At this point, with the kind permission of the Conspiracy Theorist in Chief, we can reasonably hope that, come Jan. 20, we will return to government policies based on science and data. We can expect the climate emergency, environmental justice, and the need for a clean energy economy to be front and center in those policies, and that the United States, as the president-elect has promised, will start taking action on a scale commensurate with the challenge, finally integrating climate change into our foreign policy, trade policy, and national security strategies. The incoming administration has promised it will have the backs of vulnerable communities against big polluters that have been trashing them with impunity; start dismantling the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in our criminal justice system; and end the spectacle of a "downplayed" pandemic handled like a fumbled football instead of a public health emergency.
On Jan. 20, all this will be within reach, and the assault on democracy and our public lands by the most catastrophic president in our history will be over. But if we want to achieve all the goals above, there's a problem: The U.S. Senate—Mitch "Grim Reaper" McConnell presiding. Abandon hope, all ye who enter there. As long as a Republican majority remains in place, the Biden administration will do as much as it can with damage control, but the Senate will be like a boulder set across the path to a better future.
Unless Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win their races in a special election in Georgia on Jan. 5.
When last I wrote in this space, I urged readers to "look for places where you can make your actions match your words, at the local level, where you can really make a difference." As a concerned citizen of the Central Coast of California, what can you do to make a difference in a pair of Georgia elections that could flip the Senate?
Let me recommend doing what I did, both in the presidential election and this one: sign up with Sierra Club's Independent Action national GOTV program, the largest electoral voter outreach program the Sierra Club has ever built. This year, it allowed thousands of volunteers, without leaving their living rooms or kitchen tables, to reach out to millions of voters and get out the vote in the battleground states where, sure enough, every vote counted. (And recounted.)
It's now doing the same thing in Georgia, making sure that likely voters get a call and/or letter before election day to remind them to fill out and mail their ballots starting Dec. 14, or go to the polls on Jan. 5. You can check out the program at sierraclubindependentaction.org/.
The goal of our call teams and letter writing teams is to reach 250,000 Georgia voters by Dec. 23. Sign up, watch a brief online video training, and go.
As a member of the letter-writing team, I take a few hours every weekend to prop up some pillows, put a serving tray on my lap, stack the letter templates on my left, envelopes on my right, pick up my favorite Signo Uniball Bold gel pen, load up some groovy tunes (Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony," George Winston's "December," Workingman's "Dead"), and get down to business. Twenty letters a week. Piece of cake. Sierra Club provides the file, instructions, names, and addresses; you donate the paper, toner, envelopes, and stamps.
This could be something you will always be proud to say you did. You don't want it to be something you forever wish you'd done.
And since all politics is local, I'll mention here that the work of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club includes a political committee. As Alex Mintzer, our political committee chair puts it, "We work in conjunction with Sierra Club California and adjacent regional Sierra Club Chapters to screen and endorse pro-environment candidates for Congress, state Senate, state Assembly, county and municipal offices, and local elected governing boards. Endorsed candidates may publicize our support on their web pages and in their campaign literature. Candidates are evaluated through a process involving written local issue questionnaires and interviews conducted in person or, these days, via Zoom.
"We're always looking for more candidate interview panelists to bring their local issues expertise from our various cities and communities. Sierra Club is a grassroots organization, which means we can't advocate in SLO County without the help of our volunteers. Interview panelists initiate recommendations for endorsements, which are considered by the political committee, executive committee, and state or national Sierra Club volunteer leaders."
Contact Alex to get involved in helping green candidates in your community: email@example.com.
Meanwhile, just as it was last month, everything we care about is on the line in an election happening next month, and there's something you can do about it.
It's almost 2021: Let's turn the page. And pick up an envelope and put a stamp on it. Δ
Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send a response for publication to firstname.lastname@example.org.