• Total Recall: If you're a California resident, please vote by tomorrow

    For those out of the loop, there is a uniquely California event taking place tomorrow, September 14. It comes in the form of the fourth-ever gubernatorial recall election in our country's history. This latest and greatest American political shitshow is made possible by an archaic system fueled by our current political climate. The Republican minority, who as we know are barely holding on to the edge of the cliff of relevance, are once again demonstrating they will do anything to maintain power.

    I've lived in San Francisco for over a quarter-century. I remember Newsom's stint as mayor—the good (legalizing gay marriage) and the bad (an affair with his close friend and campaign manager's wife). One thing I can confidently say about our now governor is that he takes his job of serving and protecting people seriously. California has never been and never will be an easy state to govern. A pandemic, a drought and endless wildfires has certainly not made the last few years any easier. And Newsom, in my opinion, has done a fine job navigating through all of it.

    The leading candidate to replace him, who would do so with a small plurality of the votes, is a man named Larry Elder. He is a conservative talk show host who, for starters, doesn't believe in mask mandates, minimum wage, nor climate change. As a bonus, he is in favor of turning over Roe v Wade. It seems unfathomable that Elder, who seems more suited to be a frontrunner in, let's say, Texas or Florida, could win a state that Joe Biden carried by 29 points. But given how the recall process works here in the wondrous, beautiful, and fucked up state of California, Elder could become our next Governor simply by taking in 20 per cent of the votes.

    The potential fallout from the recall is not simply a "me problem" for Californians, it's an "us problem" as a nation. To illustrate: If Senator Diane Feinstein, who is 88 years old, were to die while a Republican Governor is in place, then a Republican Senator will be appointed. This would tip the chamber back to Mitch McConnell. This is not to say we should be duly impressed with what has been accomplished by Democrats thus far, but we have seen what happens when McConnell is at the helm.

    The good news is that recent polls and early mail-in ballots paint a much more positive picture for Newsom than we were seeing just a couple weeks ago. But we are not out of the woods yet and as we have painfully learned in the past, it is safe to assume that the right—mad, misled, and motivated—will show up tomorrow. And it is vital that Democrats turn out as well.

    If you truly feel that Newsom has hurt this state since he took office in 2019 and that there is a better person to run California, I am not trying to convince you otherwise. But I do ask that you pay democracy the respect it deserves by letting Newsom finish out his term. Then by all means, you can vote him out the old-fashioned way during next November's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election. 

    All California voters should have received a ballot in the mail. If you are voting by mail, the ballot must not be postmarked later than September 14. You can also use a ballot drop box or return it to a polling location. In person voting options are also available. You can find your polling place here.

    Illustration: Shepard Fairey

  • Georgia On My Mind

    Georgia has been on my mind a lot lately.  

    It feels a little strange to think so much about a state that I've only been to two or three times. Sure, some of my favorite records were made by artists from The Empire State of the South: Vic Chesnutt's 'West of Rome,' Otis Redding's 'The Soul Album,' 'In an Aeroplane Over the Sea' by Neutral Milk Hotel, and, duh, Outkast's 'Speaker Boxxx/The Love Below,' to name a few. 

    But my recent thoughts about Georgia have not been about music. Rather, like a good portion of our country, I've been thinking about the January runoff for the two seats that will determine which party controls the Senate. Although voting in this runoff is limited to the fine folks who reside in Georgia, it will impact the country in a big, big way. Which actually makes it America's runoff. 

    Georgia voting law requires a candidate to procure over 50% of the vote in order to be elected. That did not happen for either of Georgia's two Senate seats. Hence, we now have a runoff between Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, versus Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The Senate currently stands at 50 seats for Republicans and 48 for Democrats. If both Ossoff and Warnock win, each party then holds the same number and, in the case of a tie, the decisive vote is cast by our Vice President, Kamala Harris. This, in essence, gives Democrats control of the chamber and paves the way to Joe Biden to get a whole hell lot of done when he takes office.

    Both Republican candidates are straight out of central casting. They are white, business owners, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and are staunch Trump supporters. Perdue, who was elected in 2014, doesn't believe in climate change.  Loeffler, who was appointed just last year, has openly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. Both have publicly backed Trump's baseless claims of election interference and went as far to call for the resignation of Georgia's Secretary of State. Lovely.

    On the other end of the spectrum, John Ossoff is a 33-year-old filmmaker and journalist who is not a stranger to tight political races.  In 2017 he narrowly lost in a congressional special election. He supports women's rights and health care, financial assistance for families and individuals over large corporations, and would like to see the U.S. as a world leader in clean energy and sustainability. Raphael Warnock is black, a pastor, and a Georgia native (he grew up in public housing in Savannah). This is his first campaign but he recently led a statewide initiative to expand Medicaid as well as chaired the New Georgia Project. Criminal justice reform, expanding the affordable care act, and protecting voter's rights are central to his agenda. He is also pro-choice and a supporter of gay marriage.

    Historically, there is a drastic decline between voter turnout an initial election and a runoff. According to Fair Vote, in 2016  and  2018 nationwide runoffs, the average  decreases in turnout were greater than 45%. Given what's at stake, the expectation is that we will not see nearly as steep of dip. But we all can help keep the energy up, encourage people to return to the polls, and bring out some new voters. Below are a few ideas on how to do so.

    Use your platform:

    Spread information about the candidates and the election via your social media accounts. Amplify Ossoff and Warnock's messages. A simple or retweet helps. Share resources for voters such as deadlines (below) and polling place locations. As evidenced by the turnout on November 3, social media makes an impact. You can begin by sharing these dates:

    December 7 – Voter Registration Deadline. Voters can check their status here and register to vote here.

    December 14 – Early voting begins. Locations can be found here.

    January 5 – Election Day. Polls close at 7 pm EST.

    Get out the vote: 

    If you have friends or loved ones in Georgia, call or email early and often.  You can phone bank for Ossoff or Warnock, text or phone bank with Fair Fight, or write letters via Vote Forward.

    If you don't have time but have money:

    A mountain of cash will be spent on this race. Republicans, who were largely outraised nationally during the general election, have reached DefCon Four level of fundraising. Last week they dispatched George W Bush mastermind Karl Rove to lead the Georgia Battleground Fund.

    To counter, you can donate directly Jon Ossoff or Raphael Warnock. Another great option is donating to Fair Fight. Founded by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight was responsible for registering 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Given that Biden won the state by less than 13,000 votes, it doesn't take a math major to recognize the impact

    Fair Fight is the highest profile, but there are number of other Georgia based grassroots organizations doing important work on the ground:

    In addition to needing money, NGP has created an Amazon wish list for supplies for their efforts.

    America certainly doesn't feel like 50 united states much of the time these days.  What's happening in Georgia, however, demonstrates just how intertwined we remain. We are all, including myself, extremely burned out when it comes to politics. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Six more weeks of work and, fingers crossed, we can begin rolling back the damage caused by the Trump administration. Democratic control of the Senate would make a world of difference to, well, the world.

    art: Shepard Fairey

  • A US presidential election to-do list

    I am well aware that this is a vast generalization but, in my daily goings on, I encounter four types of democratic leaning voters:

    1. Despondent:  Those who feel nothing they do matters. Their voice and vote won't impact the election. It's all rigged, Trump has his hand on the scale, and no matter what we do he's going to win. This is exactly how Trump and his cronies want them, and you, to feel.
    2. We've Got This: People who, based on national polls and data provided on sites such as fivethirtyeight.com, believe that Biden has this in the bag. For anyone who falls into this category may I refer you to the 2016 election.
    3. Uninspired: Folks that say they aren't going to vote because they aren't 'inspired' by Joe Biden. Or maybe they'll vote but won't go out of their way to get Biden/Harris elected.
    4. Gung Ho: These people understand the stakes of the game. Even if they started as a Bernie or Warren supporter, they recognize that the election is now between two candidates. They are out there, or on-line, helping to get Biden and Harris into the White House.

    No matter which of above categories you fall under, if you want to see Donald Trump leave the oval office, whether by his own free will or in handcuffs, it's time to do everything in your power to get him the fuck out. The last four years we have been gaslighted, desensitized, and demoralized. Even if you don't hold a lot of faith in our  political system, the fastest and only remedy directly in front of us lies within the upcoming election. The future of our democracy, of the America that we've known our entire lives, hangs in the balance. Joe Biden very well may be our last guardrail.

    Polls have shown that it's not enough to be anti-Trump. A recent study conducted by Future Now, for example, found that positive information about Biden is nearly twice as effective at moving voter choice than negative messaging on Trump. I appreciate Instagram accounts like Settle For Biden but to give him the best chance of winning we need to embrace, embolden and promote Joe Biden. We have to shift the narrative, to emphasize the strengths of him and his campaign, and talk less about the treachery of Trump. 

    If you are feeling apathetic about Joe Biden here are few things that may hit home. He is running a very progressive campaign: Health care, women's rights, climate change, LGBQT issues, and student debt, are strong examples. He's voiced support for Black Lives Matter and any momentum on police reform has an infinitely greater chance of achieving real transformation under Biden. By his own admission Biden sees himself as a 'transition candidate.' His presidency will serve as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, one that is reflective of the changing demographics of America. He has already selected the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party as his running mate and will build a cabinet of progressive leaders, experts, and activists. He's also a man of character and integrity. Even Trump lapdog Lindsay Graham once proclaimed that "Joe Biden is as good a man as God ever created."

    So, what can we all do as the Election fast approaches?  I am by no means an expert on the matter but having worked at the intersection of music and politics for quite some time I do have a few ideas to share:  

    • First and foremost, check your voter registration to make sure it is up to date. You can do that at Vote.org.
    • If you plan to vote by mail and haven't requested an absentee ballot do so immediately. This can also be done at Vote.org.
    • Distribute accurate, vetted information about the candidates, the issues, deadlines, and polling locations. Disinformation is one of the cornerstone tactics of voter suppression. I know that posting on our own social media timeline can feel like screaming into the void but the more that accurate information can be reinforced is crucial. Websites likes Headcount.org, Vote 411 and Vote Save America are few sources that come to mind. Also, Fivethirtyeight.com built a handy voter resource page.
    • Get the message out about voting early. Even during a typical election year, there are issues with mail-in voting. As I'm sure you've read or heard, mail is now taking longer to reach its destination given the recent politicized changes within the Postal Service. The safest bet is to vote early and in person. However, if you are voting by mail send your ballot in as soon as possible to ensure it is delivered and counted. A new Instagram account, The Early Vote,  has posted simple and clear state-specific information and you can find the same, with a bit more detail, on Vote.org.
    • Call voters. Let them know when early voting begins in their state, if they are mailing in a ballot to do it early and make sure it is filled out correctly. If they plan to vote in person, confirm where the nearest polling station is located. If they are voting on Election Day, prepare them for long lines and suggest they bring something to read, a snack and a bottle of water. Grass Roots Dems and Swing Left have phone banking resources that are simple to utilize.
    • Write to voters. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! You are supporting the USPS while supplying information to potential voters in what, nowadays, is a novel fashion. Vote Forward is great for this and Swing Left gives you the tools to host a virtual letter writing party.
    • Volunteer to be a poll worker. As anyone who has voted at a polling station can attest, these are largely staffed by older people who are the most vulnerable to Covid. There is a valid concern that stations will be understaffed leading to even longer lines. If you are young and able-bodied you can play a crucial role in helping people to cast their ballot in 2020. Lebron James, along with a number of other professional athletes, recently launched an initiative to register poll workers called More Than a Vote. You can also sign up as part of Fair Fight's Power the Polls initiative.
    • Donate. If you don't have time but have the financial resources that is great too. Donate directly to Biden's campaign or the DNC or any of the organizations named above. Some others to consider: Black Voters Matter Fund, Future Now and Voting Rights Lab. There are also numerous organizations working on the ground in specific swing states or districts if you prefer to go that route.
    • Be prepared, and prepare others, that it is unlikely we will know the winner come election night due to the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. It's quite possible that Trump will try to declare victory that evening regardless, and begin a push to leave millions of votes left uncounted. Be vocal, ready to take to the streets to protest (with masks on!) and dig in for a long fight. This election just might make 2000 feel like child's play. We need to make sure each and every vote is counted. That, after all, is the cornerstone of our democracy.

    My intention is not to cause additional stress during an incredibly stressful period of time. My hope is to provide helpful information and, ultimately, motivate you to do what you can to win this election and get our country back on track. Whatever you can do, however you are able to contribute, even if it doesn't always feel this way, matters. We all have a voice, the ability to make an impact and ultimately, enact change. We need you, every single one of you. Now.

    Jordan Kurland is a founding partner of Brilliant Corners Artist Management. The company's roster includes Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service, Toro Y Moi, Best Coast, She & Him and Soccer Mommy. Most recently he quarterbacked, along with author Dave Eggers, the release of the digital compilation, Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy, which raised over $250k in 24 hours for Fair Fight and Color of Change. He is also a partner in live events producer Noise Pop Industries and served on the Entertainment Advisory Committee for Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    image: alteration of original photo by Tom Arthur (CC BY-SA 2.0)