Blog - Rights and Democracy

We Will Not Go Back

On Saturday, October 5th, my heart broke. I felt outraged, silenced, and betrayed as I watched the Senate vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Forty nine Republicans and one Democrat showed that they have no respect for our autonomy, our health, our voices, or our stories.

I know that as much as this defeat seems devastating, that myself and thousands of women like me did everything possible to prevent this egregious injustice. I am certain that my newfound resistance family with carry the momentum of this movement to the ballot box in November, and beyond. I am certain that the powerful impact of our grassroots organizing will continue to reverberate, like our voices and stories echoing in unison in the Hart Atrium and National Mall. Those chants still boom in my aching heart:

“We will not go back”
“Believe survivors”
“I believe that we will win”

I still believe that we will win. I believe we will win crucial elections at all levels of government next month—here in Vermont and around the country. I believe in the power of our movement, in the power of grassroots organizing to unify and elevate the voices of individuals, who have been previously silenced.

I still believe. I still believe survivors. I still believe the stories I heard at home and in DC. I still believe in the strength of our voices joining together. I still believe our efforts had an impact. I still believe that in the face of special interests and ultra-conservative billionaires executing a long-term strategy to take over our courts and state governments, we can win back rights for our communities and build a real democracy. I still believe that we will win.

Do you believe?

Join RAD today & help us fight back in this election with an annual or monthly contribution.

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Help RAD Get Out the Vote!

Join Rights & Democracy to help get out the vote for endorsed candidates across Vermont on Saturday, Oct. 27th!

We will be canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors, talking to voters, and handing out flyers as we work to elect Christine Hallquist as governor and re-elect Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Treasurer Beth Pearce.

We'll also be asking folks to support all of our local candidates throughout Vermont.

These candidates have pledged to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and enact paid family leave, champion universal health care, support high quality, affordable and accessible early education and child care, tackle systemic racism and oppression, ensure clean water for all, create a clean energy future that provides livable-wage jobs, and more.

On Saturday, October 27th we will focus our efforts on candidates in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Rutland counties.

RSVP - Addison County

RSVP Chittenden County (Burlington)

RSVP - Franklin County

RSVP - Rutland County

We need all hands on deck to get the word out about our endorsed candidates before Tuesday, November 6th. We have a clear opportunity in Franklin County to elect candidates who will be part of a veto-proof majority focused on tackling the real issues confronting Vermont families and their communities—with or without the support of the governor.

This canvass is part of RAD's statewide effort to reach more than 10,000 voters in Vermont on one day! We're hoping for record-level turnout this election, and you can help make that happen.

Can't make it? Share this email with a friend!

You'll spend minutes at each door, which means even two hours of your time will go a long way to victory on November 6th.

See you on Oct. 27th!

Elise Greaves, Political Engagement Coordinator

Rights & Democracy

 

PS: Help us win in November and beyond by becoming a RAD member today with an annual or monthly donation. For as little as $5 a month, you can help RAD build a true people-powered movement.


Vermont, The Next North Carolina?

While I am fortunate to call Vermont my home, I am also proud to have spent many years of my childhood and adult life in North Carolina.

North Carolina has recently been underwater from one of the worst hurricanes in history, and understandably people in Vermont are highlighting the fact that North Carolina’s legislature banned state funded studying of sea level rise & climate change in 2012. I respond by saying that the North Carolina I grew up in has been taken over by the corporately controlled national GOP. I’m not talking about my father, who was a proud Republican for nearly all of my life. Nor am I talking about some of our ethical neighbors who feel the GOP represents them.

I’m here to warn you — vote in this November’s coming election or Vermont could be on its way to becoming the next North Carolina. That may seem like a bold claim in a state where Democrats have controlled the House in all but five years since 1992 and the Senate in all but four years in the same time. In North Carolina, Democrats had held power for 100 years — until 2010.

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3 Lessons From Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi

(photo credit: Jim Murphy, RAD/MPA)

Lead with love.

That was one of the key lessons that Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) shared with members of   Rights & Democracy (RAD) and the Monadnock Progressive Alliance (MPA) at our recent co-hosted, bi-state gathering.  

We see  her as one of the boldest progressive leaders in the country who is standing up against powerful elements of the establishment to do what is right—from joining a veterans delegation in solidarity with the Standing Rock Water Protectors trying to stop the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota to when she resigned as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee in early 2016 to endorse and support Senator Bernie Sanders in his run for president.

Here are some of the lessons I took away from Tulsi’s moving keynote speech and conversations she had with dozens of us throughout the day at the RAD Members’ Assembly and MPA’s People Power Summit.

1. ‘Aloha’ as a way life

Most of us who have never been to Hawaii have some familiarity with the word  ‘aloha’ But we learned it has a much deeper meaning that just a greeting. She said, “When I greet you with ‘aloha’, it means I am coming to you with respect and with love and with an open heart.  That regardless for our differences - whether it be the differences of where we come from or our stories and ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and of these things - it is a recognition of our connectedness.”

It struck me that this was not only a warm greeting, but an important grounding for a way of life. Imagine what would be possible if each one of us and our collective movements can come to each other and our communities is this sort of deep respect and recognition of our interconnectedness.  While this may seem daunting given the level of division in our country and on our planet, it would be powerful if we could work to embed this concept in how people see and greet each other.

 

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URGENT: Join us in NH to #StopKavanaughNow!

Help us #StopKavanaughNow and join us tomorrow, Friday, September 21 in New Hampshire to let Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine — who will be speaking at St. Anselm College — know that we want her to keep her word and protect our rights by rejecting the Koch Brothers' hand-picked conservative activist Brett Kavanaugh from being appointed to the US Supreme Court. Collins is a crucial swing vote in the narrowly divided US Senate and this is a chance for us to tell her why she must vote no & protect the future of our Supreme Court and the shared rights of generations to come!

If you are at all able, please join us for a picket starting at 4:30PM. Our friends at Granite State Progress will also be there, and you can find details on their Facebook event.

Please sign up here if you can attend.

For our Vermont members: We are working to organize housing with our New Hampshire members for those who want to be at the event tomorrow, and would like to stay overnight to attend our Membership Assembly & People Power Summit on Saturday in Keene.

For our New Hampshire members: If you are able to host someone, please let us know by filling out this form.

As you know, this is a crucial fight; the Affordable Care Act and access to health care, women’s reproductive rights and autonomy, migrant rights, marriage rights, tribal sovereignty, workplace rights, environmental regulations, and critical checks on executive impunity are #What’satStake.

And thanks to the hundreds of folks who have signed our petition in standing strong with Sen. Patrick Leahy who is helping to lead the effort in stopping this sham nomination.

Thanks for fighting back with us!

Email me if you have questions, katherine@radvt.org

Kate Lapp, Rights & Democracy


Our 2018 Movement Builder Award WInners!

The Rights & Democracy Project is excited to announce the recipients of our annual Movement Builder Award winners for Vermont and New Hampshire.

This year, we are honoring individuals in three separate leadership categories for each state—Youth, Organizing, and State House.

The winners will be honored during a midday awards ceremony this Saturday, September 22 at RAD's Annual Members' Assembly in Keene NH (click the link to RSVP and attend).

The awards ceremony will feature a keynote by one of the nation's leading progressive voices, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

The winners were selected from a group of nominees from RAD members, and staff, from both states. And the winners are ... drumroll please ...

2018 MOVEMENT BUILDER AWARDS

YOUTH LEADERS

ETHAN SONNEBORN - VERMONT

Ethan Sonneborn is an activist and former Vermont gubernatorial candidate as well as the youngest gubernatorial candidate in American history. He ran a progressive campaign focused on bringing new people, especially young people, into the political process. He lives in Bristol, Vermont and now is a youth advocate, trying to make change from outside the beltway. Ethan plans to remain engaged and to keep fighting for policies that affect him as a young person.


ONI SALEH, ADAM MINAHAN, CONOR T. HILL, HANNAH LANDRY - NEW HAMPSHIRE

Conor T. Hill, Oni Saleh, Adam Minihan and Hannah Landry are students at Keene High School together and are strong youth leaders in their school and wider community. Their organizing has led to a school walkout to end school shootings, gun sense and ending school violence events, the Youth Climate Rally, net neutrality rally, and student voter registration. They are passionate about many other important issues including ending college debt, uniting immigrant families and wider immigration policy and we look forward to watching and supporting their efforts as they grow.

ANNA MCGUINESS, EVIE IWANOWICZ, DAISY YOUNG, LILY DENEHY - NEW HAMPSHIRE

These young women organized a school walk out at Conval Regional High School in Peterborough, NH as part of the National School Walkout movement, on March 14th, the one month anniversary of the Parkland Florida shootings, that left 17 students dead. When they first walked out of their school for 17 minutes, read the names and held a moment of silence to honor those killed. After that some of the students went back to their classes, but many continued on a three-mile walk to the town hall where they hosted a rally as well as gathering afterwards to reach out to their representatives to voice their concerns about gun policy in NH and our nation. They also did so knowing that they would face unspecified disciplinary action by their school administration.

ORGANIZING LEADERS

BRENDA SIEGEL - VERMONT

Brenda Siegel has been a strong voice in the effort to raise the minimum wage, enact paid family leave, and stand up to the policies of Gov. Phil Scott  as well as writing political commentaries around the state. Brenda ran for governor making history as the first ever low income single mom to do so. During her campaign, Brenda released a Four-Part Plan to Heal the Opioid Epidemic and this plan is making headway and has a chance at becoming the plan of the state. Siegel spoke of redefining leadership throughout her campaign and making sure that we have all the voices at the table. Her leadership has inspired us as we work to build a better Vermont for everyone.

PAT MARTIN - NEW HAMPSHIRE

Pat Martin is a powerhouse organizer in the Monadnock region, but known to all in the Granite State when it comes to energy and the climate. She organized the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice Rally and Social this year, while also testifying at the state level against gas pipelines, writing op-eds, and rallying her fellow MPAers and partnering like-minded groups to fight against fracked gas and fossil fuels.

STATE HOUSE LEADERS

KIAH MORRIS - VERMONT

Rep. Kiah Morris of Bennington has been a RAD champion in the Vermont Legislature - a leading voice for women, people of color, and low-income and impacted communities. Kiah has worked with RAD to train and support first-time candidates seeking public office. Her too short time in the Legislature - and the visible way in which she confronted the racism that led to her withdrawal for reelection - has re-ignited a statewide call to action to make our institutions equitable, inclusive, and to confront systemic racism.

ANDRU VOLINSKY - NEW HAMPSHIRE

Andru Volinsky was elected to Executive Councilor in NH from District 2 in 2016. He was endorsed by Rights & Democracy in his bid and has become one of the strongest, most consistent progressive voices in Concord. He hit the ground running and has been a strong critic of Gov. Chris Sununu’s leadership, while working to promote public schools, addressing climate change, providing universal access to health care and reducing income inequality.


We Must #StopKavanaughNow

by Katherine Lapp, Fight Back Coordinator, Rights & Democracy

Last week, several RAD members joined national partner organizations (like the Women’s March, Be a Hero, Center for Popular Democracy, and more) and traveled to DC to disrupt the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

We participated in 96 straight hours of action, including:

  • Attending and disrupting Senate Judiciary Committee hearings (standing up, vocalizing our dissent,  being arrested, and forcibly removed).
  • Occupying Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office and sharing personal stories about what’s at stake with this Supreme Court appointment: the Affordable Care Act and access to healthcare, Women’s reproductive rights and autonomy, migrant rights, marriage rights, tribal sovereignty, workplace rights, environmental regulations, and critical checks on executive impunity [In short, people’s rights and lives are at stake for decades to come, if this appointment is successfully rushed through].
  • Getting arrested at other demonstrations within the Hart Senate Building, including mourning the “death of democracy” and other civil disobedience actions outside the hearing room and near Senator Grassley’s office.
  • Delivering flowers and thanking key Senators: Kamala Harris (for being a hero in her opposition and aggressive questioning of Kavanaugh), and Susan Collins and Lisa Markowski (for their willingness to hear us out while considering their votes).

In an interview with the Bennington Banner about her disruption of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Hearings and subequent arrest, RAD member Vickie Lampron reiterated the urgency and imperative of such demonstrations:

"All last summer, we fought to protect the Affordable Care Act, and we won," Lampron said. "People are afraid. People are really afraid of if he [Kavanaugh] gets in there, are we going to lose our health insurance? Are we going to lose choice for our own bodies?" (full article here).

Please join our critical effort to #StopKavanaughNow. There are many ways to get involved:

  • If you are able and willing to travel to the Capitol to participate in rallies, protests, and/or Civil Disobedience THIS WEEK, you can sign up here.

Can’t travel to DC next week but still want to help the effort to stop Kavanaugh? Here are some other ways to join the fight:

  • Sign (& share) our petition supporting Senator Leahy’s efforts to fight back against this rushed appointment.
  • Donate $20.20 to Ady Barkan’s Be a Hero PAC and send Senator Susan Collins of Maine the message–vote no on Kavanaugh, or you will be voted out in 2020.
    • This effort has raised over $1 million in the past week, causing republican outcry and accusations of bribery. This means it is working! Organized grassroots efforts like this are the best way for individual citizens to have their voices heard, we will not be drowned out by the corporations or wealthy few who can easily buy influence. Sign up to phonebank with Be a Hero.
  • Sign up to textbank with #VoteProChoice (email me and I'll help you get signed up).
  • Check out WhipTheVote.org and make sure our Senators know that we want them to vote against Kavanaugh. Find Senators who are on the fence or are voting yes and see if you have friends in those states and get them to call!

This week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has bravely come forward with serious, credible, disqualifying allegations of attempted rape. Please, sign this petition to tell the senate: “We believe Christine Blasey Ford. Respect her for her courage and refuse to undermine, discredit, or defame her."

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote will be delayed so that these allegations may be properly aired and investigated, and with that delay means there will likely be more actions in Washington, DC next week. If you are interested in participating, just email me and I'll follow up with you directly about details.

Have other thoughts or questions about how to join this critical national fight for the future of the Supreme Court and the rights of generations to come?

Just email me at katherine@radvt.org.


Rights & Democracy Endorses Christine Hallquist for Governor

Rights & Democracy members voted overwhelmingly to endorse Democrat Christine Hallquist for Governor.

Hallquist received 90 percent of the vote in a three-day, online election that began September 7th and ended September 9th. Nearly one-third of voting members participated in the election.

Hallquist sought an endorsement from Rights & Democracy (RAD) and sat down with member leaders for an interview that was shared with the members who voted in this election.

“The convincing margin of support demonstrates the enthusiasm that RAD members have for defeating Phil Scott this November,a governor who has proven himself to be out of touch with Vermonters who support raising the minimum wage, providing paid family leave, addressing structural racism, and moving toward a clean energy future,” said Jubilee McGill, a member leader of RAD’s Candidate Endorsement Committee.

Hallquist joins a long list of other RAD-endorsed candidates in the 2018 elections.

A Rights & Democracy endorsement is a signal that a candidate reflects RAD’s values and will champion those causes. During the 2018 legislative session, Hallquist took part in the Minimum Wage Challenge, and from that experience embraced the push to raise the minimum wage.

"I am so excited to have received such overwhelming support in the democratic endorsement process from Rights & Democracy members,” said Hallquist. “I'm proud to be endorsed by RAD and even more excited to get to work to support the People's Platform in solidarity with this incredible community of activists and grassroots leaders from throughout Vermont."

RAD will work this campaign season to elect candidates who will will lead on the issues that have wide support by Vermonters, but have have been rejected by Gov. Scott and a select few in Montpelier—raising the minimum wage, passing paid family leave, ensuring we have clean water and hold polluters accountable, pushing for a 100-percent just and renewable future, and making our state is equitable for all.

This special membership vote is what makes RAD unique among grassroots organizations.

How does one become a member of RAD? Simple:

  • Donate. Suggested membership is $120 annually/$10 a month, but any amount is welcome. Donations to Rights & Democracy Project, a c4 nonprofit, are not tax deductible.
  • And/or, join an issue or statewide leadership team.
  • And/or, take action with Rights & Democracy four times a year.

Reaction to Rep. Kiah Morris' Decision to Not Seek Re-Election

The following is a statement from Rights & Democracy's Vermont Endorsement Committee on Rep. Kiah Morris' decision to not seek re-election.

"We are saddened by Rep. Kiah Morris' decision to not seek re-election and angered that it is due to the sustained, hateful threats she and her family endured during her too brief time in office.

"We are sad because Kiah Morris is a champion of poor and working class Vermonters, a powerful voice for women and people of color, and a true leader who has opened up doors for other leaders to walk through. We are angry because the reason Kiah is stepping down is all too familiar to people of color—unchecked hatred, bigotry, and racism, systemic oppression and institutionalized racism affecting every aspect of their lives. Rights & Democracy continues to work toward dismantling systemic oppression and institutionalized racism.

"We call on all legislative members to condemn these acts of intimidation and place the following among their highest priorities in 2019: expand the Human Rights Commission; create statewide Policy Racial Impact Assessments; implement Ethnic Studies in schools; and, remove slavery from Vermont's Constitution.

"We call upon the Attorney General and the Human Rights Commission, in coordination with community stakeholders, to immediately conduct a top-to-bottom review of protocols used to respond to threats and harassment of people of color in our communities."

— the Vermont Endorsement Committee, Rights & Democracy Project

David Ellenbogen, Scott Garren, Mark Hughes, Jubilee McGill, Alison Nihart, Andrew Tripp, Teddy Waszazak


Getting Serious About Power

Christine Hallquist, Phil Scott, and what we do from now until November 6

By Alison Nihart & James Haslam

On August 14, Christine Hallquist won a divided Democratic primary for Governor by receiving nearly half of the votes (40%) in a contest where many of the more established Democrat and Progressive politicians sat out the race, thinking Republican Gov. Phil Scott could not be beat.

In Hallquist, we have a candidate with a growing number of progressive supporters who has proven an ability to listen to the problems facing Vermonters and get behind the policies that Gov. Scott vetoed this past legislative session—like raising the minimum wage and enacting paid family leave. It also must be said that having the first major party transgender candidate for Governor in our country’s history is historic for trans equality in this country.

This year’s Democratic primary voter turnout—which according to the Secretary of State’s office was nearly triple from the 2014 Vermont midterm elections—is an indication that there is enthusiasm to challenge and defeat Scott. With strong campaigns to re-elect U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, and an opportunity to create a veto-proof majority in the House, we could see one of the biggest political upsets since 1962. That year, Democrat Phil Hoff defeated Republican Ray Keyser in the race for governor, making Keyser only the second governor  to ever lose re-election.

Rights & Democracy (RAD) member leaders plan to meet with Hallquist and her campaign team and provide an opportunity for her to talk directly with members about her campaign and her plans to govern. As we did in several legislative races during the primary, we will then poll members on whether we should endorse and work with Hallquist’s campaign in the coming months. [You can see our full list of current endorsed candidates on our website.]

Political terrain and having a long view

We understand that many RAD members supported other candidates during the primary, and may feel hesitant to engage with a candidate who was cast as more conservative and corporate in contrast to the other primary candidates. However, the stakes are high: for many of our most vulnerable folks, the outcome in November may determine the difference between having a roof over their head instead of being homeless, having a meal instead of going hungry, seeing a doctor instead of dying, and being seen and valued instead of marginalized and discriminated against.

Elections are opportunities to change the political environment where we fight for the things our communities need. Whether candidates emerge from our movement or not, our work during these elections builds independent people power that can hold accountable whoever is elected and can keep organizing the rest of the year.

We have an obligation to try to elect someone who will respond to the changing political terrain and work with us, not against us

We have evidence that Hallquist is willing to do just that. During the 2018 legislative session, Hallquist took part in the Minimum Wage Challenge, and from that experience embraced the push to raise the minimum wage.

It’s not just an opportunity, but an obligation, of grassroots organizations like RAD  to further engage with Hallquist and our members about other issues that are important to our communities and define where we have shared interests and a shared vision for a better future.

Elections are Power Struggles

Let’s put this political race in context. We all know that our current political system—despite what we have been told—is not really a democracy, as the game is played with the cards heavily stacked in favor of the wealthy elite.

The good news is that people all over are waking up to this rigged system and are seeing elections as critical power struggles.

Gov. Scott and his radical right campaign donors want us apathetic, divided, and, most of all, not turning out to vote.

In 2016, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) spent more than $1 Million to help get Scott elected, because the Koch Brothers see him as a low-dollar investment to foist their anti-worker, anti-family, racist, and anti-environment policies on Vermont.

Already, the RGA has spent $200,000 on Scott this election cycle even though he had token opposition in his GOP primary. Why? Because the RGA and Kochs see the same polls we do: Vermonters want paid family leave, they want to raise the minimum wage, and they want polluters to be held accountable. On those issues, and much more, Scott is on the wrong side. And, he’s raising money from the very corporations who benefit from rejecting these progressive ideas. So, who’s side is he on, and who’s side are we on?

In this election we  have an opportunity to build a people-powered movement that can elect true champions on a local level and defeat a real obstacle to progress—Gov. Scott.

Alison Nihart is chair of the Rights & Democracy Project Board of Directors and James Haslam is Executive Director of Rights & Democracy.

If you want to help RAD this election season support our endorsed candidates, we have volunteer positions open! Check out our list of opportunities to engage voters and win on our issues!


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