Rallies, Triumphs, Roadblocks and Learning Curves: Part One

I could write a book about the last four days. It’s been exhilarating; it’s been exasperating; it’s been emotional; it’s been exhausting. I’m struggling to put my thoughts down in a cohesive and concise post, so bear with me as I do have to break this into two parts.

Last Thursday, I went to the state capitol to rally in support of Senate Bill 305, which would allow the 56 counties in Montana to decide if they wanted to have a mail-in ballot only for the upcoming special election for Montana’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. If you’re curious how we got to here, I recommend watching this 20-minute segment by Rachel Maddow. In general, this would have been a quiet bill except for the fact that the Chair of the Montana Republican Party decided to send a letter to his members about how this bill would favor the Democrat candidate because more people would vote with a mail-in ballot than with a go-to-the-polls ballot.

Estimates are that a mail-in ballot across the state would save between $500,000 and $750,000. On top of that, it does increase access for all Montanans, especially those working full time or more, the elderly who don’t have transportation, and rural communities that might have a polling place 50 miles away. This is a bi-partisan bill with bi-partisan support, and yet, after the State Senate passed the bill, it was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it most likely will die without any action. I went to the hearing to support the bill and rally with others speaking up for fiscal responsibility and access. I’d never been to a legislative session before, never attended a hearing over a bill that could become law. I was out of my league, in over my head, and unsure of my surroundings.

It was amazing.

I even spoke in front of the committee, albeit just to give my name in support of the bill. But I watched and participated in the process. And it wasn’t a pretty one – this is why you don’t want to see sausages or laws being made. It’s messy. It’s unforgiving. It’s misogynistic. I really cannot put into words how being there fed my passion. And yet, that is exactly what it did. Going to watch the hearing, and without planning to, participating in it, solidified that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I used my voice in the hearing, and shared my experience through social media, and I will most likely never be the same.

After that experience, and the inability of the U.S. House Republicans and the Administration to move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I was excited to go knock on doors for Rob Quist (running in the special election) on Saturday. While I was nervous, I was also excited to connect more with the people that I would be working with and gain some experience with canvassing. What I didn’t anticipate was that my confidence and commitment would be shaken, that I would have to work even harder to overcome barriers to participation, and that things will dampen my spirit and enthusiasm along the way.

But, for today, I will leave you with this – roadblocks and barriers that dampen the spirit can be overcome. Stay tuned…

P.S. Pat yourself on the back if you reached out to your representatives regarding the terrible bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. If you emailed, called, sent a post card, or rallied in support of the ACA, thank you. You made a difference. This is what democracy looks like.

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