Gretchen's List: February 2021

Dear Friends,

Not to bask in the schadenfreude, but, wow, the Republicans are in… disarray, shall we say. Truly, the GOP is in the midst of a conflict that will define their party for a generation. Congressman Matt Gaetz was in Wyoming, arguably the reddest state, leading a protest against die-hard conservative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House. (George W. Bush has issued a statement supporting Cheney.) The Arizona Republican Party has voted to censure Cindy McCain (along with former Senator Jeff Flake and Governor Doug Ducey) for… criticizing Donald Trump. Senator Mitt Romney was heckled by Republicans; one of whom said, “Trump was a juggernaut, your legacy is nothing.” That’s right: Bush, Cheney, McCain, Romney — the names of individuals and families that, until recently, were the standard-bearers of the Republican party — are currently facing primary challengers and public censures for not allowing Donald Trump to steal an election. The GOP is leaderless, apparently under the sway of an increasingly insane and extreme right-wing (see: Gaetz, Taylor Greene, Boebert). This scrambling bodes well for Democrats’ ability to hold the House and Senate in 2022, though I still think both chambers will present their own challenges.

In the meantime, Democrats have a real opportunity to govern, not just to create change for the next two years, but to protect our democracy for years to come. For 2021, I will be focusing my giving on several key areas that I think are important for preserving and strengthening our democracy, including redistricting, court expansion, and D.C. statehood. Some of these feel like big, impossible challenges, but I believe that, with investment, they are doable. More than that, we must think big about how to make sure our institutions are strong, so that we are less likely to face existential challenges, like the ones posed by Trump, in the future. I will be focusing on one of these areas for each of the next few letters.

As always, I welcome your questions and feedback.


P.S. I love this first annual impact report from Electing Women Bay Area so much that I’m sharing it with you all. It really speaks to the value of EWBA for both donors and candidates. As I reminder, if you’re in the Bay Area and want to invest in electing women to office across the country, I am always here to tell you everything you want to know — and more! — about EWBA.

Where to Give Now: Redistricting

Here’s how redistricting works: we take a census of the entire population, and then states use that information to draw new legislative districts of equal population. Ideally, these districts should be meaningful boundaries that reflect the underlying communities. Actually, the are usually gerrymandered disasters designed to maintain partisan control and systemically undermine the power of voters of color.

If the above districts weren’t relentlessly destructive to democracy, they would almost be funny, and this comes from someone who grew up in a district that was gerrymandered to the point it effectively had a hole in it. (The above image is from this 2014 article, which is also an excellent primer on gerrymandering.)

While both parties have used gerrymandering, the goal, of course, is not Democratic districts, but fair one. Yet, because Republicans were particularly egregious gerrymandering after the last census, fairer districts right now will look like more Democratic-leaning ones. Considering a combination of variables (changing populations, individual state processes for redistricting, and the makeup of current districts), there are a number of states that present important opportunities for the creation of districts that would likely build and maintain a Democratic majority in the House and in state legislatures.

I have put together a slate of organizations that are working on fair districts, both in target states and nationwide. Some of these organizations focus on advocating for transparency and public engagement in the process, encouraging underrepresented community members to attend public hearings, and building widespread support for fair maps; others will focus on legal challenges for unfair or gerrymandered maps. The slate includes: ProGeorgia (Georgia Redistricting Alliance), Pennsylvania Voice, Texas Civil Rights Project, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Brennan Center for Justice. If you use the slate, I very strongly encourage you to customize amounts and select just one or two places to send your money. It’s better for one organization to get $50 than for five organizations to get $10. I will also recommend the Native American Rights Fund (which is only not on the slate because they are a 501(c)3 nonprofit and thus not on ActBlue!). Here’s your link; please share away.

I also strongly endorse Fair Representation in Redistricting, which is coordinating a pooled fund to support the organizations listed above, as well as many others. If you are interested in giving to FRR, please let me know and I will connect you.

February Question: What’s going to happen in the Senate in 2022?

I know, I know; we’ve all been turned into Senate obsessives last cycle, and we’re already looking ahead to 2022 for our next opportunity. Right now, it’s really too early to know much — but here are a few things we can know.

  • As in 2020, most of the Senate elections will not be close. These races are in deep red or blue states, and will not changes parties. This doesn’t mean they won’t be interesting — newly confirmed California Senator Alex Padilla might have some Democratic challengers, for example — but they will not determine the direction of the majority.

  • The very good news: no Democratic senators are running for reelection in states won by Donald Trump in 2020. The medium news: four Democratic Senators are at least somewhat vulnerable: Catherine Cortez-Masto in Nevada, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Mark Kelly in Arizona, and Raphael Warnock in Georgia. (Yes, because they were special elections, we already need to re-elect Kelly and Warnock.) How vulnerable these incumbents are will depend on who their Republican challengers end up being. Senator Hassan, for example, could be extremely vulnerable if Governor Chris Sununu decides to follow family footsteps and run for Senate.

  • There are opportunities for Democratic pick-ups in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio (in order of likelihood, based entirely on how I feel today). The seats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio are open; many expect Senator Ron Johnson will announce his retirement, leaving Wisconsin’s open, too. Open seats are always easier to win, so this number of vacancies is promising. I have high hopes for the races in Biden-won Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, will withhold opinion for North Carolina, and feel less optimistic for Florida and Ohio. (Although, things might get interesting in Florida…) All that being said: too early to really know anything, but keep an eye on these states.

  • There will probably be Trumps running. Is Ivanka Trump going to enter the Republican primary in Florida? (Maybe.) Is Lara Trump going to run in North Carolina? (Probably.) Is Donald Trump, Jr. looking at the Pennsylvania seat? (Ugh, apparently.) Just… brace yourself, I guess. We can’t predict who will enter what races, but we can expect that we have not yet, unfortunately, rid ourselves of the next generation of Trumps.

February Events

Thursday, February 11th, 4:30pm PT. Join this Galentine’s Day Celebration for Melanie Stansbury for NM-1. (Please note that this event is also open to non-gal supporters.) I had the opportunity to hear from Melanie last month, and I was so deeply impressed by her. Interior Secretary-Designate Deb Haaland is leaving behind big shoes to fill in this district, and I believe fellow New Mexico Emergista Melanie is the woman for the job. She will be the champion for progressive climate action that we need right now in Congress. The ask for this event starts at just $25, so it’s a great opportunity for supporters at every level to hear from Melanie and learn more about her race. Contribute and RSVP here.

February 23rd, 3:30pm PT. Join Electing Women Bay Area for a conversation with Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. As I mentioned above, there is a chance that Senator Hassan will be one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents this cycle, and supporting her campaign early might dissuade the potentially strongest challenger from entering the race. (This is what happened last cycle, when fellow New Hampshirite Senator Jeanne Shaheen averted a possible challenge from Governor Sununu.) Contribute and RSVP here.

Donor, sociologist, researcher. Board member at WDN Action and Emerge America, and steering committee member at Electing Women Bay Area -- but all content here is mine alone and not on behalf of any organization or business. My goals are to help others find their networks and feel more comfortable and informed participating in the political giving space.

Currently reading: The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by fellow queenmaker Anna Malaika Tubbs and Taking Children: A History of American Terror by Laura Briggs.