Thoughts on getting out the vote and our impact.
Editor's note: Stefan is a block captain in Precinct 366 in Southwest Austin.
How long have you been involved in politics/activism?
My political activism dates from the mid-1970s, when
I decided to run for the local school board in Centralia, IL. I was teaching sociology and political science courses at Kaskaskia College and was approached to run for the Centralia School Board. My campaign was chaired by a former student and emphasized the need to integrate public education, which was segregated by where residents lived. That campaign and my service on the school board provided an incentive for greater political involvement.
You've been a member since our very first meeting. What drew you in? Kept you coming back?
I had met Carrie Collier-Brown through my involvement in campaigns, and my faith in her abilities drew me to the first meeting. I had tried another organization but found it to be more of a debating society than an organization to build efforts for political change. Attending the first meeting, hearing the club’s motto for the first time, and meeting the people involved, I thought, “This is where I belong.” I keep coming back because my conception of the organization and the people involved is confirmed at each meeting and with each activity planned by the group. GSD!
How long have you been block walking? What advice would you give to those who are hesitant to knock on doors?
I walked blocks when I ran for the school board in Centralia. I became a serious block walker in 2008. The political science literature affirms block walking as the most effective campaign activity. I walk my Ausiedoodle and Labradoodle every morning in my neighborhood. Most neighbors know my dogs and me. I feel comfortable approaching them, talking politics and candidates with them, and sharing my passion for politics as an avenue for significant change towards the vision of “a more perfect union.”
For those who hesitate to knock on doors, I encourage first-timers to team up with someone who is experienced, take turns knocking doors, start in your immediate neighborhood, and know that most people are willing to listen and have respect for your passion to include them in the political process. Though daunting at first, each door becomes easier as you become more familiar with the process, make a connection with the resident more quickly, and experience the joy that comes when you recruit new members of the group. It’s a humbling and gratifying experience.
Where would you like to see the club in five years?
In five years, I would expect to see the membership expanded greatly, to see similar clubs created in other areas of Austin and in other counties in Texas, and to see the club’s reputation as a model for other organizations grow exponentially. Technological changes in canvassing and communications should be the hallmark of the club’s future. As the population of Austin changes, with frequent changes in neighborhood residents, I would hope that the club develops the ability to track the residential changes and to bring new residents into the club.
By Sarah Traugott
This is where you belong by Melody Warnick
I’ll admit that in the days, months and years since the 2016 election I’ve often wondered if I was doing myself, and particularly my young family, a disservice by living in a red state.
Despite all the things we love about Austin, the insidious conservative backlash of 2016 (with legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, First amendment rights and human rights) had me re-evaluating my sense of place attachment and connection to my community. Like most people, I indulged in some magical thinking that everything would be better if I lived somewhere else…some place more beautiful, more progressive, more tolerant, more blue. But as every good Texan knows by this point in the long, hot summer: the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence; it’s only greener where you water it.
So I sought advice where I always do: in books! Melody Warnick’s really smart, well researched and persuasive book, This is where you belong, showed me there is a lot I can do right here! I can both change my perceptions about my community and actively effect the changes I want to see take place.
Her advice, it turns out, is something that I was doing instinctively by joining groups like Blue Action Democrats:
1. Lace up your sneakers. (Take a walk around your neighborhood to knock on doors.)
2. Say Hi to your neighbors. (I’ve had many terrific conversations with my neighbors and even folks in neighboring communities about our shared political predicament and how we need to engage in positive change.)
3. Do something fun! (I’ve attended picnics, parties and community building gatherings all over Austin to raise money and support for Democratic candidates.)
4. Volunteer! (Volunteer Deputy Registrar…it's in the name! Volunteer at the Democratic HQ on Old Fredericksburg Road. Volunteer to write postcards, throw a fundraising party, etc.)
5. Get More Political. (See above!)
6. Eat Local. (Torchy’s breakfast tacos before block walking!!)
This book, and reflecting about how we water the grass under our own feet to make it greener (and hopefully blue-er) is what’s saving my life this month…what’s saving your life?
Tell us what's saving your life right now. Drop a summary and photo to