Political Junkie Abroad–and Back Again!

When you last heard from me, we were heading off to New Zealand right before the mid-term elections, missing out on the crucial Get Out the Vote endeavor. As I posted gorgeous photos on Facebook, one of my friends wrote, “So smart to leave the country before the election and avoid the rush.”

Our tour guide told us that wi-fi on the South Island is known as Why-Try? Right during the crucial period when I hoped to be sneaking peeks at the election results, we were scheduled to go from spotty coverage to being completely off the wi-fi grid, with barely any cell coverage. (Which we didn’t have anyway, not wanting to pay a fortune for even an accidental and momentary activation of cellular data.) Before we went totally dark, I lamented our imminent news blackout via text to my SwingLeft canvassing friend, who texted back, “Lucky you!”

But I didn’t feel lucky–I felt cut off from the thing I’ve obsessed about for the past two years. I guess I am not good at going cold turkey.

Luckily, someone on the tour with a New Zealand cell plan could get a little bit of coverage as the results dribbled in. We got lots of perpetually circling loading symbols, and a bit of CNN. This ushered in PTSD reminiscent of November 8, 2016, as Florida turned red. In a little while, it was apparent that the Democrats had secured the House, but just barely. Maybe it would have been better to be a normal person who likes to unplug on vacation.

The next day brought horizontal rain and a blizzard and several hours of driving incommunicado. But at a little town where we stretched our legs, the woman who ran a gift shop asked us about the election, then let us take over her laptop so we could find out where things stood (better). As we regained coverage over the next several days, the blue tide swelled, lifting our moods.

Throughout New Zealand, everyone we met was more interested in the mid-terms than most people in the United States. Kiwis were following the House and Senate races, and commiserated with us about Trump. Some British tourists congratulated us on the mid-terms and lamented Brexit, reassuring us that the U.S. did not have a monopoly on lunacy; ours was just more obvious.

Eventually we could truly relax. And guess what? We were in a beautiful country! Here are some highlights from our fabulous New Zealand Trails tour:

Milford Sound and the Routeburn Track–our first night we slept on this boat, and saw penguins, seals, many waterfalls, and where the sound spills into the Tasman Sea. Breathtaking, and apparently lucky we could see anything at all besides the atmospherics, aka “rain.”

We did some stuff besides hiking and election obsessing: Biking in Arrowtown and Dolphin–or perhaps Alien?–Encounter:

Hiking in Abel Tasman National Park, then donning backpacks (for Lorrie, the first time in more than 30 years) in Nelson Lakes National Park:

The West Coast:

Our last day was spent walking along gorgeous Lake Wanaka, with the famous Lake Wanaka Monster looming up from the lupine:

It’s good to be home. The rains and the new political landscape make it possible to breathe a little easier.

Be a Voter, Save America

Despite knocking on doors, making phone calls, and donating for the mid-terms this past year, I won’t even be here for the election: My husband and I are leaving tonight for New Zealand, our ballots safely delivered to our county’s registrar last week.

Since we’ll cross the international date line, I’ve been joking that we’ll be able to let people know on November 7 (Kiwi Time) if it’s safe to wake up, or whether everyone working so hard to turn red seats blue needs to drum up more votes while they still can (USA time).

But this election is no laughing matter. The Demagogue-in-Chief stokes fear and anger while his fans cheer his brutality and his Republican enablers stand by. Democratic enthusiasm is high, but voter suppression in red-dominated states is alive and well.

A couple of days ago I came across an essay by Ady Barkan that pierced through the rage, despair, numbness, and grim determination I’ve known too often in these past two years. Barkan is a progressive activist who was diagnosed at age 32 with ALS just a few weeks before the 2016 election.  As he puts it, ALS “ would rapidly destroy all the connections between my brain and my muscles, leading to complete paralysis and death, likely in three to four years. Three weeks later, our world was turned upside down a second time, when America elected a racist kleptocrat to the White House.”

Barkan describes the paradox posed by his medical condition and his life’s work:

Like many people suddenly confronted with agonizing loss, I looked for answers in Buddhism. Pema Chödrön teaches us that when the ground disappears beneath your feet, the solution is not to flail around in a desperate attempt to find a handhold; it is to accept the law of gravity and find peace despite your velocity. Leave the mode of doing and enter the mode of being. Accept things as they are, rather than yearning for them to be otherwise.

Such radical acceptance is in tension with my identity as a movement builder. Activism is precisely about not accepting the tragedies of this world, but rather on insisting that we can reduce pain and prolong life.

As Barkan rapidly loses his strength, his mobility, his ability to feed himself, and—soon—his speech, he has thrown himself even more vibrantly into the fight, traveling the country in his wheelchair, speaking to elected representatives and ordinary people, even getting arrested as he protests tax cuts for the wealthy and champions a radically humane vision of what America can be.

“Focusing on the moment and immersing myself in the task at hand has been my salvation over the past two years,” Barkan writes.

He’s encounterd much cynicism, but also much hope. Citing Rebecca Solnit, Barkan reminds us that “hope is not a lottery ticket that can deliver us out of despair, but a hammer for us to use in this national emergency—to break the glass, sound the alarm, and sprint into action.”

Barkan goes on to say that voting is not enough, that we must all be the organizers and heroes of the moment, for our communities and future generations. Few of us will be able to match his level of commitment. Yet every action matters.

November 6 is almost upon us, and voting is the necessary action right now. Make sure you vote, and that every person you know who is concerned about the national emergency brought into sharp focus by Trump’s election does, too. A great resource is Vote Save America.

November 6 is the date President Obama was re-elected. It is also the first birthday of my friend’s grandson, whose smiles and baby-deliciousness and cheerful oblivion have sustained all those who love him, inspiring them to work hard to make the world a better place. It’s an auspicious date.

Barkan, too, has a young son. Imagining the world Carl will inherit keeps him moving through the dark times of his own dwindling life and the threat to our beloved country:

I can transcend my dying body by hitching my future to yours . . . We peer into the future and hope that our children’s children will grow up in a more just and equitable society.

That is the country I wish to come home to from New Zealand, not one that deepens my horror and grief.

Let’s make this November 6 another hopeful and auspicious date.

Be a voter, save America.

 

 

 

 

Restoring the Obliterated Victim

Brett Kavanaugh’s disquieting ascent to the Supreme Court has made me think a lot about what happened 40 years ago. Not to me, but to another young girl.

A 12-year-old in my town told her mother that her father was molesting her. The mother believed her daughter, and went to the police. The father was charged and entered a plea that qualified him for a diversion program instead of jail. The family was shattered, but it seemed possible that they might all be on the long and difficult road to healing because truth, belief in the girl, and her father’s willingness to atone for his actions emerged from the wreckage.

Then the father shot himself. He didn’t die right away, and the fragile circle of family and friends rallying around the girl regrouped instantly, taking up their posts at a death bed vigil. His daughter was among the many at his side. When he died a week later, the love and support diverted his way intensified as he was memorialized in the idealizing way that grief tends to bestow. It wasn’t exactly that the girl was blamed for her father’s death (she did a good enough job of that on her own). It was more that her experience was obliterated as all the attention shifted to his suffering. The blame set in a bit later. I imagine the girl wished she had never opened her mouth.

So it has gone with Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, though with a less intense level of trauma and in a setting to determine whether the latter deserved a lifetime Supreme Court appointment, not a criminal conviction for sexual assault. Like the girl in my town, Dr. Blasey Ford reluctantly came forward to tell what happened to her, risking upending her (and her abuser’s) life.  Nearly everyone who listened to Blasey Ford’s testimony, including the President and Fox News, found her credible. At least for a moment.

Then Kavanaugh and the Republicans, in a show of high dudgeon, erased Blasey Ford’s experience with their own aggrieved victimhood. The woman who had transfixed a nation into hoping that at last people might hear and believe what so many girls and women endure was not so much blamed at first as obliterated. The blame came later.

Forty years ago a father fired a shot that took his own life and devastated his daughter’s beyond the original trauma he perpetrated. He was no doubt driven by shame and desperation, but it was also one last hostile act against her. The Republicans’ latest shot across the bow devastates victims of assault with a similarly punishing rebuke. And we wonder why women stay silent.

The tragedy that unfolded 40 years ago in my town is over. The man who had the last word back then is dead. I don’t know what happened to his daughter, or his wife, but I know their lives continued one way or another. I hope they are well, able to integrate this trauma into lives that will always bear but also transcend the scars.

The Supreme Court hearings are also over for now; the Republicans have had the last word. At least for now. The mid-terms are coming on November 6. Channel your rage, fear, despair—and hope–into voting them out. We will continue, one way or another.

Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote and casts a ballot on or before November 6. Everything you need to know is at votesaveamerica.org:

No Words But This For Now

Building the Blue Wave, Door by Door

Remember when the 2018 mid-terms were just a barely visible blip on a faraway horizon? When all we could do was write checks to the ACLU, encounter infinite busy signals on our representatives’ lines, and take to the streets (and airports)? Or, more likely, take to our beds with only Haagen Dazs and late-night comics for solace?

Well, now those mid-terms are just around the corner! We no longer need to pray that the Republican Congress will somehow grow a spine, or that Robert Mueller (and now Michael Cohen) will put the brakes on this crew. We can do it ourselves by voting.

That’s why I’ve been traveling since December once a month to my closest swing district to knock on doors. I live in a deep blue bubble, so I have to drive 75 miles each way to a congressional district where a current Republican House member hung onto his seat in a district Hillary Clinton won.

Two hours each way is worth it, though. Since 2008, I’ve done a lot of phone banking, which is a good thing to do, but I prefer door-to-door canvassing. For one thing, it’s like phone banking with exercise—gotta get those steps in somehow! It’s also fun to drive back and forth with friends. And it’s a whole lot better for my mental health than sitting around lamenting.

What I love most about canvassing, though, is talking face-to-face with people about what matters to them. Hint: it’s not the Russia investigation. Mostly it’s healthcare, traffic, and jobs. One conversation starter is to ask how people would rate things locally and nationally on a five-point scale of Terrible to Terrific.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, it depends on the day!” one 40-something woman exclaimed.

This was back in December, when Republicans were rushing through a tax bill that favored the rich and once again put the screws to the Affordable Care Act. The woman was a registered Republican, but she was really upset about assaults on healthcare and Medicare. By the end of our conversation, she had changed her registration to Democrat, taken a blank form so her elderly mother could do the same, and accepted an invitation to an event at the local Democratic Party headquarters.

I’ve had some other interesting (though less heartening) conversations as well: Three separate respondents rated things as “terrible.” However, this was cause not for voting but for celebration because it meant the End Times were near.

I’m not used to this in my usual life. Truth be told, I’m also not used to people opening their doors to strangers! But they do, and they’ve been unfailingly nice no matter what their political persuasion. Just the other weekend on a sweltering day, a nice Republican guy offered us ice water while we signed up his wife and daughter to vote for the Democrat. For the most part, people have been fair and thoughtful in trying to sort out the issues. We hear a lot about how Americans can no longer talk to one another if they have differing perspectives. Canvassing has helped me to listen and reach out to those who don’t share my world view.

Plus, it’s effective. Research has shown that if minds are to be changed at all (a tall order, as research also shows), one of the best ways to do so is person-to-person engagement. Canvassing improves voting outcomes by 4 percent. In the town I’ve been visiting, there was a 75 percent increase in Democratic voter turnout between the 2014 and 2018 mid-term primaries, and even a 14 percent increase in this June’s primary showing over the 2016 presidential election turnout. In a country where more and more elections are being determined by razor-thin margins—and even the flip of a coin in one special election in Virginia!—that’s a huge difference.

Now that we’re entering the home stretch of canvassing, we’re focusing intensively on identifying the Democratic House candidate’s supporters and making sure they vote. In previous months, people were less informed and less interested, but now they’re jazzed. Even the ones who don’t care about politics and who don’t normally vote are perking up. At one house I visited, the wife who was on our list was not home.

“What about you?” I asked her husband, who answered the door with their young daughter in tow.

“Nah, I don’t vote, I’m not even registered,” he said. But he happened to mention that he was horrified by Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

“The best way right now to put the brakes on them is through flipping the House,” I replied. “Why not register and vote for at least that race?”

“OK,” he said, taking the voter registration form.

It felt like a pledge and not just a brush-off. My friends canvassing nearby reported similar conversations—a millennial non-voter who registered because something he learned about our candidate sparked his interest. A disenchanted Republican who was impressed we were volunteering our time walking around in the heat. Now that we’ve identified such people, we can follow up to let them know how important their votes are.

My handful of success stories may not mean much on their own. But multiply that by the tens of thousands of volunteers doing just what I’m doing in every corner of the country, and it begins to add up. Every door knocked on, every conversation, every newly registered voter, and every new volunteer seeds the magic of a grassroots movement. Supporters talk to their family, friends, and neighbors. An undecided voter may remember something about a visit from a friendly stranger who reached out and listened. And so it grows.

This is how we build the blue wave. This is how we take back the country.

*

There are so many ways to get involved. Of course, the most important and most basic thing anyone can do is vote. Make sure you’re registered, make sure you cast your ballot, and talk it up among friends and family! A cool new online resource is Vote Save America. You can check your registration status, register, and find out about ways to get involved wherever you live:

https://crooked.com/article/be-a-voter-save-america/

Here are two nationwide groups where you can get involved in your area to ensure electoral success:

Indivisible

Swing Left

Also, despite my snarky first paragraph, making donations to good causes and good candidates is hugely helpful. So are Haagen Dazs and late-night comics.

 

Ah, Wilderness!

With the world on fire, my husband Jonathan and I were looking forward to a week’s hiking in the Sierra. Then California literally was on fire (again), this time with the Ferguson fire affecting Yosemite Valley and the surrounding southern areas. We had planned to stay in the high country of northern Yosemite for the last two days of our vacation, but it had become logistically too complicated, so luckily for us, we’d changed our plans before flames and smoke filled the park. We decided to stay the entire time near Sequoia National Park, first in a little-visited corner of it, Mineral King, then a couple days near the main entrance to the park.

The Horse Creek Fire began to burn in Mineral King just days before our departure. We nervously followed the updates (and the ever-rising temperatures everywhere on our weather apps). But firefighters jumped on the blaze really aggressively, and our vacation could proceed, with the warning that we’d encounter staging area equipment on the long, winding road up to where we were staying. Several mentions of this road as hair-raising even in the best of circumstances had already made us nervous, but we forged on.

We saw plumes of smoke on our drive up. We also encountered one truck and a couple of firefighters on a pull out (plus a black bear ambling across the road on our drive down four days later). The road was smooth and plenty wide, even if we had encountered another car, which we didn’t. Jonathan remarked, “The roads are much worse back home.” Our spirits lifted as we gained elevation, particularly as the temperatures fell and the sky’s blueness escaped the haze and smoke of the Central Valley.

We loved our cabin at Silver City Mountain Resort, a place close to the end of the road with spotty wi-fi, terrifically friendly and knowledgeable staff, delicious food, a range of rustic to more luxe cabins, and a communal women’s bathroom whose sinks might have sprung from the fevered imagination of glass artist Dale Chihuly if he specialized in glamping:

Best of all, we were close to the trail heads for five days of hiking. Here are some of the highlights:

And on the day we left Mineral King, our favorite hike to Monarch Lakes, which we almost didn’t do:

The Mineral King trail heads were at a higher elevation, dropping the climate-change-induced high temperatures several degrees. As you can see, we had some beautiful hikes, despite heat-stressed flowers that in bygone years would have been in their full glory:

Speaking of stress, there was one other source: marmots. Mineral King is apparently the only place in the Sierra where visitors are routinely surprised by the cute but uninvited critters taking up residence under the car hood for a feast of insulation, radiator hoses, and wires. We’d read about this before we left: The National Park Service advised hikers at high-elevation trail heads to check under their hoods and, if they visited before mid-July, to consider wrapping a tarp around the entire underbelly of their cars. Chicken wire, NPS assured us, was no longer recommended (not because it was no longer necessary, but because marmots apparently consider chicken wire an appetite-whetting starter course). Before we left home, we looked at our tarp, designed for a one-person backpacking tent, and concluded it would be the vehicular equivalent of thong underwear when only a chastity belt would do. We looked at the calendar, and concluded that July 23-27 was way past mid-July. I did, however, toss a bunch of bungee cords into the trunk as an afterthought.

Despite the many cars in the parking lot totally swaddled in tarps, we persuaded ourselves that these belonged to fastidious backpackers gone for a week or more. Surely we wouldn’t need such drastic measures for just a few hours! And indeed we were fine, enjoying marmots where they belonged, on rocks in meadows. This one even seemed trained for the cameras:

On our third hike, a terrific 12-mile hike up Farewell Canyon to Franklin Lake (with an elevation gain of 3000 feet),

we got caught in a hail and rain burst that turned the trail into a river for the last bit of our descent. Despite rivulets streaming off my hat and into my face, I popped the hood as Jonathan shivered, expecting to find nothing. There was a marmot, who quickly high-tailed it out the bottom of the engine compartment, leaving behind a sizable oval of exposed engine block where the insulation had been chewed away.

The wires seemed okay, and the car started. Chastened, we stopped at the ranger station, which fortunately kept a supply of jumbo tarps for people to borrow. Those bungee cords came in handy the next couple of days.

Not a bad wrapping job, huh? Still, if you are the kind of person who might surprise a special someone with a new car, we suggest placing the key in a small box and knocking yourself out with fancy paper and ribbons. At any rate, there are no new cars in our future, as our radiator did not blow up, nor did our brakes or anything else fail for the rest of our trip.

Sufficient wildlife adventures for a lifetime, one might think. But there was more to come. Not only did we see an aforementioned bear on our way down to our final destination, but on a terrific hike in Sequoia National Park proper on our last day,

we chanced upon a mother bear and three cubs not 20 feet from the trail. Mama hissed at Jonathan before ambling slowly away, her curious little ones stopping frequently to look at us during their leisurely retreat.

We had a wonderful time, refreshed for our return once again to a world on fire, literally and figuratively. To mark our re-entry, I’ve switched from wilderness to “The Wilderness,” Pod Save America host Jon Favreaux’s terrific podcast about the once and future Democratic Party. I recommend both–a sojourn in nature and a good listen–for replenishing the soul.

Welcome. Bienvenido. 欢迎. 환영. добро пожаловать.

Eleven hundred newly naturalized citizens and their loved ones streamed out of the Paramount Theater in Oakland last Thursday, and we were there to greet them:

“Welcome!”

“Congratulations!”

“We’re so glad you’re here!”

Also, “Would you like to register to vote?”

After all, that’s why I and dozens of compatriots were there: to empower our newest fellow Americans to speak out at the ballot box. A woman who heads up an activist group I phone bank with had told us that if we ever had a chance to participate in these registration drives, it was a really inspiring thing to do—especially in these dark days when immigrants face such hostility from the President himself. So I was on the lookout for the next opportunity, which happened to coincide with a long break in my work schedule on the one day of the week I’m in that neck of the woods.

I personally registered three of the nearly 300 who signed up that day: a man born in Mexico, another originally from South Korea, and a young woman whose parents brought her from Guatemala when she was two. By sheer coincidence, this last person happened to be the partner of my friends’ son—their whole family, as well as hers, were there to celebrate this last leg of her 28-year journey; it was wonderful to share in their joy.

I spoke with another woman who had been in this country for 30 years, since the age of 5, when her parents brought her from Mexico. One of the other volunteers had already registered her, but she was happy to chat while waiting in line to complete her passport application. She was excited to have finally become a citizen of the only country she had ever known. She was also excited to have a few hours away from work without any of her three young American-born kids clinging to her. We swapped stories about what a great treat it was to go to exotic places such as CVS and the grocery store unencumbered by little ones.

A friend of mine now in her 60s tells me she still vividly remembers the day decades before when she and her sister and their parents were sworn in as naturalized citizens at the Paramount Theater. They had come from Israel when my friend was eight. She can recall the excitement of the day, the outfit she wore (down to her shoes!). This friend, once s stranger in a strange land, has contributed so much to her family, her community, our country, and to me. She’s an inspiration.

I salute those who have just gone through their own journeys to this country, their own ceremonies at the Paramount, and know that they, too, will be an inspiration.

Congratulations! Welcome! And thanks. You are part of what makes America great.

Life and Death Matters

California’s End of Life Options Act, which allows doctors to write life-ending prescriptions for terminally ill adults who meet strict eligibility requirements, went into effect two years ago. In May, a judge halted the law on a technicality; an appeals court recently reversed that decision. As complicated and lengthy court processes continue to unfold, emotional and legal limbo remains.

“It is an American habit to turn complex moral problems into technical legal reasons,” writes Andrew Solomon in A Death of One’s Own (1995), about his mother’s decision to end her life rather than endure the final excruciating stages of ovarian cancer. Solomon weaves his personal story with an in-depth history of the euthanasia movement before aid-in-dying was legal anywhere in the United States. With unfailing empathy and candor, he explores every nuance of the issue, including how relegating it to the shadows compounds the difficulty. He describes the coded euphemisms his mother used with her doctors to secure what she needed. Solomon, his brother, and their father all whole-if-broken-heartedly supported her choice to die on her own terms at home, surrounded by loved ones. The necessity of secrecy heightened their intense isolation and sadness.

An unequivocal supporter of the right to choose, Solomon is also an unblinking chronicler of the ambivalence, sorrow, and potential risk such choice entails. “There is no question that if euthanasia is legalized it will be abused . . . The question is whether these abuses represent a greater crime against life than does keeping alive people who want to die.”

In the 23 years since A Death of One’s Own was published, much has changed. Seven states (including California) and the District of Columbia now allow some sort of physician-assisted dying. The terminology has also changed: “Death with Dignity” and similar monikers have largely replaced “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia.” Although there are still those who prefer the term “murder,” there is a growing consensus among proponents that existing laws are too narrow, excluding those with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and ALS from seeking legal relief.

What of those who suffer from unremitting psychic distress? Why are people with terminal cancer deemed to have good reason to end their suffering, but people afflicted with chronic depression are not? Here the slippery slope steepens.

Rachel Aviv delves deeply into this disquieting territory in The Death Treatment (2015), about Belgium’s law permitting euthanasia for those suffering from severe and unrelenting psychological distress.

Both Solomon and Aviv are beautiful and compelling writers. Each account illuminates the shadows we must explore to grapple with the awesome complexities of life and death decisions. As California’s End of Life Options Act continues on its topsy-turvy legal course, the imperative to bring into the light what it means to be alive and to die—and who gets to decide–continues.

*

What are your thoughts and experiences about this topic? What would you want for yourself?

*

(Originally published in the Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy’s “Impulse”

Pre-existing Condition

I was in Kaiser’s waiting room, scrolling through my phone while listening for my name to be called. Out jumped the news that the Trump Administration was going after the Affordable Care Act again: The Justice Department declared that protecting people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination was unconstitutional.

I am one of the 52 million Americans at risk of losing my health coverage due to this latest assault; I’ve had cancer. I’m fine now, but my trip to Kaiser was for the CT scan I get every year to make sure I stay that way. I will need such follow-up care for the foreseeable future. It’s a similar story for anyone with heart disease, diabetes, depression, and a million other ailments, both major and minor. Before the ACA, my friend’s premature twins could never have gotten health insurance on their own as adults because of their early months in the neonatal intensive care unit. Another friend’s 20-something son was denied health insurance because he had been treated for mild acne as a teenager! Sooner or later, everybody ends up with a pre-existing condition. It’s called life.

Life is what I’ve continued to enjoy thanks to my excellent doctors and post-cancer scans. Normally I’m not anxious as I glide through the CT machine. I feel relieved and grateful to make sure I’m still cancer-free, or if not, to catch and treat it early. As I lie on my back, a soothing voice instructs me when to hold my breath, when to breathe. Normally my intake and release are as relaxed as they are at the end of a yoga class. But not today. After the news, I am hyperventilating. I don’t fear cancer nearly as much as I fear the determination of this President and his Republican enablers to take away my health care.

Since their several dozen failed attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Congress and the White House have waged a relentless sabotage campaign. In a cruel and cynical ploy, Republican legislators repealed the mandate–the least popular aspect of the ACA–in last year’s hastily passed tax bill. The mandate’s undoing is now the rationale for eliminating the highly popular provision that prohibits excluding or jacking up the rates of people with pre-existing conditions.

The DOJ’s move will take a while to reverberate through the courts, but the uncertainty it creates will drive up premiums even more, furthering Trump’s goal of imploding the law he hates largely because it’s his predecessor’s signature domestic achievement.

Will this risky gambit work for the Republicans? Maybe not. It turns out people like having access to treatment if it’s not called “Obamacare.” Protecting healthcare has been the #1 issue on voters’ minds across the country, and this has translated into Democratic victories.

So rather than hyperventilating, I’m going to work hard to elect people who want to make America well again. I’m voting as if my life depends on it. Because it does.

Getting Through the Vote

The enthusiasm gap that has bedeviled Democrats has now morphed into a volcanic eruption of enthusiasm. Here in California, not only are volunteers swarming the state to turn out voters, so many candidates are running in our Top-Two primary that there’s a risk they’ll split the vote and ensure Republican victory in November. Unforced errors and circular firing squads–The Democratic Party’s specialty.

To make sense of this hot mess, a group of us gathered last week to go over the ballot. We are a group keenly interested in politics, and pride ourselves on being well-informed and civically engaged. Here is a sample of our thoughtful decision-making process:

“Our kids were on the same soccer team, and he seems like a nice guy.”

“She donated a kidney to her sister.”

“I don’t like his hair.” (This last one was from me, critiquing Gavin Newsom’s coiffure. At least I was fine with Hillary’s hair.)

What does it portend for our democracy when you can’t distinguish between our group, low-information voters, and a bunch of chimpanzees throwing darts at a sample ballot? And even if we knew who we wanted to vote for, it was nearly impossible to find the right name: 27 people are running for governor, and 32 for U.S. Senator!

Actually, I did do a little research. The more I learned, the more indecisive I became. “I not only lack the courage of my convictions,” I lamented to our host. “I lack convictions!”

As usual, Auto-Correct had the last word: When I emailed the above photo to myself from my iPhone, my subject line–“Gotv”--appeared as “Gotcha.”

Let’s hope tomorrow’s election doesn’t turn into the worst kind of “Gotcha.” And although possibly my persuasive skills leave something to be desired, be sure to get out and vote.