Friends,

Welcome to our new and improved Solidarity pledge mailing list! We hope this new format is more user-friendly and makes it easier for you to stay engaged and active. Remember, we can provide you information and suggestions each week, but ultimately, we’re counting on YOU to take action!

It’s an eventful week, with Congressional votes on healthcare, confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and much more. We’ve got a mix of urgent and longer-term action items for you, and hope you’ll do as many as you can!

* As a quick bonus item, take 5 seconds to fill out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) anonymous survey!

Please also take a few seconds to do our one-question survey. And remember to keep recruiting more people to take the pledge both in person and online. If you like the work we’re doing, please tell a friend! (If you don’t like it, please tell us. And if you really like it, tell everyone!)

1) [URGENT] Oppose the ACA repeal!

2) Keep up with the Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings

3) Save the Date! for the April marches

4) Learn more about the Federal Budget

5) Voting rights, part 3: Gerrymandering and the Voting Rights Act

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1) [URGENT] Oppose the ACA repeal!

This Thursday, the House votes on whether or not to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a Obamacare)–so you only have one day left to call your representatives and weigh in on this issue.

In last week’s pledge email (action item 1), we wrote a largely informational action item about the American Health Care Act (AHCA, a.k.a Trumpcare), and why we oppose the legislative change.  Since then, House Republicans unveiled a series of changes to the AHCA. Some of these make the bill more conservative-leaning, but a couple are intended to please more moderate Republicans, especially the Republican governors who had objections to the previous form of the bill.

However, none of those changes alter the concerns we outlined in last week’s email. The proposed bill still targets reproductive health care, de-incentivizes young healthy people from seeking insurance, phases out Medicaid expansions, and lays a financial burden on the old and poor relative to the young and healthy.  

What You Can Do:

  • Take action by tomorrow, Thursday, March 23! You can follow the instructions/script here. Call your Representatives, especially if your district is represented a Republican, and/or if you live in Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, or West Virginia.

2) Keep up with the Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings

U.S 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings began Monday. Gorsuch claims to be a legal “originalist” along the lines of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. There are serious concerns about his views and prior rulings on reproductive and labor rights, environmental issues, religious freedom, gun rights, and corporate special interests.

However, people across the liberal political spectrum disagree on the best course of action in response to his nomination. Some liberal groups have written a letter demanding that Congressional Democrats oppose Gorsuch, arguing that he is a (smugly privileged) radical conservative whose confirmation is illegitimate and should be fought to the bitter end. Others have argued the Gorsuch is a relatively moderate, well qualified non-villain whose confirmation is likely inevitable, and therefore not worth a fight.

What’s at stake?

If Democrats attempt to block the confirmation through the use of a filibuster, Republican senators could enact the “nuclear option,” (wiki) a Senate procedural rule that allows the majority party, through a series of votes that require only a simple majority, to change the current rule that requires a supermajority (60 votes) to confirm the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. (In late 2013, the Democrats, under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid, triggered the nuclear option to confirm several of Obama’s executive and judicial nominees; the move stopped short of allowing simple majority confirmation for Supreme Court justices.) However, it can be argued that refusing to use the filibuster in order to prevent the GOP from triggering the nuclear option is just as bad as the nuclear option itself.

What You Can Do:

  • Pay attention: Whether you believe that the Democrats should filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination or save their energy (and the potential triggering of the nuclear option) for a later battle, this is an important political moment. If Gorsuch is appointed to the Supreme Court, he will have a direct impact on the balance of power in the United States for decades to come. The confirmation process could take six weeks, and we need to keep pressure on our Senators to ask tough questions about Merrick Garland, corporate personhood, and freedom of religion, and demand real answers to substantive questions on law and procedure.
  • If Gorsuch refuses to answer or if he won’t uphold the rights of all Americans, make sure your Senator is ready to fight back. Call your Senator using example scripts found here, here, here, or here.]

3) Save the Date! for the April marches

Building on the success of the Women’s March in January, several marches are in the works for April. We’ll continue to send information about these events as we get closer to each one. For now, though, save these dates and get ready to march if you’re able!

 

  • April 15th: Tax March

President Trump still hasn’t released any of his tax returns, breaking with forty years of presidential tradition designed to increase transparency and prevent corruption in our government. He has publicly said he will not release his taxes because the American people “don’t care.” We strongly disagree, and we’ll be marching in D.C. and in Boston on April 15 to tell Trump that we care about his conflicts of interest, his foreign entanglements, and his blatant dishonesty.

  • April 22nd: The March for Science.

If you are frequently frustrated by how politicians misrepresent science, now is the time to make your voice heard! The March for Science is taking D.C. by storm on Earth Day, April 22nd, with satellite marches in Boston and 429 locations all over the world. The march speaks out against the characterization of science as partisan, and as one organizer put it, is not a protest but a way of speaking up. For those in the Boston area, there will be an MIT rally before the Boston march to gather and show our support for science!

 

  • April 29th: The People’s Climate March

Set on the 100th day of Trump’s presidency, the People’s Climate March is “a March for climate, jobs, and justice.” The organizers aim to advance climate justice by promoting solutions to climate change, fighting for a cleaner environment, and supporting a free, open, and democratic society. For MIT community members, groups at MIT have come together to offer subsidized tickets, so sign-up here.

4) Learn more about the Federal Budget

There’s been quite a bit of news coverage on the Trump administration’s “America First” budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year (which begins October 1st). At this point it is not a real budget so much as a statement of priorities, but its implementation would cause real hardship for the Americans who can least afford it – including many who voted for Trump. Essentially, the blueprint calls for more discretionary spending for Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense at the expense of, well, everyone else. This is despite the fact that the Department of Defense already gets more discretionary money than all of the other major departments and agencies combined. EPA and the State Department are the most conspicuous targets, with proposed cuts of around 30% below current funding levels.

Whether Trump’s vision becomes reality depends on Congress – and Congress is supposed to represent you!

What You Can Do:

5) Voting rights, part 3: Gerrymandering and the Voting Rights Act

As promised, here’s another update in our ongoing series about voting rights issues.

Less than two weeks ago, a federal district court in Texas held, by a 2-1 majority, that certain gerrymandered congressional districts drawn by the Texas legislature discriminated against minority voters. (You can read the full opinion here.) The court found evidence of intentional racial discrimination in some of the districts through “packing and cracking” – that is, packing overwhelming numbers of a particular group into one district, or a few districts, in order to dilute that group’s voting power in other districts. (If you’d like to see how this works in the form of a logic puzzle, FiveThirtyEight has exactly that, and solutions too, if you scroll down on this page. If you want a deeper, extensive partisan operative simulation, that’s an option too, of course.)

The finding of intentional racial discrimination is important, and not just because it’s awful. If a jurisdiction is found to engage in intentional racial discrimination, courts may impose preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that any changes in voting rules or districting be approved by judges in advance. Unlike the general preclearance requirements that were struck down in 2013 (covering most of the South and some other areas), this rule is still valid. The Texas court has not yet indicated whether it will impose preclearance in this case. (Another judge imposed preclearance on the city of Pasadena, Texas in a separate case earlier this year, but this case would apply to the entire state.) It’s important to note that under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department stayed in the overall case with the other plaintiffs but specifically dropped out of the discriminatory intent claim that would enable the court to impose preclearance.

What You Can Do:

  • Support (donate or volunteer with) organizations fighting gerrymandering such as the National Democratic Redistricting Committee  (Democrats explicitly fighting Republican gerrymandering) or VRA for Today (a nonpartisan project under the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights).
  • The general preclearance requirement for certain historically discriminatory jurisdictions was struck down by the Supreme Court based on an argument that it was out-of-date because the list of affected jurisdictions hadn’t been revised since 1975. So contact (call!) your Senators and Representative to urge them to support new legislation. (You can get a script specific to the VRA issue and your state from Weekly Resistance.) While it might seem hopeless with Republican majorities, the law was reauthorized with bipartisan support in 2006 and there have been bipartisan proposals to create a new, up-to-date formula for preclearance.
  • Back in January, we linked to several organizations working to mitigate the effects of gerrymandering by coordinating resources between districts. For the foreseeable future, they are still sadly necessary and could use your assistance. Here are those links again: the Sister District Project, Flippable, and Swing Left. This is especially important in the upcoming state election cycles because state governments will redraw their U.S. House districts after the 2020 census for the following decade.

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That’s all for this week. As always, keep encouraging people to take the pledge, and please share any thoughts or questions with us at solidarity@mit.edu!

Until next week,

Solidarity MIT

solidaritypledge.com

 

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