Gretchen's List: October 2020

Dear Friends,

This is our last month before Election Day, but the election has already started. Voters in many states have already received (and returned) their ballots. Trump still has many paths to victory, and the most likely Senate outcome is 50/50, whereas we really need an outright majority. The election is happening now, and there’s still plenty of work to do.

I typically focus almost exclusively on where to give, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what to do, so I’m including a few practical recommendations for actionable, effective steps for this month. Try to carve out some money in your budget or some time in your day to get us all across the finish line. I know many readers have other organizations that they are working with or giving to that they have found really valuable; feel free to share what you’re doing in the comments on this post in case folks need more ideas.

We are so close, and we’ll get there together or not at all.


The Final Countdown: October Checklist

  • Have you chipped in to the Biden Victory Fund? You can contribute by making a donation directly or attending an upcoming event on your issue of choice: healthcare with Zeke Emanuel, education with Sec. Arne Duncan and Sec. John King, climate and renewable energy with Sec. John Kerry, emerging technologies with Andrew Yang, gun violence prevention and social justice with Sen. Cory Booker, foreign policy with Sec. Madeline Albright, children and families with Valerie Jarrett and Maya Harris, pandemic preparedness, US-Israel policy with Amb. Dan Shapiro, homeland security with Amb. Susan Rice, reproductive rights with Alexis McGill Johnson and Cecile Richards. Am I missing an event for your issue? Leave a comment on what you’d most like to hear about, and I’ll reply with a Biden event for you.

  • Have you given to the Senate campaigns you want to support? My top recommendations are still Greenfield (IA), Bollier (KS), and Hegar (TX) (plus Gideon, if you want); if you want to join an upcoming event with the three former candidates, you can add your name here. You should also consider Jones (AL), Ossoff (GA), Warnock (GA), Gross (AK), and Bullock (MT) good investments right now.

  • Have you considered giving to state legislature candidates running for flippable chambers? This will have huge impact on redistricting and statewide policies for a decade to come and beyond, and also have the potential to help drive up-ballot races for Senate and the Electoral College. Here are slates of women running in competitive seats in Arizona, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

  • Have you supported registration, mobilizing and getting out the vote for communities of color? I recommend one of the Movement Voter Project funds and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay legal fees so that recently re-enfranchised voters can participate in this election.

  • Have you figured out how you will support interpersonal engagement (either by writing to friends or strangers, engaging in deep canvassing, or supporting organizations that do)? More detail on this strategy below, but for donations I recommend One for All or People’s Action.

  • Have you signed up to triple your vote? You can do it here (and read more about why you want to below). Try to pick friends in swing states or states with competitive Senate races. (If you’re on Facebook, you can enter “my friends who live in Pennsylvania” — or whatever state — in the search bar and get a full list of people you might want to target.)

  • Have you voted? is a great place to make sure you know exactly how to safely vote in your state this year, while being confident your ballot will be counted.

October Question: How much have you spent on this election?

A lot. But the question should not be, “What has this election cost me?” but this: “What has Donald Trump cost me?”

Through his mishandling of the pandemic, he has cost me countless time with friends. My bandwidth to do my job (or to parent) to the best of my ability. Two of my children’s birthday parties. My sons’ years of kindergarten with their friends. My daughter’s first year with her grandparents. Time with my grandfather before his death, and time with my family after. Four family trips. Three friends’ weddings. Two baby showers. One new passport stamp. Through his dismissal of climate change and unwillingness to fight for our planet, he has cost me not only clean air and time outside, but the expense of new air purifiers and N95 masks (with the valve for toxic air, without for COVID). Through his example, he cost me the energy and time needed to raise boys in a world in which toxic masculinity radiates from the highest office in the land; to raise a daughter in a world where a president guilty of sexual assault appoints a judge guilty of sexual assault to the highest bench in the land; to be a social scientist in world where facts do not matter; to be a traveler in a world where a US passport doesn’t matter; to be a person in a world where civility doesn’t matter. He has cost me my faith in our institutions.

And I have paid a far, far lighter price than many. For those who have lost loved ones because of the white supremacist violence that he inflamed, or the police violence that he encouraged, or the pandemic that he ignored; for those caged children he deprived of families; for those refugees he denied asylum; for those he pepper sprayed for a photo op, the price was far higher. For those who lost jobs and savings in a shuttered economy and for those who lost homes and memories in fires and floods — none of whom received the meaningful attention, resources, and aid of a federal government — the price was far higher. For those demeaned and alienated by his relentless misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, racism, and malignant narcissism, the price is too high. It is too much for a citizenry to have to bear.

I consider all this, and the answer to how much have you spent? is almost always not enough. That sense of not enough (money, time, effort, energy) is breathtaking, every single day: are we doing enough? Is there a race left unexamined? A message untested? A donor unasked? A voter unreached? A stone unturned? Let’s hope we are only asking this of ourselves for a few more weeks, rather than a few more years.

What to Do Right Now: Connect with the people you know.

Friends, I am sorry to say, both as an introvert and as a donor, that we are approaching the point in the election where relational engagement is as important as money. Encouragement from and conversations with friends and canvassers not only makes people more likely to vote, it makes them more likely to vote for the candidates that you feel most strongly about. Here are three demonstrably effective ways to make this work feel accessible.

Vote Tripling. The first time I heard about vote tripling, I was like “that sounds dumb” and mostly stopped listening because it seemed just too, too simple to really make a difference. But the data are in and it actually increases turnout by a significant margin. This is how it works: you pledge to remind three people to vote, and then they remind you to remind three people to vote, and then you do. That is all. (Yes, it still sounds dumb to me, but here we are because evidence.) This is how it works and this is a New York Times article about a study that found it increased turnout by 8 points (which is a game-changer) and this is where you sign up to do it.

Deep Canvassing. Deep canvassing seeks to create conversations that draw on voters’ beliefs and experiences, provide opportunities for two-way sharing, and reinforce values within a context that affirms an alignment with a political candidate or position. The good news about deep canvassing is that it works. People’s Action found that deep canvassing generated a 3-point increase in Biden supporters generally, with higher increases among women and Independents. To put in context, remember that a 3-point increase would flip Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. The bad news is that deep canvassing is time and cost-intensive, and hard to do during a pandemic — so it needs your investment now.

I am supporting deep canvassing this cycle through One for All, the political action committee run by Jackie Payne, founder of GALvanize USA and GALvanize Action. As a white woman, I feel a particular commitment to making strides in this demographic, and ensuring that Trump doesn’t win white women this cycle. One for All is doing important messaging and deep canvassing work among persuadable, non-college educated, non-urban white women. They've created four ads that increased support for Biden in this essential demographic by 7-9 points in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Maine. The deep canvass follows these ads to reach out to persuadable voters and have a values-based conversation, which allows the voter to move herself toward voting for Biden. Recent research found that this kind of deep canvass was 30 times more effective than other forms of political persuasion in a Presidential election. If you can invest time, let me know if you’re interested in volunteering with One for All (they have their last training this weekend); if you can invest money, please consider supporting their work here.

Personal Communications. Do you have people in your life that are voting for Trump, or are undecided? It’s time to talk to them. Write an email, send a text, make a call. Let them know that you hope they’ll consider voting for Biden, and be frank with them about your fears of a second Trump term.

This is like deep canvassing within your own close circle. I suggest reading these articles (and watching the video linked above) to get a sense of what works (and what doesn’t), and then crafting a narrative that will work for the people in your life: “The Only Way to Change a Voter’s Mind,” “How to Talk Someone Out of Bigotry,” and “To Change Voters’ Sympathies, It’s Time to Go Deep.” Remember that these conversations must be open-ended, non-judgmental, personal, and work to meet the voter where they are. It is almost impossible to change people’s minds about core issues in one conversation, but you can work to show them how their values and desires are already out of sync with Trump, and more in line with a vote for Biden.

The best example I have ever seen comes from a friend of mine, who wrote her grandfather this letter in 2016. Her letter won’t be yours, obviously, but her goal was to identify his values and lean into those when reaching out to him, which I think she did brilliantly. Here’s an edited version of her letter:

I wanted to write to you because I understand that you might be voting for Trump. I understand that you are a lifelong Republican, and I am not challenging that. But Trump, in particular, feels so dangerous and threatening to me and so many people I love, including a lot of family members. So much of my love of family is something I have learned from you, so I wanted to let you know why I feel like voting for him is such a threat.

On a personal level, his anti-gay policy hurts me… After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, 50 LGBT people were dead but he didn’t stop to say anything honoring them. It was really scary to me, because it felt like he didn’t see us as people worth mourning.

Also personal to me, but also to other women in my life, is Donald Trump’s approach to women. The world literally feels like a less safe place to live right now because of how talking about sexually assaulting women is just commonplace at this point. It’s painful… I have been in so many conversations over the last week or two where women have been brought to tears about it.

And, with the level of racism that Trump and his candidacy has really brought to the surface, I am worried about [my brother], as well as my friends of color. I am worried about how Trump wants to expand stop and frisk, which has been ruled unconstitutional and also has caused a number of serious injuries to young black men in the cities where it has been in place.

I am afraid for [my partner]. Just in this last week, Trump made an anti-Semitic dog-whistle, about the banking system. Honestly, I have never seen my Jewish friends and family be as afraid as they are about the direction of the country under Trump.

And finally, I am afraid for all of us. Donald Trump’s hotheadedness and apparent inability to listen to counsel of even those he has specifically hired to manage his campaign, as well as his temper when given feedback by others, makes me worried for the future of the country and the world. I just don’t trust his ability to steward the country… For me, the reasons that Trump scares me so much are based partially in his policy but largely in just what he has shown of himself as a person. He does not seem to see my humanity or that of so many of the people that I love.

I am not trying to tell you to vote for Hillary -- you could vote for Dad for all I care! -- but a vote for Trump feels like a vote that is actively against me and so many of your other family members. I love you too much to not say something, because I know you love us too much to do this without really thinking about it. I hope you’re well and I will see you next month. I love you.

If this feels like too much, or if you don’t know who in your circle you’d write to, you can sign up to participate in a letter-writing campaign on Vote Forward.

Upcoming Virtual Events

September 26, 6:30pm PT: Not only is Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2) one of my favorite members of Congress, she is also one of the most vulnerable. Join this event with her and Ellen Malcolm, Founder and Chair of EMILY’s List, to learn about her race in New Mexico and support her campaign. RSVP and contribute here.

September 30, 5pm PT: Join special guest Cecile Richards in support of Wendy Davis for Congress (TX-21). Wendy will be a champion for women and reproductive rights when we need one most in Congress. RSVP and contribute here.

October 5, 5pm PT: Join us for a virtual reception in support of gay and lesbian candidates for Congress: Jon Hoadley (MI-6), Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), and Ritchie Torres (NY-15). RSVP and contribute here.

October 7th, 5pm: Californians! This is a great one for you. Join Electing Women Bay Area, LA Women’s Political Collective, and Shirley’s List PAC in support of an amazing slate of nine Black women running for local office throughout California. This is our pipeline of Black women candidates in California, to ensure that while Kamala Harris was our first woman of color senator, she won’t be our last. Candidates include: Holly Mitchell (LA Supervisor), Rhodesia Ransom (San Joaquin Supervisor), Treva Reid (Oakland City Council), Maureen Craft (Elk Grove City Council), Lateefah Simon (BART Board), Carolyn Wysinger (Contra Costa School Board), Nichelle Henderson (LA School Board), Letitia Clark (Tustin City Council), and Alisha Wilkins (Temecula City Council). RSVP and contribute here.

October 9th, 5pm PT. This event is really special! Join GALvanize for a concert with Grammy award-winning artists Brandi Carlile and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam for an exclusive Vote Your Values Concert. The concert will be free if you take the “Vote Your Values” pledge. (But if you want to support GALvanize and help sponsor the concert, you can donate here.)

October 14th, 1pm PT: Electing Women Bay Area is hosting a joint fundraiser for the women running for the United States Senate. This event will raise for Theresa Greenfield (Iowa), Barbara Bollier (Kansas), and MJ Hegar (Texas) — my top three Senate races to fund right now! — with video messages from Sara Gideon (Maine) and Amy McGrath (Kentucky). The full event page isn’t up yet, but drop your name and email here and I’ll send you the details once I have them.

October 14th, 6pm PT: I’m super excited about this Virtual Trivia Night with the cast of The West Wing in support of the Biden Victory Fund, and I hope you’ll join me! (Just a warning that my trivia team is excellent, though, so manage your expectations for victory.) RSVP and contribute here.

October 15th, 3:30pm PT. Join A Conversation on The Fight for Reproductive Rights with Ilyse HoguePresident (NARAL Pro-Choice America), Alexis McGill Johnson (Planned Parenthood Action Fund), Cecile Richards (Supermajority), and Stephanie Schriock (EMILY’s List), in support of the Biden Victory Fund. RSVP and contribute here.

October 19th, 2:45pm PT: A Virtual Conversation with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Fellow #TeamWarren folks, it’s time to break out our “She Persisted” shirts for this conversation with Senator Warren in support of the Biden Victory Fund. I’m excited to hear her vision for what we can accomplish in a Biden/Harris administration. RSVP and contribute 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.