An Action-Packed Triple Header
Sherrye, Betty, and Carol each interview an amazing guest to show just how much impact one person can have — and that person could be you!
Nancy Thompson of Mothers Against Greg Abbott started protesting by herself with only her poster to keep her company. Now, over 50,000 members across Texas are working to get Greg Abbott out of the governor’s office.
Jessica Craven started the weekday newsletter “Chop Wood, Carry Water,” which provides quick, easy tasks that everyone can participate in because, as she says, “Hope is an action.”
Jane Slusser is recruiting the next generation of poll workers with Power the Polls, and she lets you know what you can expect and why poll workers are so critical to powering democracy.
All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
In this episode:
The hosts start with what they’re pissed about (01:38)
Sherrye introduces our first guest, Nancy Thompson, founder of Mothers Against Greg Abbott (06:29)
Betty introduces our second guest, Jessica Craven, founder of the “Chop Wood, Carry Water” newsletter (19:27)
Carol introduces our third guest, Jane Slusser from Power the Polls (31:45)
The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About
Sherrye Henry is pissed about fetal personhood laws. These laws give a fetus the same right as a human, which eliminated exceptions to abortion for rape and incest. They also state that getting an abortion would be an act of murder.
Betty Spence is pissed about Leonard Leo, who is the “most powerful person in America you’ve never heard of.” He orchestrated huge donations of dark money to anti-choice, anti-woman, and anti-equality candidates.
Carol Jenkins is still pissed about the election deniers, but she’s very interested in Liz Cheney’s next move. Although Liz Cheney is very conservative, she did pledge to do everything in her power to make sure Donald Trump never makes it to political office again.
Nancy Thompson, Mothers Against Greg Abbott
In August of 2021, Nancy Thompson stood outside the Texas Capitol holding a sign because she was terrified to send her sick son back to school. Texas Governor Greg Abbott had rescinded the mask mandate before a vaccine was available for school-age children. To her, it was personal.
This is between me and Greg Abbott.Nancy Thompson (08:53)
She discusses the sign that she took to her single-person protest. She had an A side and a B side. She saw that on her A side where she had written “Mothers Against Greg Abbott,” she realized the acronym spelled MAGA. She thought it was either going to be genius or a disaster area. So she wrote the B side, which said that Greg Abbott was “pro guns, pro COVID, and anti children.”
She had someone take a picture of her lone protest and shared it online. It went a little bit viral in Texas at the time. It led to a Facebook group, and Nancy’s activism took off from there. The group has over 50,000 members from all walks of life and political parties. Her philosophy is that we can’t move from the far right to the left without going through the middle, so she concentrated on those people who are in the middle.
As their membership grew, they’ve been able to raise money to place billboards and run ads, like this one entitled “Whose Choice?”
What Can You Do?
- Join the chapters and subchapters across Texas
- Focus on getting out the vote, registering new voters, and asking people to make a plan to vote
- Help candidates and use the graphics on their website
- Print out information on endorsed candidates to hand out to friends/family
- Participate in the texting campaign
- Share the ads on social media
Jessica Craven: Chop Wood, Carry Water
Betty introduces Jessica, who has a long history of activism throughout her career. Check her out on TikTok here to see her explaining civics and activism in one-minute videos. She’s totally committed to teaching people how to use their voices to strengthen and shape our democracy.
She’s also the creator of the weekday e-mail newsletter “Chop Wood, Carry Water” that offers actionable steps each weekday that any citizen can do in five to seven minutes.
Digging into the Title of the Newsletter
“Chop wood, carry water” was a phrase that Jessica learned from her dad when she was going through a very hard divorce. She didn’t know how she was going to get through something so long-term and difficult, but she learned to just keep things in the day and repeat this phrase as a mantra. It means do the thing in front of you, take a simple action, and don’t worry how you’re going to get through in a global sense.
When Donald Trump was elected and we were all in a state of shock and devastation, it was just a saying that came into Jessica’s head. She started looking for actions to take, and she started sending those actions out to friends and family via email. Her newsletter grew from the need to do something daily during that difficult time.
What’s in the Newsletter?
“You’ll get call scripts for your federal representatives, an “Extra Credit” item, a Resistbot script, and a way to help win an election somewhere (think postcarding, phone banking, or textbanking.) Because electing more progressives up and down the ballot is how we get out of the mess we’re in.” – Chop Wood Carry Water website
A lot of these actions fit into anyone’s schedule, especially because the offices take voicemail. Things like postcard and letter writing campaigns are also an effective strategy for those who don’t feel as though they could phonebank or canvass in person. If you’d like to write letters or postcards, go to these websites:
A lot of it is persistent repetition of the same asks, but that doesn’t mean that these actions don’t work. It’s all about getting people to engage with their elected representatives. We thought our democracy was on autopilot, and clearly, it is now driving itself off the cliff. So we have to get citizens back in the driver’s seat.
Hope is an action. I don’t have to feel hope to take action. I just have to take action, and I will find hope.Jessica Craven (30:20)
Jane Slusser, Power the Polls
“We are seeing a big generational shift in who has been stepping up to serve.”Jane Slusser (33:32)
Even though you might not think about it too much, over one million poll workers participate in every single election year. August 16th was Poll Workers Recruitment Day, and 50,000 people signed up on that day alone. However, there have been some issues in primaries so far, and it’s going to be critical to ensure that there are enough poll workers, which is the mission of Power the Polls.
Power the Polls was started by a group of organizations who saw the steep drop-off in poll workers during the first COVID-era election. Some of the organizations were:
- The Fair Elections Center, who find where to send the poll worker application information
- Pizza to the Polls, who allow people send pizza to folks waiting in long lines
- MTV and Comedy Central
- Trevor Noah and other celebrities made public calls to encourage people to sign up
- The Civic Alliance, who organize corporations around poll working
- The Civic Responsibility Project
Power the Polls has done a lot of work to getting younger folks engaged in the process. In 2020, many poll workers opted out due to COVID-19 worries. Since poll workers tend to be older, increased risk during the pandemic caused a lot of them to stay home. That’s when the efforts to get younger people engaged really picked up steam.
Poll Worker Safety
Given the current political climate, some may be hesitant to volunteer due to safety concerns. This could be from things like COVID-19 protocol to issues with voters acting aggressive towards poll workers. However, each polling location takes steps to ensure the safety for everyone there. Election administrators work to keep everyone safe and comfortable during election times.
- Power the Polls will connect you with your local election administrator, who will reach out to you about training. Please remember they’re under-resourced and may not reply immediately!
- Poll working is rewarding, but it does make for a very long day. Poll workers have to be up early and work a full shift, although there are natural ebbs and flows to the day.
- Poll workers are needed for early vote and Election Day.