Tso, M.D. is a primary care physician at Mass General Hospital, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
This is a 1.5 hour video. Just in case you missed the event.
Featuring (in order of appearance) Alice Tepper Marlin, Sylvia Overby, Alec Baldwin, Diane Saatchi, Perry Gershon, David Posnett, Bridget Fleming, Rich Schaffer, David Calone, Nancy Goroff, Shoshana Hershkowitz, Jacob Sarkozi,
President Trump announced on Facebook Wednesday evening that Bill Stepien would become his campaign manager, replacing Brad Parscale,…
Recent national and swing-state polls have shown Trump falling further behind former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, …amid a spreading pandemic that has greatly harmed the economy.
Honestly? All they can think about is control of the narrative. The Trump campaign still isn’t taking this seriously. No one wears masks? And that includes Trump’s followers, like Lee Zeldin, who attended the Tulsa rally and then returned on Airforce 1 with other Trump loyalists (no masks in sight) – see picture.
Mass gatherings and rallies? Still OK. The Republican convention in Florida? Or wherever they can find a compliant governor? OK. Parties and mass gatherings for July 4th? OK. And now, we are starting to see an uptick of new cases of Covid-19 including in Suffolk County NY.
It’s unavoidable. The virus doesn’t care about politics. By-passing the CDC for political control of the numbers of new cases and the reports from the hospitals? Still, the virus doesn’t care.
It is stunning that these people think they can out-maneuver SARS CoV-2. And as long as we don’t control the pandemic there is no hope of rescuing the economy.
It might be useful to read some history books. The plague easily triumphed over competing European superpowers of the time:
France declared war on Germany shortly after the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939. By June of the following year, Hitler’s armored divisions had defeated France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. With the aim of defeating the English next, German aircraft were relocated to airfields on the northern coast of France and were bombing London and other English towns incessantly night after moonlit night, while German subs were torpedoing British supply ships. The destruction was bringing England to its knees.
In the winter of 1940, Prime Minister Churchill appealed to President Roosevelt requesting American assistance in maintaining the flow of food and military supplies to England. On Monday evening, Jan. 6, 1941, at the State of the Union address, Roosevelt asked the country to grant Churchill’s request: If agreed, Roosevelt described a world to come that would be founded upon four essential human freedoms: speech, worship and freedoms from want and fear. America did not hesitate, and we all know the results.
Today, as we fight World War III — Covid19 — might we think that our current president would be man enough to have concern for others that he would wish to ease the world’s suffering? But no, he decides to buy up for America alone the world supply of the one drug, Remdesivir, which can help reduce the effects of the pandemic. Shame, shame, shame. And as for the freedoms of speech, worship, and freedoms from want and fear he has no interest, they do not affect his own future.
Like a man trapped by more and more frequent implications of wrongdoing and corruption, Trump’s response is, “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my fault. Not my responsibility,” such as the removal of the Manhattan United States attorney. William Barr ordered the dismissal. Russian offered Taliban bounties to kill our troops? “I know nothing about that.” (Now he knows but still does nothing.) Covid-19: “States have the responsibility for the medical and economic response.” Anger at Black Lives Matter but no suggestions for change of policy. Will not wear a mask despite advice, we could go on. Clearly out of his depth, incapable, and emotionally bankrupt.
Our New York congressman, unfeeling Lee Zeldin is a repeat performance. As a military man who served in Iraq, briefly, the lack of concern for his fellows in arms is truly appalling. Let us rid ourselves of these wimps and march behind fully functional real leaders with empathic concerns who treasure and demand freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear.
Lee Zeldin’s League of Conservation Voters (LCV) score for 2019 was 28%. This seems like an improvement from his scores from prior years, which hovered around 10%, but to put things in perspective: The average Member of Congress score in 2019 was 56%, twice Zeldin’s, and true friends of the environment routinely score in the 90’s or even 100%.
Zeldin’s lifetime score, covering all 3 of his terms in Congress, remains a dismal 13%.
Since our last update, in August 2019, Zeldin voted 5 times to preserve or expand the rights of fossil fuel interests to explore and drill: Off the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, near Chaco Canyon National Park, near the Grand Canyon, and in 200,000 acres of Colorado Wilderness. He also voted to permit seismic air gun blasting (for oil and gas exploration) that harms marine mammals.
Also since our last update, Zeldin voted against closing a loophole in the Clean Water Act that allows companies to discharge unlimited amounts of toxic PFAS (also known as “forever chemicals”) into our nation’s waterways, and Zeldin voted in favor of the Trump North American trade deal that completely failed to address climate change.
On the other hand, since our last update and sometimes in seemingly contradictory fashion, Zeldin voted to ban oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, to impose a moratorium on seismic blasting off the Atlantic Coast, to ban all trade in shark fins and to increase some regulation of PFAS in drinking water and consumer products.
Appeared as Letter to the Editor in The East Hampton Star
June 29, 2020
Five months after Covid-19 was first diagnosed in the U.S. and 125,000 deaths later, the Trump administration still has no comprehensive strategy, other than to foist all responsibility on states and governors. Not content with simply offloading the responsibility, the president willfully creates obstacles to dealing with the pandemic by mocking the advice of his own handpicked White House task force.
Sneeringly dismissive of wearing a mask, Trump has framed this incredibly simple way to stem the virus’s spread as a sign of weakness, and as a referendum on himself, claiming in a Wall Street Journal interview that some people wear masks “to signal disapproval of him.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that fanboy Lee Zeldin chose not to wear a mask at Trump’s recent Tulsa rally despite standing shoulder-to-shoulder with over 6,000 people in an enclosed arena.
Coming from a district that has already witnessed the devastating consequences of the virus when it is spreading exponentially, Zeldin’s choice to not wear a mask shows an alarming lack of common sense, a shocking indifference to the sacrifices made by health-care workers, and a callous disregard for every resident of Congressional District 1. It also reveals blind allegiance to a dangerous president who has repeatedly put his own interests far above those of this country.
In November, we must vote Trump and Zeldin out of office.
Fox News, Trump (and Zeldin) are blaming the current resurgence of Covid-19 cases on increased testing. So let’s have a look at the data! I highly recommend this website: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-testing. The following graphs come from this site which has data for most countries in the world. Clearly, increased case numbers most often do not correlate with increased testing!
The above graph depicts daily tests per million inhabitants (Y-axis) versus daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 (X-axis). The line traces the data over time (April 8th to June 26th). In this case, it is data for Luxembourg. Note that the daily tests per million remained constant from April 8th through June 1st while confirmed cases dropped about 100-fold. And then the daily tests performed rose by nearly tenfold (May 20 through the end of June), but the confirmed cases rate remained more or less constant. In other words NO CORRELATION between testing numbers and confirmed cases.
Let’s look at some other countries.
In Bolivia there has been a steady increase in testing and likewise a steady increase in confirmed cases. But note that the positive rate (light grey diagonal lines) has gone from 10% in March to 50% in June. If the increase in confirmed cases were solely due to increased testing, the positive rate should remain constant. NB: the ‘positive rate’ is the percentage of tests that are positive over the total number of tests performed.
In Marocco testing increased by about 10-fold between April 21 and May 30. But the confirmed cases decreased from 5/Mio people to about 1/Mio people and the positive rate fell from 20% to 0.5%! In June there was a sharp rise in confirmed cases but daily test numbers remained constant. Again: NO CORRELATION.
The USA shows a similar pattern to Marocco: initially a steady rise in both confirmed cases and testing. Then in April testing increases steeply, but confirmed cases actually diminish, and in June there appears to be a rise in confirmed cases but testing remains constant. NO CORRELATION.
These curves indicate that increased testing is hardly the sole factor when trying to explain increased confirmed cases. In fact, there is no evidence that increased testing plays any role. More likely, it is a number of factors that leed to rising case numbers. These would include “opening up” prematurely, non-adherence to public health rules, such as social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, and avoiding mass gatherings (especially indoors).
The reelection campaign for U.S. President Donald Trump required attendees reserving tickets for a June 20, 2020, rally in Tulsa to agree they will not sue the campaign or event organizers should they be exposed to COVID-19 at the event. Confirmed by Snopes!
You can’t make this stuff up.
Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York is going to Oklahoma to be on stage and rally with the President.
At a time when we’re trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Lee Zeldin is promoting a massive super-spreader event that will surely make people sick.
At a time when millions of Americans are calling for racial justice and civil rights, Lee Zeldin is cheering on Donald Trump’s barely-concealed dog-whistles to his racist supporters.
At a time when America is calling out for leadership, Lee Zeldin is groveling for Donald Trump’s praise.
I strongly urge either early voting or mailing in your absentee ballot. This is because they are expecting a huge turn out: about 40,000 voters compared with the prior record of 25,000 voters in the 2018 Dem. primary. Combine a large turnout with a reduced number of polling places and confusion because people can’t find their newly assigned polling places… You see what I mean.
I VOTED! Sunday morning at 11 AM, June 14th. No lines. I was the only voter at the election site in East Hampton (Windmill Village). Over 1.5 days only 42 people had voted early at this site. Everyone wore masks and gloves and observed 6′ distancing, and it felt safer than going to the grocery store.
We received our mail-in ballots. I asked whether we should vote for all 6 delegate candidates. It is confusing for many of us. For example, under Biden’s name, there are 6 candidate delegates listed, see above.
I had received different opinions and someone suggested that voting for all 6 delegate choices defeats your purpose?
Since I personally know one of the delegates I asked them and got the following response:
Biden’s allocation of delegates will be based on the percentage of the total votes that HE gets. This is quite separate from the number of votes each delegate receives. The number of votes each delegate receives will determine who is elected delegate, in descending order, alternating by gender. ie, if 10,000 total votes are cast for POTUS and Biden gets 5,000 votes, he will get 1/2 of the number of delegates in the 1st congressional district (CD NY-01). If you “bullet vote” the delegates (vote for only 2 or 3 out of 6) you increase the chances of those specific delegates of being elected.
Printed as a Letter to the Editor in The East Hampton Star, June 11 edition
June 8, 2020
To The Star:
Three and a half years of the Trump administration have left America reeling, its values and ideals subverted and sabotaged. But the best of America is still here, too, embodied in each of us who wants to see our country live up to its promise: It is in the hospital janitor, the supermarket clerk, the doctor, the bus driver, the first responder, who all courageously go to work every day during a pandemic; it is in the teacher who Zooms into the lives of students; it is in the peaceful protesters who march and make their voices heard even though they risk a virulent virus, and, at times, virulent cops, and it is in the police officers who do their jobs professionally and respectfully.
For those who believe that this country is better than the racism, the flouting of the rule of law, the incendiary tweets that are the hallmarks of the Trump administration, this can be a time of transformation, when we do the work that needs to be done: to face uncomfortable truths; to become knowledgeable about issues and elections on both the local and national levels; to hold elected officials accountable; and to make civic action a part of our daily lives.
Yes, this can be a transformative time for us. But if it is not, if this is simply an extraordinary moment that dissipates, if in November we do not resoundingly defeat Donald Trump and his renegade Republicans, then that truly will be the end of the grand American experiment in democracy.
No matter where you live — Montauk or Manorville, Smithtown or Shirley, Patchogue or Port Jefferson — we all want our communities to thrive. To do that, we need a representative who puts our needs first: safe drinking water and well-paying jobs. Affordable healthcare and prescription drugs. A tax plan that works for working families. And decisions based on science, not donations. Although Zeldin says he’s fighting for us, his voting record says otherwise. Zeldin serves the needs of big business and the powerful few, not the working families in his district.
Lowe’s announced Wednesday that it would assist minority-owned businesses with $25 million in grants to support efforts to relaunch the American economy.
Lowe’s is dishing out the funds to help small businesses, especially home improvement professionals, in need of masks, personal protective equipment and other supplies to operate safely. The new funds follow $340 million of support the home improvement retailer provided for Covid-19 response activities in the first quarter.
By contrast in regard to Home Depot (this from 2019):
Home Depot sought to distance itself from billionaire co-founder Bernie Marcus after he pledged to back President Trump’s bid for re-election in 2020.
“If you plan on buying a hammer, wood, or ANY home improvement items from Home Depot, you may as well send donations DIRECTLY to trump’s 2020 campaign,” read one tweet under the hashtag #BoycottHomeDepot.