How Activists Avoid Exhaustion, and Get Recharged


Feeling all charged up!

When it comes to politics, would you rather feel A) motivated to take action or B) full of despair?

I know, dumb question. But which one do you feel more often these days?

I was reading a survey and analysis from Navigator that confirmed what I’ve seen online and with friends, that is, that Democrats are both angry (72% of those surveyed) and exhausted (62%). It’s an important distinction, which I’ll explain in a minute.

The people who are feeling angry are focused on what’s happening to people in our country.

The people who are feeling exhausted are focused on Trump and the chaos/dysfunction coming from his administration.

Anger can lead to action, while exhaustion makes people want to disengage entirely.

This survey made clear that while focusing on Trump and his personality were draining and exhausting, focusing on specific issues was motivating for a majority of the respondents.

Specifically, focusing on issues that are clear and timely, accompanied by a specific policy outcome (think guns or immigration), and issues that are in play and don’t feel “settled” (like the tax law) are what make liberals feel energized. 

Think for a moment about the types of articles or tweets or posts you see and read. Are they focused on Trump and his antics, or issues and what we can do about them?

Everything you read affects you, and everything you share affects someone else, either for better or for worse. I think we should all be contributing to making fellow citizens feel motivated, instead of contributing to their exhaustion. Or at the very least, try to have more of the former and less of the latter.

In that vein, I am so excited to share a FANTASTIC article I read today. I have to tip my hat to Political Wire, which is where I found the article. Honestly, reading this article has made me feel more energized than I have in months.

The article, Winning is Not Enough, was written by Paul Glastris, who is currently the editor of the Washington Monthly and back in the day was Bill Clinton’s speechwriter. Calling it an article doesn’t convey what I think it really is–a path forward for our country.

He starts off with his central point: “Democrats are focused on taking back power—but our democracy depends on them keeping it.

Ok, I’m with him there. First, he sizes up our current situation:

Operationally, the GOP’s governing objectives have devolved to two base goals: transferring wealth upward, and staying in power. Because the former goal is unpopular, achieving the latter increasingly requires the party to rely on anti-democratic means. The election of Donald Trump has pushed the Republican Party even further in this direction, to the point where it is now openly enabling corruption and autocracy.

I’m already nodding vigorously at this point, and making a mental note to use that line all the time: i.e. that the Republicans are only interested in making the wealthy wealthier, and staying in power.

He continues:

The fact that America now has only one party committed to small-d democracy changes everything. [Democrats] must instead see the purpose of politics as building sustained power for Democrats, period. Republicans are attempting to maintain their long-term power by subverting democracy. The corollary is that Democrats can win long-term power by strengthening it.

And the kicker:

The overriding aim has to be getting and holding power…until the Republican Party abandons its authoritarian ways or is replaced by a new, small-d democratic party. [This] is only likely to come about if the Republican Party is locked out of power for several cycles in a row.

I’m IN and I’m buying whatever Glastris is selling at this point. And that’s all just the set up for the real meat of the article.

Glastris also sketches out a road map of what the Democrats should do if they flip Congress, or even just the House, to strengthen democracy. I’m buzzing just imagining the suggestions he makes coming to fruition. He’s not thinking small. He’s being bold and it’s AWESOME. A few of those discussions:

✦ He sees that the Democrats have an amazing opportunity to shape the story of why there has been such wage stagnation, i.e. that a big contributor of it is the concentration of corporate power. This story also counters the GOP narrative of blaming immigrants.

✦ The Democrats should expand our democracy by laying the groundwork to add two new states to the union–Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico–once we take power of the executive (along with Congress) back in 2020. (Someone online pointed out that if those two places were full of Republicans, McConnell would have already made them states.)

✦ The Democrats should write a new Voting Rights Act, centered prominently around a national vote-by-mail effort. “The system is almost impossible to hack, leaves a paper trail, and neutralizes suppression techniques like voter ID.”

✦ Glastris also discusses how the Democrats can use a congressional majority to reshape the discussion around a lot of policies and use that bully pulpit to shape the conversation as we enter a presidential election.

Take my word for it. Read it. Enjoy it. Be re-energized by what is possible if we can just win (and win big) in November, and then use those wins to fuel more wins in the next election cycle. I know I’ll be taking this new-found energy to get more voters to the polls!!

Take Charge of your Activism

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