Political resolutions for the new year

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I’m not good with personal resolutions, but I’ve made a few political resolutions for 2020, and I hope to be able to stick to these.

1. Welcome Republicans

Whenever my local committee considered cross-endorsing Republicans, I would always say, “Why? They never do the same for us!” Lately, certain prominent Republicans in my town have re-registered as unaffiliated or even as Democrats. I now welcome these refugees.

I won’t blame them for their party’s feckless descent into madness. I won’t make them pass a purity test. I am grateful for their change of heart and sorry that their party has left them. I don’t think they dilute our brand; I think we strengthen them, and together we can reach a wider electorate than we once did without their help.

2. Cultivate Media Literacy

The other day, I ranted online about a post someone had made from an anti-science site appraised by Media Bias/Fact Check as dealing in “quackery” and “tin foil hat”-level reporting. Then, the very next day, I lost my mind over a Trump-related post, only to discover that the post was two years old but being circulated as if it were breaking news.

I hereby promise to check all sources and dates before reposting or commenting on anything online and to make ample use of fact checking sources when I’m too lazy to do my own legwork.

3. Listen More, Speak Less

I’m an interrupter. Get-togethers with extended family were always about being the loudest, funniest or most outrageous storyteller. But that doesn’t work in politics. If we devote our political arguments to cogitating about what we’ll say next to bash the current speaker, we can’t hear and absorb that speaker’s points.

Listening is especially important when canvassing—it’s critical to pay attention to each citizen’s complaints or critiques, often without responding other than to say, “Thank you for sharing that; I will pass along your concerns.”

It’s equally important when someone on the bus or at the next table wants to vent about party politics, or kids today, or any other topic. So I will try to shut up more, though that won’t be easy.

4. Be Anti-Racist

I never thought America was post-racist. I never claimed to be colorblind. However, there was a time when I thought my history meant that I wasn’t complicit in American racism.

For example: 1) I didn’t have any relatives here in the antebellum era—they were all in shtetls or living on a farm near the Arctic Circle in Norway. Therefore, I am not responsible for slavery. 2) I had scores of relatives die in concentration camps. Therefore, I understand oppression. 3) I belong to a multiracial family. Therefore, I am without prejudice.

I’m over that. I’m not woke, nor do I pretend to “get it,” but I’m willing to work harder to call out systemic as well as personal racism. And here’s an aside to some of my doubting friends: No, not everything is about race. But, in politics, systems and structures of America, most things are.

5. Read Offline

I read plenty, but I want to read more meaningfully. Some books I read this year that helped me better understand present-day America include “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond, “Educated” by Tara Westover, “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.

Fiction, too—“There There” by Tommy Orange, “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead and “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi stand out. On my list are Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” and Sarah Broom’s “The Yellow House.” It is surely better to immerse fully in a book than to glance off a few thousand tweets.
I have plenty of other potential resolutions: don’t panic, support news media, encourage civic involvement, learn new stuff, resist. 2020 is going to be a wild ride. Buckle up, and make your own resolutions now.

In other news, the month of January is petitioning month for the April 28 presidential primary. TCDC does not monitor that petitioning process. If you are interested in helping your favorite candidate, contact his or her campaign.
We will hear from 2020 Congressional candidates at our quarterly meeting Jan. 28, 7 p.m., at Cherry Art Space, 102 Cherry St. in Ithaca.

Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at www.tcdemocrats.org.

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