Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
While the above quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein, this is not the case. It is officially credited to “Anonymous.” But its origins do not matter. Regardless of source, it still makes sense and deserves our attention.
These words seemed particularly relevant yesterday when I opened my e-mail in-box and found not one, not two, but three requests from different organizations to sign petitions. The ACLU wanted me to tell Congress that I “support a free, fair and open internet.” Lin-Manuel Miranda asked me to join him in “telling Congress the people of Puerto Rico need help now–it’s part of the United States too!” Finally, CREDO Action asked me to sign a petition addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell imploring him to postpone be the vote on the GOP tax bill until “Alabama’s newly elected senator, Doug Jones, is seated.”
I wholeheartedly agree with all three of these efforts and have previously signed petitions relating to net neutrality, the tax bill and disaster relief for Puerto Rico. Yet net neutrality no longer exists, the tax bill is likely to pass sometime in the next 24 hours and hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power or potable water.
I’m sorry, but signing petitions has proven to be a waste of time and energy. It’s time to try something else. In fact, maybe it’s time to take something out of the Republican playbook. Twenty-nine years ago, in response to GOP voters’ disappointment in George H. W. Bush for breaking his “Read my lips. No new taxes” pledge, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by Grover Norquist, proposed the “No New Taxes Pledge.” According to ATR:
Politicians often run for office saying they won’t raise taxes, but then quickly turn their backs on the taxpayer. The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing.
The same can be true of the resistance and those who proclaim they are unhappy with the country’s direction. It is time to put the “rhetoric in writing.” Therefore, I am starting what I call the “NO Action/NO Vote” movement. And like the ATR pledge, the concept is simple. It is a written commitment to withhold your vote in 2018 for ANY candidate of either party who does not represent your views on core issues.
For example, I want to scream each time Donald Trump claims the GOP tax bill will cost him money. Of course, he could prove that by releasing his 2016 tax return. But you and I know that is not going to happen. Therefore, I take the following NO Returns/NO Vote pledge:
Until Donald Trump releases his 2016 tax return so I can see how he is personally impacted by the GOP tax plan, I will not vote for any Republican at the federal state or local level. Furthermore, I will not vote for any candidate who voted or supports the bill without first having the opportunity to review their tax returns.
Concerning net neutrality, I take the following NO Net Neutrality/NO Vote pledge:
I will not vote for any candidate for the House or Senate who does not, in writing, pledge to overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality.
Concerning sensible gun control legislation, I take the following NO Universal Background Checks/NO Vote pledge:
I will not vote for any candidate for office who does not, in writing, pledge to sponsor and vote for universal background checks prior to the purchase of any firearm, including gun shows, on-line sales and private sales.
Concerning Dreamers, I take the following NO DACA/NO Vote pledge:
I will not vote for any candidate for House or Senate who does not, in writing, pledge to sponsor and vote for legislation to ensure permanent status for immigrants who claim they came to America before the age of 16, have been here continuously for five years and are currently under the age of 35 (the technical definition of a Dreamer).
So instead of signing petitions, start listening to your family, friends and colleagues. And when they voice concern about an issue, tell them you share their concern and ask them to take a NO Vote pledge. Let me give you an example. This morning I was meeting with a high school student I mentor. He asked me, “Why would FCC chair Ajit Pai get rid of net neutrality when 83 percent of voters support it?” He also said all of his friends think it was stupid. He will be 18 in July. We talked about how young voters are lining up behind progressive issues. And how, if they vote in November, they can help change things including overturning repeal of the net neutrality rule.
Revolutions are not fueled with petitions. Consider the NO Vote movement as the first volley in a new political revolution. Do not expend efforts telling tone-deaf politicians what you want them to do. Tell them what YOU are going to do. It’s time to get on your horse and shout, “The VOTERS are coming. The VOTERS are coming.”
For what it’s worth.