Yes, this is very scary and we have real problems. However we can make progress if we keep working together and giving up is not an option. So here are some small things we can do.
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Hey everybody, it's Sally Hendrick. I'm back today for Shout Your Cause with Jessica Craven and I met Jessica on TikTok. Hey Jessica, how are you doing?
Hi, Sally, how are you?
I'm doing great. It's a beautiful day. It's a little chilly, but it is a beautiful day in Nashville. Where are you?
I'm in Los Angeles, California. I didn't realize you were in Nashville. That's awesome.
Yes, I am in Nashville. So we're a couple of hours apart in time, but I'm glad that we've been able to come together today because I have to say that for the last couple of years I've been following you and you seem to be more on top of what's going on everywhere in politics, not just California, but you are constantly stomping for someone or you are talking about issues or whatever that may be. Why don't you tell me a little bit about how you got into that? Okay.
Well, and first of all, just thank you for having me. It's a delight to be here. Well, I got into it in around late 2016 when a lot of people sort of got more politically active and I was feeling a little anxious about the direction things were going to say the least. And so I also started realizing that I was sort of politically engaged around presidential elections, but the rest of the time really didn't do that much and sort of assumed that everything would just run along the way it was supposed to, and suddenly realized that that obviously was not working because a lot of us were that way. And so I started writing a little newsletter that I sent out to just a couple of friends and family with ideas for phone calls to our representatives we could make or things we could do to move the needle in the direction we wanted it to go.
I worry a lot about climate change. That's been a big issue of mine for a long time. I had an uncle who was a climate scientist, so I've been thinking about it for 30 years. And so I just started taking these little actions and sharing them with friends. And that evolved a newsletter that I have that is called Chop Wood Carry Water. It goes out to 20,000 or so people across the country, and it just gives people about five minutes worth of ways that they can be politically engaged, little scripts for phone calls or little letters they can send. And then we also do some work on helping to elect lawmakers who have integrity and are going to try to help the average American person and not just line their own pockets.
Nice. I love that you have this newsletter, so you called it Chop Wood Carry Water.
Yep. It's on substack. Yep.
And how do people actually get to get on your newsletter
So they can go to Chop Wood, carry water daily actions.substack.com and it's there. Yeah, it's named after an old saying that my dad had that was basically forgetting through tough times. If you don't know what else to do, just chop wood carry water. And so it's just a little bit of when things feel like they're spiraling out of control, what can we do? How can we take a couple of actions to help our country go in the right direction?
Well, and sometimes we just need to have that feeling that we have a little bit of power, even if it's just one phone call to see the fact that you're emailing 20,000 people this information. That's really great. How long did it take you to get that many people to get on the newsletter?
Well, it's a funny thing actually. I thought that during the sort of Trump administration, I always imagined that when he got voted out, I would be done. And so I had a smaller readership at that time. And when it really blew up was actually after January 6th. And I think at that point people sort of realized, oh, okay, this is really, it's not going away. We have to stay involved. And it got maybe, I don't know if people got more scared or I'm not sure what happened. I got amplified by a couple of bigger political substack writers and there you go. And now it grows a lot because I think the crazier things are getting out there, the more people feel like, oh my God, I don't know what to do and I feel like I need to do something. And I also do a pep talk at the beginning of every email. And I think that's become an important part of it as well, is just sort of like, Hey, we're all here and we're all together again and it's going to be okay, even though I don't necessarily always feel like it's going to be okay. But I do think we've got a much better shot at that if we're all working on things together.
Well, and people respond better to positive messaging anyway. They tend to take better action than if the message is negative or poorly in some way.
Yeah, I mean, there's a million places online or in the news or on social media where you can go and have people tell you we're screwed. There's many, many purveyors of negativity. And I sort of feel like also needed, perhaps more needed, our voices saying, yes, this is very, very challenging. And yes, this is very scary and we have real problems. However we can make progress if we keep working together and giving up is not an option. So here are some small things we can do. And also reminding people of how those things do work. A very popular part of my newsletter now is my Sunday newsletter where I send a roundup of all of the good news from the week before, and I put a little axe emoji next to every item that came about because of the hard work of people like you and me or because of a lawmaker that we helped elect. And so then people can really see this visual example of all those good things that happened because people like me helped. And the little actions that we took, sometimes a lawmaker will get elected by a single vote, and it can change the whole trajectory of a way a city or a state goes, or a country.
Well, look at Jess's mother runner who ran in Virginia and lost by less than 700 votes.
That was a heartbreaker. That was a heartbreaker, and that was a tough district. And the great news is next time she comes back and she tries again, she'll have more name recognition and she's more likely to win.
Yeah. And she said she's going to again, so that's amazing. Yeah,
Amazing's, what it's all about. That's amazing. I'm so glad. So many of those, especially state level or county level or municipal level, those elections so often come down to 5, 10, 1 200 votes, tiny numbers that are so within the margin of effort. It's just we need more volunteers always.
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So what are your favorite news sources when it comes to finding the hot button topics to be telling people about?
Well, I get most of my news. I do subscribe to a couple of the mainstream media, so I will get news from Washington Post from the New York Times, which I'm not as crazy about these days from The Guardian, which I do like a great deal. And then there's a bunch of other magazines that will occasionally, Atlantic does some really good coverage, rolling Stone occasionally. Then I read a lot of newsletters. I read some Substack newsletters, Robert Hubble, j Co, Heather Cox Richardson, I read. Semaphore now has a few daily newsletters that are great punchbowl. Sometimes it's actually a lot of the job is reading. I read a lot and longer form articles in the New Yorker or Mother Jones. I will read almost any publication that is covering issues that I'm concerned about, which is lots of them. And then I a lot, I meet with a lot of different organizations and groups, and so sometimes we have mailing lists. We have a progressive mobilization call that meets twice a week, and I get press releases and talking points from various groups, and sometimes I'll use those to make a TikTok. So I read constantly. I actually don't have a lot of time, ironically, to watch TikTok, so I don't watch a ton of TikTok reading. I feel it's really important to get this stuff being well-informed is really important.
It is really important, but it does seem like it's overwhelming if you're having to read all the time, especially for someone who maybe that's not their best way of consuming information. Maybe they do want this more of a brief, a briefing, something like you could give out. What are some of the things that you think each of us should be aware about to stay alert?
Well, I think, well, it's a hard question to answer in a really specific way. I mean, if you're more of a visual person, there are great people doing Jessica Yellen of News, not Noise is doing great work. I always love V from Under the Desk News and Tonno Latino does great work, especially sort of focused on the Latinx community. There's so many others. Like I said, I don't watch a huge amount of video content, but what I look for are people who have sources who will tell you their sources, who are careful with facts, not using a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole, who are not trying to just scare you. I find that it's very easy to get clicks when you make tiktoks that are scary or upsetting or angering, but I don't consider that my job. My job is to inform and almost always to give you something you can do about it, because otherwise we're just left with a puddle of anxiety.
But I think that right now we have a real obligation. We have sort of twin emergencies at the moment. We've got, well, at least twin if not Triplett or quadruple. We have a lot of emergencies and they're all pretty serious. We have a very serious emergency in our democracy right now. And while we may know it, a lot of people don't. So it is important to let people know, Hey, the elections next year are not just a horse race. If one of the candidates wins, we're going to lose our democracy. And that's not an exaggeration. That's fact based on what he is saying. So it's really important that we pay attention because if we don't vote next year, we may never get to vote again. So that's one thing. And then we have the climate crisis, which is we all understand is happening. And so even just talking about that is important.
I was actually just listening to a TED Talk where they were saying that one of the biggest obstacles we have to climate progress is just that people don't talk about it enough. So everybody imagines that other people aren't as worried about it as they are, but in fact, almost all Americans are very worried about it. So when we start talking about it, there becomes this consensus to sort of do more. So we've got that, we've got the democracy thing, we've got the gun violence thing, which emergency, and then there's all these other, I mean, we've got wars overseas and the crisis of fascism. So I say all of that just to say that it's not a really feasible time to sit on the sidelines and say, oh, politics doesn't affect me, so I'm going to check out. Because if we all check out, politics is going to affect all of us in ways that we really, really are not going to, particularly if we're L-G-B-T-Q or in any marginalized community, or if we want to read the books we want to read, if we don't want to get shot on the street, if we want to be able to vote and protest and say what we want and criticize our lawmakers if we want to have a fair, decent immigration system.
All of those things are on the line. Just looking at Trump's immigration policy proposals alone, it's really scary. We have a very messed up immigration system, but deporting tens of millions of people who have lived in this country for years and decades and even their own lives is really a frightening approach. So anyway, all of that is to say no one has to do everything, but I think we all really need to consider doing a little something, even if that's just registering for voting, if we haven't registered before or showing up to a town hall with our Congress member or doing some tiny little thing just to feel like we're part of the solution so that we are not part of the problem. Because really, that's when fascism takes root, right? And we just saw it in the Netherlands. The guy who won is basically a fascist, and he won mostly because of low turnout. He won mostly because very few people turned out to vote. That is the danger, apathy, fear, anxiety, not knowing what to do and then doing nothing and letting bad things take root.
I was about to say apathy is one of our biggest enemies in this. People just sit off to the sidelines and don't engage in any way, shape, or form, and it's hard enough just to get people to register to vote, but then to get the registered voters to show up as well as the polls, which usually happens the best around presidential time, which would be, I can't believe it's already next year.
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Speaking of that, you are a delegate in California, and I don't know anything about that. Why don't you tell us what that means?
So yeah, I am not sure I always fully understand myself, but I'm a delegate to the California Democratic Party. I ran back in 2020. You actually are on the ballot, the same ballot that the presidential primary candidates were on. I was on that ballot. I don't understand fully exactly why that is how it works, but that's how it works here. And it basically means there's a certain number of delegates from every district. We do it by assembly districts here. It's just that's the way they group them. And we vote on policy in the Democratic Party. What I first joined the party I applied for and became a member of the platform committee. I didn't even really know what that was, but we sort of wrote the platform for the party. So here's how the party feels about climate change. Here's what the party's position is on abortion rights.
And in a small kind of way, you're shaping not just the party's platform, but then the California Democratic Party because it's big, often models, platforms for the rest of the country. So what it's been a great lesson in is being a tiny, tiny, tiny part of a big process. So I'm not the president, I'm not a congress member. Obviously, none of us are who are delegates, but when many hundreds of us get together and debate battle things out and have resolutions and have committees, we form a sort of direction that the party is trying to go in. We disagree on lots of things. Not everybody likes the direction of the party, but we sort of argue and we get it going. And then that in turn affects the elected representatives in California, hopefully. And that in turn affects American politics. So again, I think we have all been, so, at least for me, I'll speak for myself, I was so focused on the presidency before Trump got elected.
I am embarrassed to admit I didn't know who my Congress member was. I maybe knew who my senators were, but that's it. City council, forget it, supervisor, nothing local. And this whole last seven years has been a real education in all of it matters, not just who my president is, not just who my senator is, who my congress member is, who my county supervisor is, who my city council member is, matters enormously. Who the neighbor? School boards. School boards. Oh my God, forget it. I mean school boards more than almost anything. And we've got great organizations now run for something, which is just doing amazing work running young candidates only for these down ballot. We call them down ballot races, school boards, city council, and they're really making a huge difference. But I realized I needed to contribute more. So I ran as a delegate.
I also ran to be PTA president at my kids' public school. I was like, well, anywhere we can help. It's like all of us need to step into a leadership position a little bit more than we maybe are comfortable with, but that doesn't always mean we're president of stuff. It just means we step up to serve and kind of go where there's a slot and where we fit. And so that's what being a delegate looks like for me. I do love it. It's great. It's a lot of sausage making. Here's how the sausage is made.
So were you elected to be a
Delegate? Yeah. Yeah. So you run on in our, let's see, I'm trying to think how many in our assembly district. I think there are 13 male identifying and 13 non-male identifying delegates in each district. And if I'm wrong, I'm embarrassed about that, but that's about right. So you run on a slate, so you don't have to run on a slate, but you do. So you can help each other get elected and also, so you can just hand people a piece of paper with a list of people to vote for. It's so many names, but yeah, I was running against, I don't know, there were probably 30 people. Maybe it's 13 seats in total. Maybe it's 14. Anyway, I'm sorry. I don't know, and I should, but so there was a group of maybe 30 people running for a smaller pool of seats, and I won one of those seats, and I'll be running again in 2024. So I'm in the process.
Excellent. Well, good luck with that.
Yeah, thank you. I hope
You talk more about that on TikTok as well, because I think tooting your own horn might be necessary from time to time.
Well, I mean, I mostly just want people to, to first of all, not give up hope. That's my biggest objective, is keeping people from just giving up and helping them feel that they've got some power and that their voice matters, their opinion matters, their vote matters, and that their participation in democracy matters because it does. It's everything.
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If there was one thing to boil it down to, what would be your hope of what comes of the work that you're doing, the work that everybody's doing these days? What is your biggest hope?
Well, at this point, I think my biggest hope is to save American democracy, which I think is about a 50 50 shot right now. So that is frightening. I have an L-G-B-T-Q teenager, so for me, there's a real, I mean, and whatever, we all have our reasons why we don't want to lose our democracy, but I really don't want to live in an authoritarian state where kids like mine are abused. So I want to say American democracy, I think people thrive in a democracy more than they do in an autocracy, needless to say. And that America was founded on the idea of freedom, although not perfect, but we could get there eventually. So I think right now, if we still have a democracy in two years, three years, I will feel like I did the big part of my job, because as long as we have a democracy, we can keep fixing things.
Once we lose it, we really can't, then we're really in a bind. So I guess it sounds a little much to say, but maybe just like if we save democracy, I will feel that I've accomplished something. And also on a smaller scale, I would love to see progress, more progress on gun violence. I would love to see kids no longer afraid to go to school just as a mom. That is something I really would like to see. Climate action, because again, it's just existential. We can agree, you can agree or not agree, but we all know it's happening and it's going to get worse. And L-G-B-T-Q rights, there's so many things. I mean, there's a million things, but first and foremost, democracy. We can't work on any of the rest. If we lose it,
And if we don't have a voice in it, how can we make that change?
Yes. Yeah. And we're getting close. I mean, I don't mean to be dire, but the Supreme Court has been chipping away at voting rights for a decade or two now, and they're chipping away at it even more this year. And it's really going to be touch and go. I know we can do it, but it's just going to require people choosing to pay attention instead of burying their heads in the sand. My job is to pull people's heads out of the sand and then give them something to do.
Well, hopefully we can amplify your message to the people who listen to this podcast today too.
Yeah, thank you. And it's really, I believe that even if you are listening to this and you're like a Republican, I really think that most of the stuff that we want, and we believe in crosses party lines. Nobody likes giant corporations running the country and telling politicians what to do. I don't care what party you are. I know nobody likes that. Nobody wants their kids shot at school. Everybody wants to be able to love who they love and start a family when they want to start a family. Nobody wants their government in their doctor's office. Nobody wants banned books. These things that we, I think by and large agree on, nobody thinks billionaires should be getting away with paying far less taxes than the rest of us proportionately. I think that we agree on more than we disagree on, and that the forces that are really evil are very invested in keeping us divided. So I really feel strongly also, we could unify if we all chose to focus on our similarities instead of our differences, and we should, because our division is only hurting the people we hate the most, and I will stop with that.
Exactly. Well, thank you very much for everything that you do. I see you all the time on TikTok. And what is your at symbol on TikTok?
Oh, it's at Jess Craven 1 0 1, so J-E-S-S-C-R-A-V-E-N 1 0 1.
Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you, Jessica. I really appreciate the time that you've spent with me today, and I look forward to hearing this out there on the waves.
Oh, thank you, Sally. You've asked such wonderful questions in a very thoughtful way, and I really appreciate that. It's been a pleasure, and I would be happy to come back anytime. Awesome.
All right. Thanks a lot.
Thank you for listening today. My name is Sally Hendrick. Be sure to visit our website for show notes and more information on how you can inspire others. If you would like to contribute content to our magazine, please apply on our website at shoutyourcause.com.