Tag Archives: Politics

A letter to our activist community

We have had quite a year or so, in northeast Ohio’s progressive activism community. Marches, die-ins, postcard-writing, collecting signatures, etc.…

We never run out of stuff to do.

On just about any national issue there are demonstrations to be part of, calls to congress and Senator Portman. Our state government is usually busy with plenty of bad ideas, also, which would be just about overwhelming. Except in Lakewood and western Cleveland, we have Nickie Antonio and Mike Skindell.

On every call for activism over a state issue, Antonio and Skindell are always leading the way, without even being asked. Even by the standard of Democrats in the legislature, these two are like an Indivisible Caucus.

Defending Medicaid expansion? Behind it 100%.

Gerrymandering? Both support reform, and I was present in person when Skindell shredded the initial worse-than-we-have-now draft of SJR 5.

Abortion bans? They are stalwart advocates of women’s right to choose, both endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio & NARAL Ohio.

LGBTQ equality? Antonio has led the years-long effort to build support for the Fairness Act, with Skindell’s active partnership.

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Crowded life, sparse commentary

So much going on. Yet so much of it is political, and taking to my personal blog (which is barely more than a diary) to comment on that seems kind of naive.

Not that I wouldn’t write a long, indulgent post expressing my views on e.g. Lakewood’s political tug-of-war that is now into its fourth consecutive year. But given how much my days are packed with the kind of inelegant campaign activity that actually reaches people, I suppose I just can’t bring myself to expend the effort required by any kind of deep essay.

I’m currently doing… a lot of work for two candidates for state representative, plus some work for another, and for two state senate candidates. I’m writing, for publication, where it makes sense… the latest LO included my promo for next week’s Lakewood Dem Club meeting, and an article encouraging support for Issue 1. (It also includes an ad I designed for one of the rare nonpolitical clients.)

Last week I made a day trip to Detroit for political organizing.

I dream of capturing once more a life beyond all this. But certainly not before May 8, and probably not for some while after that, really.

Oh well. This morning is relatively calm, and I was going to jot down some thoughts about The Infinity War (comic book series) stirred up by recent ballyhoo for the big feature film… then I found that I already wrote such a post three years ago. So.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Eight months a redistricting reformer

I’m still struggling to react to the Ohio legislature’s vote to place a promising redistricting reform measure on the May 8 ballot.

The measure itself, which was SJR 5 and will become Issue 1, seems very good. I have posted a few thoughts here, and will probably elaborate in one or more forum in the weeks ahead.

The fact that, after negotiations seemed absolutely frozen and then right at the deadline Republicans were won around to this commendable reform, is interesting. I feel like I generally understand the various incentives for that, although I’m curious about details of the negotiations.

The sudden end of a project that I have spent eight months on, and which I expected to take up another three, is jarring.

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CLEcast, Sunday PD, busy busy

After a couple of actual radio interviews, last year, I recently gave my first podcast interview.

The excellent CLEcast listened to me talk about gerrymandering, and local efforts to put an end to it here in Ohio.

Episode 106 – Matt Kuhns – Fair Districts Ohio

I would really like to thank the hosts Dan and Brian, as well as Lakewood city council member Dan O’Malley, through whom I learned about CLEcast. I would also like to thank everyone involved in Fair Districts Ohio, and especially the incredible Westshore Fair Districts volunteers, whom it has been an honor to join in this important work.

In this same period, I also had a letter to the editor printed in the ; interestingly it has not been published online yet, so here’s a scan from the paper: Read More →

2017 Year in Review

My experience of last year mostly lent itself to sorting into two categories: political, and other.

Whereas in 2017, “other” was probably more like an appendix than a proper category.

There were reasons, about which I have written here among other places, but it also was just kind of something that happened. I started 2017 with a loose arrangement to provide graphic design for Tristan Rader’s campaign for Lakewood City Council, e.g.; by the beginning of summer I had effectively become designer, writer, director of communications, secretary and assistant campaign manager. Without ever having planned or even explicitly decided to do any of that.

My own year of 2017 might best be captured by a chain of relatively minor events from October. On October 26, I made a very fast trip to Columbus, to testify in favor of congressional redistricting reform at a statehouse hearing. (I was named though not quoted in a cleveland.com article.)

Me outside of Ohio's capitol

Mr. Kuhns goes to Columbus

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2017 politics & Senator-elect Jones

There are a lot of year-end takes on 2017 politics, and at this point I’m not sure that I really need one. Looking back, I find that much of what I wrote a year ago about the big picture holds up.

I think Matthew Yglesias has a good review of the past year which is positive while still realistic. (There are also more pessimistic assessments, which are probably all too realistic, but they just kind of leave me blank.) I plan to write about the specifics of my own year of #resistance this weekend.

Otherwise, in general, I feel like the election of Doug Jones as Alabama’s next senator captures much of the broader American political situation right now:

  1. An astonishing, inspiring, against the odds victory for decency, thanks in no small part to grassroots energy
  2. Which may nonetheless not really matter that much, by itself.

This seems like the executive summary of the #resistance after one year. Ordinary people have put up an amazing fight, and have as Yglesias suggests probably made a difference that is surprising, all things considered.

But this amazing year also ended with a big reminder that the people in power are still capable of ignoring popular resistance, and anything short of taking their power away from them.

Doug Jones’s victory seems to summarize all this. It was possibly the best news all year, and I’m very proud to have supported his campaign in small ways. Yet Republicans still have the presidency and 50 senate seats, and as long as they do, they’re going to go on corrupting and abusing the power of America’s government.

So, we have some reason to believe that our efforts can change things… and we have every reason to believe that more change is needed.

I like the little “How Will You Remember 2017” photo montage that the History Channel has been running. I particularly like the short version which ends with a photo of Jones’s victory party, however, not only because it’s an appealing year-end image, but because it also seems like an apt year-end story.

Tristan Rader for Lakewood City Council

A few days ago, I was out walking and had this feeling like I was coming out of a trance… to find that four months had passed.

I have written here about similar feelings twice in the past 13 months, so all I can really say is that this was a similar experience with a new intensity.

I looked around me and saw trees at the very end of their fall-color peak period. Then I thought back and could recall no other sense of the season, equally solid, since the beginning of July.

I recall being in Lakewood’s July 4 parade…

…then I was out for a walk and autumn was into its downhill half.

The best way I can think to describe it is that for the first several months of this year, it was like life was on fast-forward. It felt like time passed more rapidly than normal, but I could still perceive events around me, at an accelerated pace. Then since this post, it became more like just skipping from brief glimpse to brief glimpse, with everything in between jumped over entirely.

This was basically a year of my life. I sacrificed the year, to political action of various types, but above all to Tristan Rader’s campaign for Lakewood City Council.

Kristine, Tristan and me back at the campaign’s formal kickoff

Imagine my reaction since, entirely contrary to my expectations, we succeeded.

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It was just 2016 a month or so ago I swear

Summer has basically been and gone since my last entry here. It feels like autumn already, too. With hurricanes, fire or drought afflicting much of the U.S., I have no complaints at all about an early autumn, itself, certainly.

But honestly, I scarce know where this year went.

Since… I think it was with the real intense push against Trumpcare in the Senate that things “went to 11” and stayed there. Since then, life has just been full, whatever happens. All day, every day of the week, every week.

I have obtained more than 130 signatures for the Fair Districts ballot measure. And that’s like a when-possible activity, that fits into such “gaps” in my schedule as I can identify.

This past week was relatively calm. Yet it included

  • distributing literature for Jeff Johnson’s campaign
  • handing out dog biscuits at the Lakewood Dog Swim
  • Live-tweeting a City Council meeting
  • an interview about Hancher vs. Hilton with Iowa Public Radio
  • Dropping by an open house about the Icebreaker offshore wind power pilot project
  • Visiting Senator Portman’s office (once again) to express my opinion
  • Putting together two extensive e-mail newsletters

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Activism and Organizing

People ask me if I’m working on another book. I suppose that this is natural enough, after I have written three within barely five years.

It’s nice also, certainly, that these seem to be inquiries of real interest, which presumably means that people enjoyed one or more of my books.

At the moment, though, I’m afraid that Book Four isn’t even on my long-version to-do list.

Our society being, in my estimate, in the midst of an ongoing emergency, I’m focusing a lot of my time and energy on activism and organizing. After last fall’s election, many people said “organize!” After the Women’s March, people said “take the next step and organize.” Well, I’m working on that.

I’m co-chairing communications for Lakewood’s Democrats, performing  various advisory and communications roles for a city council campaign, and playing smaller roles in a handful of other groups and campaigns. Plus trying to do my bit to support local citizen journalism. Ongoing phone calls, letter-writing, demonstrations and other activities fill in most of whatever gaps might be left.

I feel like I can manage this, but it’s definitely a life rather than some kind of sideline at this point. I don’t have any specific ideas for a next book pulling at me anyway, so far, but I have no idea when I might pursue one should it occur to me.

So, thanks everyone who asks. For the time being, it’s kind of like this:

Sorry for the inconvenience, we are trying to save the world

I would say that this suggestion has now expanded well beyond TTIP or CETA to a general-purpose context.

David Frum and Finest Hours

The fact that I now follow David Frum on Twitter, little more than a year after writing an entire post of condescending sighing about one of his articles, has demanded a bit of reflection.

Granted, we live in a time of strange portents. Still, I wondered whether or not I was too unfair. Frum is now one of a small number of prominent Republican critics of the Trump presidency, and seems to be doing a fine job of it. Certainly I appreciate that. But does it suggest that I was unfair to judge him so harshly before, especially as it seems like only integrity can motivate his current defiance of partisanship?

I don’t know. I can’t really see much fault in my assessment of his November 2015 article. Re-reading my post, meanwhile, I find that I did characterize him as a consistent and sincere critic of party dogma, overall, and allowed that even the article in question began with an unusually thoughtful basic idea (for either major party).

So, perhaps I wasn’t entirely unfair; if it was still a bit unbalanced for my only mention of the man to be in so negative a context, I can correct that now. Though massively long, Frum’s recent essay “How to Build an Autocracy” is lucid, somewhat frightening and perhaps just a little bit inspiring.

From a practical standpoint, I was particularly interested by a conservative Republican’s version of the “resistance checklist” which has appeared so often from the left these past few months:

  • Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state.
  • Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected.
  • Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily.
  • Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well.
  • Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens.
  • Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets.
  • Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders.
  • Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

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