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Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: Is Being Political Worth The Backlash?

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | October 9, 2018 |

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | October 9, 2018 |

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Look, we’ve faced some disheartening setbacks recently (and for the two years prior, if I’m being honest). But that’s no reason to give up — it’s a reason to fight harder. And to vote! And to help others vote! Which one longtime reader is planning to do… though she has a few concerns. Or rather, her husband does. Which is why she’s coming to us for help…

[Reminder: Let us feed you the right things to say to your spouse whenever you wanna do something potentially dangerous! Just send us your questions at [email protected] and we’ll Cyrano the holy Bergerac outta them!]

This week we’re talking political backlash, and it ain’t pretty:

I live in Arizona and I want to get more politically active, especially with the terrible shenanigans that happen every day. I want to try and mobilize the Hispanic community that lives around me to vote so we can get Sinema in office and try to stop the horrible nightmare that is my waking life. Still trying to determine exactly how, but that brings me to my question.

However, my husband is extremely nervous. He is seeing the backlash against people who put themselves out there publicly (protestors, politicians, #metoo victims, etc.) and he is terrified that if I try to do something political, I may risk our safety, security, and privacy. “I don’t want some psychopath getting mad at you and shooting you or SWAT-ing our house, or starting an online smear campaign. I just don’t want you or our family to get hurt.”

I completely understand where he’s coming from. Hell, Dr. Ford had to move due to the backlash against her. He has a point. But I feel like I need to do something to help the blue wave that is hopefully coming.

Is there a happy medium here? Or is this seemingly unending callous personal backlash against those who oppose you just ‘the cost of doing business’ nowadays?

First off, I’d say that whatever you decide to do, your husband does need to be comfortable with it. If the worst happens and you are targeted somehow, that’s his home and life (and wife!) impacted as well. So the fact that you are discussing these things is great! Personally, I also have a “concerned” spouse (read: borderline paranoid), and we even discussed the potential fallout of me doing this whole “online writing” thing on a few different occasions. He’s always supportive, but also raises valid concerns. The way I look at it is: if you’re gonna take a calculated risk, it’s best to know just what you’re calculating. And getting your partner’s perspective is an important part of that equation.

The political landscape is not a pretty place, and backlash is a sad reality for many people who put themselves out there. Late last month Vermont’s only black female state representative, Kiah Morris, resigned mid-term because of racial harassment that included social media hate, vandalism, and home invasion — a lot of which was linked to Neo-Nazis. IN (94% white) VERMONT! She has a young son, and the risks of continuing her position were too great, understandably. That said, realistically I don’t know that the kinds of activities you’re contemplating are necessarily the sort that will put a huge target on your back. There’s a difference between, say, running for office or coming forward with an accusation of sexual assault — actions that put your name on ballots or in the news — and volunteering with large groups of people doing helpful but fairly innocuous work. There’s also a difference in how well you’re protected by your gender/race/class/neighborhood, and those are things to consider that only you can determine. Staying safe is serious. I think your first step is to identify the actions that would be feasible for you to take part in locally, and ask other people who are doing that work if they have ever experienced harassment. Then you can give your husband actual first-hand accounts relating to your probable safety.

If you’re wondering where to start, Genevieve recommends talking to Kyrsten Sinema’s campaign and ask what help they need (you can sign up to volunteer here). No need to reinvent the wheel — they have the resources to point you in the right direction where you can help. And volunteering at a phone bank can be a nice, safe alternative to in-person work (especially if you use a fake name while calling). But if working directly with a campaign seems iffy, you can try something like voter registration where you’ll be registering people regardless of who they plan to vote for (and if anyone wants to start an argument about politics, you can always remind them that you’re registering anyone and everyone that needs it). Voter suppression has been a long-running issue in Arizona, and in August the ACLU even filed a federal lawsuit against Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan for violating the National Voter Registration Act and not updating voter addresses, which could potentially disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. So that may be a good area to focus your efforts.

Genevieve also mentioned seeing if you can become a poll worker, which is a super hands-on way to make sure voting goes smoothly but also isn’t tied to any campaign. Or hell, you can stay within your immediate community and organize car pools to voting sites, or help people register to vote online. And if all else fails, there’s always one thing you can do that is always helpful:


DONATE. Give money to the campaigns you believe in. Even if you can’t be on the front lines, you can still help them spread the word with your funding. Whatever you can spare can make a difference. It’s like tourism: open your wallet and spend that shit!

Tori Preston is the managing editor of Pajiba. She tweets here. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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