Let me tell you a story. I live in a deep-blue city surrounded by a lot of red (and some blue) districts. Democrats and progressive people — and even moderate Republicans — have resigned themselves to not being represented in some of these red districts. They might vote, but the incumbents run unopposed or barely opposed, and constituents, feeling isolated, don’t see a path toward getting involved. My mother lives in a district like this and has often remarked, with resignation, that she must be the only Democrat within 30 square miles.
In fact, my mother lives in one of the least contested of these red districts, the 6th district, represented by Republican Peter Roskam. He has won handily since 2007. He never meets with constituents. He has enthusiastically supported all the far-right stuff the Republican leadership has championed this millennium and has offered zero resistance against Trump.
The Democratic Party of DuPage County asserted in its January community meeting that they were not going to bother trying to flip the 6th district. Their strategy for the state lay elsewhere.
But everything has changed since the election, even if the official Democratic Party affiliates are the last to know it. After the election, in the amazing nationwide movement that could be known as the Progressive-Activist Facebook Revolution, the group Action 6th District was born.
You may not know, if you are not involved with Facebook, that there are groups of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of progressive people mobilizing for action there. This is one reason lawyers were able to get on the ground immediately upon Trump’s executive order targeting Muslims and refugees.
Action 6th District has 640 Roskam constituents in it, and its main purpose is to demand that Roskam hear them and be accountable to them. The group’s admin, Holly, has done incredible work to keep the group focused and action-oriented. Another group, called 6th District of Illinois – Holding Rep. Peter Roskam Accountable, has done the same, and there are others as well.
Members of these groups call, write, and show up, every day. They have been reprimanded and belittled by staff. They have been refused meetings, email addresses, even staffers’ names. They have had doors closed on them, meetings changed from public to private. But they have persisted and now their efforts have earned attention on the national stage.
Last week, the Democratic Party of DuPage County announced a change in strategy, publicly stating that flipping the 6th District is one of their focuses. Holly and her cohort did that. When the people lead, Gandhi is said to have observed, the leaders will follow.
Saturday morning Peter Roskam held his public-turned-private event at a local Party office. The day before, a Republican committeeman had asserted that the uninvited people outside would not be heard and scoffed that there would be maybe three protesters and 100 meeting attendees. Accounts and media from this Saturday show hundreds of protesters! Here’s a great video taken by one of the participants.
A reminder: These folks “protested” because their elected official refuses to meet with them. Their signs said things like “Let’s talk — I’ll buy the coffee,” and “We see you but you won’t see us,” and “Talk to us — please?” and “Where’s Roskam?” with the rep’s face in a Where’s Waldo hat. Here’s Chicago Tribune video of Roskam expounding in the meeting on about the beauty of our electoral system before sneaking out the back door in order to avoid his constituents.
All this to say, blue activism within red districts work. YOU can make a huge difference. Ask Holly.
- If you live in a predominantly Republican district, find the progressive community groups around you. You are not alone.
- If you live in a progressive district, support your fellow progressives in red districts by showing family and friends there the power of community action and helping them get involved. That’s what I’ve done with my mother.
- Support progressive movements in key districts throughout the nation using sites like flippable.org, sisterdistrict.com, and swingleft.org. Let’s focus today on a quick and simple Flippable.org action: they have identified three upcoming special elections that need your help. Please donate even just $3 to one or each of them. It makes a difference. The first one, for Stephanie Hansen, is most crucial as well as most urgent.
Onward! And thanks for your activism.
A MIDWEST STORY IN A TRUMP ERA