An Open Letter to Tom Perez and the Women of the Party

We are the women of the Resistance, but we are more than that. Likewise, we don’t characterize our work as a Revolution. Despite the intensity and magnitude of the current battle, we know it is a continuation of the war we have been diligently fighting for decades. We are the women of and behind the party. We are the women on the ground who work quietly and steadfastly in our communities through countless campaigns, changing issues, and crises. In our wake, our hard-won progress stretches behind us, always precarious, and we work every day to protect and build upon it. We are grassroots activists, fundraisers, community organizers, advocates, writers, marchers, protesters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters. We are both teachers and students and know that the struggle for relevancy necessarily happens on the ground. It is in this spirit that we write this letter and raise our voices to be heard.

Two critical issues that cannot be separated are unity and messaging. While we understand the intent behind appointing Bernie Sanders as Democratic Outreach Chair and showcasing him on a Unity Tour, it was always a self-defeating endeavor because Sanders has not actually had control of his ‘movement’ for quite some time. Yes, his words matter, insofar as they reinforce the division of the Left, as they often do, but attempts to bring strategy, unity, or coalition building fall on deaf ears. This is primarily because Sanders is not only a man; he’s also a symbol. Of course, he didn’t start out that way. Sanders, the man, ignited the excitement and political interest of a great many people — especially Millennials. He appealed to them emotionally on issues that resonated with them. He tapped into the passionate idealism of youth. He stoked the fires of righteous indignation and it was largely successful, for good reason. In fact, there is a great deal to learn here in terms of effective messaging. Unfortunately, he also roused the image of a revolution, and the implied instant gratification that accompanies it. We, of course, knew better. Bernie’s idealism is no different from the idealism in our own hearts, but we can’t afford to behave as if we don’t understand the battlefield and the spectrum of views and circumstances that span the nation.

The normal outcome, if there even is a normal anymore, would have been for Sanders and his supporters to refocus their efforts on electing the Democratic nominee after his primary loss. We appreciate that many did, but several factors came together to transition Sanders into a symbol of division in the Left, not the least of which was Bernie’s own constant criticism of the party from which he ran for President. Russian interference acted as an accelerant, simultaneously chipping away at the Democratic Party and fostering division by targeting the Far Left. Human nature being what it is, the Far Left is no more ready to admit they were targeted than the Right. If anything, knowledge of Russian influence is resulting in even more obstinance and ire. Post-primary, a single image of Bernie speaks volumes about one’s political frame of reference, not just on issues, but against what they have come to believe about the Democratic Party as an obstacle to and adversary of their goals. For those of us who have actually fought in the trenches for equity and justice, this is extremely frustrating, yet we acknowledge the need for change and improvement in messaging, outreach and visibility.

We know what we have worked for, what we defend, and what we work toward. With heads bent and shoulders set we have quietly battled year in and year out against the GOP to protect and lift up all of our communities. Bracing against the anti-intellectualism and vitriol employed by the Right, however, has dampened the passion and clarity of our message to the casual voter and newly political. In our commitment to the inherent ‘rightness’ of our work, we have relied too much on what we see as common-sense. In the field, particularly for the politically inexperienced, our message has been reduced to ‘not-GOP’, ‘not-Trump’, or, even more disappointingly, ‘the lesser of two evils’. In a democracy, pragmatism is crucial and idealism without pragmatism will yield nothing – this is a sobering reality learned on the battlefield, but we can all look back to a time when our own passionate idealism was unfettered by the complexities of real change-making. The need for compromise, strategy and diligence does not alter our core ideals. However, we have failed to convey that.

The weaponization of Sanders’ supporters against the Democratic Party combined with a GOP trifecta in the 2016 election makes our outreach and messaging critical. We can’t afford to simply wait for political maturity to set in. Our core values are emotional: Morality, Integrity, Justice, Compassion, Truth. This is the language of the Democratic Party, the party of the people. This is the language we must use to engage with the electorate from campaign stump speeches to small group discussions. And it’s time for the women behind the party to step into the light and into the public eye. The influence of social media and mainstream media is paramount. This is the world of the Millennials and we are all along for the ride. The GOP understands this as do Berners. Memes, symbols, even people, become branding. A single emoji of a frog or a red flower communicates a world view. Bernie Millennials, like Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, become walking billboards by branding themselves into the imagery of political events, and, like Bernie, their image speaks a message and resonates emotionally. We lack those visuals. We lack that public face. It’s time for that to change.

We write this letter for two reasons. First, to express to the DNC that unity cannot be achieved by showcasing a person who exemplifies our division, specifically a division rooted in a political fairy-tale that shuns the realities of American democracy. We ask the DNC to lift up, instead, those who have shown perseverance, and unwavering commitment to doing the most good for the most number of people. To this end, we suggest a second Unity Tour that reflects all that we represent and more. Secondly, to ask the women who have given so much, working tirelessly toward positive social change, to step forward into public roles as leaders and social influencers. We are women of all colors, with and without disabilities, united for the sole purpose of preserving our party and America’s integrity. The public needs to see who we are, what we’ve worked for, and why we’re Stronger Together.

Sincerely,

Rachel Murphy Azzara
@RachelAzzara

Beverlee Hughes
@BeverleeHughes3

Nancy Ervin
@Nurse4allPeople

Sudha Mohan
@sumoh7

Gayle Asher
@gayleasher1

Pat Fuller
@bannerite

Rebecca Galles

Katherine Erwin
@kjoerwin

Jamie Thompson
@luvman33wife

Janice L. Park
@alaskawater

Sheila Brady
@SheilaBrady16

Joanne Gucciardo
@Jgucciardo2

Donna R. Miller
@AgitatorsNeeded

Rama Dey-Rao, PhD
@ramadeyrao

Barbara Schneider
@barbls23

@deejay90192

Sophie Travis
@SophieinCT

Karen Blunt
@_KJRB_

Randy Prine
@randyprine

Dee Flaherty
@Deemoney521

Diane Straub
@didkins4life

Geneva Boulianne
@politicalgeneve

Christine Szumacher
@imanemerald

Donna Becker
@Samnsara1997

Danielle Cahn
@d_cahn

S Bishop
@CAGoldenBear

E James
@jawja100

Suki Graves, M.Ed.
@freeandclear1

Kathy Christopherson
@kachristo

Michele Moen
@MoenMikey

Maggie McBride

Betty Harry
@Earnest_One

Sally P.

Sheri A Farinha
@xoSheri

Molly U.
@plantflowes

Sorry Trump, You Can’t Fire Your Way Out of an Investigation

In a shocking display of authoritarianism, Donald Trump fired FBI Director, James Comey. Not since Nixon have we seen such an overt attempt to use the executive office to obstruct an investigation. This is not Trump’s first attempt to fire his way out of his Russian problems, having already terminated Sally Yates and Preet Bahrara.

Over the past 48 hours, the White House has changed it’s official story regarding Comey’s termination multiple times.  Unbelievably citing the FBI’s misreporting of forwarded emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop as the reason, Trump claimed this move was at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.  As it was Trump, himself, who asked Sessions and Rosenstein to draft the letters regarding Comey, Rosenstein threatened to resign over this misrepresentation. Despite attempts to distract from the obvious, this is clearly about the FBI’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In his bizarre letter notifying Comey of termination, Trump states:

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Rumor is that he told Comey he would be fired if he didn’t stop the grand juries, quite likely given that Trump and Comey shared a private dinner together in which Comey was asked for loyalty to Trump. Comey’s answer that he could only be honest was not exactly the pledge of support Trump is used to. (And yes, if Bill Clinton talking to Loretta Lynch on the tarmac bothered you, this should send you through the roof). If sources are correct that Comey was at the Rocket Docket in Virginia yesterday, submitting intel for expedition, he likely knew this was coming. Immediately following Comey’s firing, subpoenas were issued to Michael Flynn and his associates regarding their connections to Russia. Other sources have said that as many as 25 sealed indictments have already resulted from the grand juries. This looks more and more likely given yesterday’s FBI raid on a GOP campaign firm in Annapolis. Firing Comey will not stop the wheels of justice from turning, but, remember that a sitting President can’t be indicted. He will need to be impeached by Congress.

Speaking of Congress, it doesn’t appear that the WH and FBI were the only ones who knew this was coming. The last question Lindsey Graham posed to Sally Yates in her hearing on Monday was whether or not she trusted Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. This was no coincidence, and served to pre-validate Rosenstein’s upcoming actions against Comey. This implies foreknowledge about Trump’s plan to have Sessions and Rosenstein write the letters against Comey–this is even worse when you remember that Jeff Sessions is supposed to be recused from anything related to the Russia investigation.

Democratic legislatures are calling for an independent investigation. Even many GOP members of Congress put out statements admonishing Trump’s abuse of power, but it’s worth noting that Graham is continuing to say there is no need for a special prosecutor, as is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Between their focus on leaking over treason during the Yates hearing and yesterday’s events with Comey, it couldn’t be more clear that the GOP is not capable of investigating this in a bipartisan manner. The people must demand an independent investigation. I encourage you to get involved in any way that you can and demand the truth. Remember, in Watergate, everyone went down except for Nixon. Trump is simply not worth it. Our country deserves answers and justice.

Why I Speak Out About The Resistance Every Day

Twenty years ago I was in New York, interviewing at Columbia University for graduate school. One evening I encountered a man on the subway speaking out about the closing of a local community center. He was young, but he appeared worn out, clearly having been at this a long time. He carried a petition and a sheaf of flyers, many which lay muddied and torn on the subway floor. With his free arm he wiped his forehead, pushing his hair away and nearly unseating his yarmulke, which was barely held in place by two silver snap-tight barrettes. He appealed to the riders again in a horse voice, speaking of the importance of community, the dangers of gentrification and reciting the expected statistics. But they, too, were worn from their day. No one even made eye contact with him. Perhaps he was just background noise that couldn’t penetrate their own thoughts, or perhaps they knew that acknowledging this man’s cause would somehow obligate them to do something about it. Maybe they had learned to ignore those who might burden them with their expectations.

His voice trailed off. Shaking his head, he made his way to the exit. As the doors slid open, he turned to face the other riders, “When you no longer recognize the neighborhood…When there is no community left, remember I was here today and I tried to do something.” With that, he exited the train and I watched the doors slide closed behind him. Glancing around, I noticed I was not the only one looking at the door. I wanted to call to him to come back so he could see what I was seeing. He had their attention, if only briefly. The passengers blinked in confusion and surprise, some looked uneasy, as if they just realized they may not have been paying attention to something important. For most, it was momentary, and they quickly returned to their books, newspapers, worries and reveries, but some remained contemplative, their eyes drifting to the flyers littering the floor. A few even reached down and picked one up. Something had happened. In his moment of candid frustration, he had awoken them. It gave me hope.

The morning of November 9, 2016, I was drowning in emotions–shock, fear, anger, blame, and exhaustion. How could this have happened? Did I not do enough? I had organized, strategized, made phone-calls, written letters, blogs, and endless posts. I had shared information, exposed disinformation, patiently debated, reminded people to register and vote. Before they left for school, my children asked me, “What are you going to do now, Mom?” I didn’t have an answer for them. This was supposed to be the end of the battle. I knew the true battle hadn’t even begun, and I felt desolate in the face of it; however, I kept thinking of the man on the subway all those years ago. As shocked and disappointed as I was in my fellow Americans, I knew I couldn’t give up on them. By the time my kids came home from school, I had an answer. “I am going to keep fighting.” 

I have kept fighting, as have millions of you. The Resistance was formed and it thrives. Little by little, the American people are waking up and standing up for themselves and others. It is not one battle, but an endless series of battles that require daily action and vigilance. And everyday I can say, “I was here today and I tried to do something.”

Charlatans Among Activists? Maintain a Level of Skepticism

Recently I wrote about the need to watch out for infiltrators in #TheResistance. In this article I will discuss a situation that raises a red flag and the reasons I feel skepticism is necessary. I want to be clear that it is not my intention to malign, accuse or ridicule, but to give guidance to fellow activists and supporters of #TheResistance.

In December, I became aware of a person, @OfficialNMP, who claimed to have ‘inside knowledge’ of the Trump family and the election. The tale she told was a full-throttle conspiracy theory — specifically, that billionaire, Jacob Rothschild, is responsible for Trump’s Presidency…as the leader of the New World Order. Take that, RWNJs, we see your Soros and raise you a Rothschild. Suffice it to say, the tale got stranger from there — ritual sex abuse, occult, Illuminati. It’s worth noting that it is her position that Donald Trump is POTUS against his will, but he must continue to protect Barron from continued ritualistic abuse. Somehow she managed to get brought into DM groups to tell this story, which is how I heard it. I ignored it at the time, figuring that peers would not believe it.

Recently, though, I noticed that there is an individual, @InsideDJTTruth, claiming to be her friend and Jacob Rothschild’s grandson, Robbie (Rothschild has no grandson by this name), who is echoing her tale and adding a personal account of abuse. He’s gaining followers pretty fast. @OfficialNMP has over 30K followers since December. Pretty impressive. She also lists her phone number in her profile, and encourages people to text her — that’s unusual.

My initial concern was that they are distracting and confusing activists and resisters by pulling them into this conspiracy nonsense. Let’s face it, we are all emotionally distraught, which makes us more vulnerable than normal. We desperately want answers. I was also wary about the phone number, as that is a way to get people’s contact information. But, there is one more factor. In her profile, she says to follow @KalenaVX (an account which has disappeared as of this writing), which leads you to a website TheResistanceUnite.org. This website is a joint project between @KalenaVX and @OfficialNMP and is not officially launched yet, but the purpose, ostensibly, is to create a repository of activities related to #TheResistance and promote cooperation across groups. Sounds good, right? It does, but because it is collecting information on the people and activities of #TheResistance, I decided it needed a closer look. This is what I found.

  1. The domain is privately registered. So whoever owns the site has gone out of their way to hide it.
  2. @KalenaVX seems to be the same person as @KalelVX and @UniteResistance. Why so many accounts, I don’t know.
  3. @OfficialNMP has been involved in a lot of things and gone by a lot of names. She is a young revivalist pastor. She has listed herself as an actor/model, author, editor, spiritual advisor (to Obama-she says) among other things. She is a YouTuber. She believes she is battling the occult and in the center of the Trump/Rothschild/New World Order conspiracy. Oh, and, vampires are real and Jacob Rothschild is a shapeshifter. Now, all this said, understand that I know a lot of people who are following her and/or in direct contact with her. I find that unsettling.

So, at the point of this writing, I find myself having to ask the question. Are these people who legitimately mean well and are trying to help #TheResistance, but just happen to be…mentally unhealthy? Or, is this a well-orchestrated effort to befriend activists, gather counter-intelligence and pepper confusion and fear into the movement? Either way, this is precisely the type of situation I mean when I ask members of #TheResistance to remain vigilant.

One final note: We are seeing a lot of “rogue” and “alt” accounts crop up. Some of these are the real deal and some are not. Approach information with logic and skepticism. We are only as good as the quality of our shared information.

Article Update: I was right to have concern about @OfficialNMP. I have conducted a full investigation of this account and found it to be involved in catfishing. @KalenaVX , @KalelVX and @UniteResistance are innocent bystanders and have no culpability. TheResistanceUnite.org website is no longer associated with @OfficialNMP and is not a cause of concern. You may read the results of the investigation in this article, “Cait-fishing” In The Resistance – An Exposé – Rachel Murphy Azzara.

Infiltration in #TheResistance

#TheResistance must be vigilant. The #GOP conned their base by appealing to their emotions. They can and do use the same methods on us. Be cautious of individuals and organizations that are infiltrating our groups to gain counter-intelligence. If it seems off, it likely is. Generally, an infiltrator has four goals:

  1. Gather contact information of Democrats, #HRC Supporters or members of #TheResistance for marketing purposes or harassment
  2. Perform oppositional research on groups and leaders and keep tabs on our activities and knowledge
  3. Exploit fear and anxiety to discourage action, particularly the fear of retribution or violence
  4. Foster distrust and division within #TheResistance and within the Democratic Party

Take note of who one is following and who is following them. What type of information do they share? Do they refer you to a website that is gathering any kind of data? Are they trying to directly gather information? Asking people to email or text them? This is a low-cost method of gathering contact data. Be wary of anyone who claims to have insider knowledge that they can’t tell you because ‘it’s not safe’ or making vague claims they can’t validate.

Remember, fear, anger and anxiety is normal, but it makes us vulnerable targets for those who wish to bait us into giving up personal information that could potentially be used to undermine our efforts. Stay Strong! Stay Aware!

For a more detailed examination of Infiltration in the Resistance and what you can do about it, please read my article in Dame Magazine:  How Can The Resistance Ward Off Infiltrators?