Community organizers have long known that “It is better to have a thousand people talk to one person than to have one person talk to a thousand.” The conversations each of us have, one on one, with family, friends, and neighbors make a difference.
In the fall of 2020, I began to knock on doors in my neighborhood in Northeast Bozeman to talk to people–not to find out which top-of-the-ticket candidate they support but to ask which issues matter to them and to discuss how local government is critical to these issues. I found that these conversations took us past the typical partisan divide and helped us focus on what we share–our common interest.
I found that many of my neighbors were unaware that Montana’s Medicaid program, which provides healthcare to one in ten Montanans, was on the chopping block in the 2019 Montana legislature. (It squeaked through narrowly that year.)
I found that many people were concerned about taxation–and especially rising property taxes–but had not considered the options we have to make taxation fairer. (This past spring, Gianforte and the Republican majority lowered taxes for the wealthy. Meanwhile, property taxes–and housing costs for all–continue to rise.)
So many of us are afraid to talk about politics–we are used to considering politics to be what divides us. But what if–in the end–politics is and can be what brings us together? I believe there are solutions to the urgent problems of our day–rising housing costs, an overburdened health-care system, income inequality, the undeniable climate crisis.
In 2021, the Gallatin Democrats have been reaching out to neighbors in myriad ways. We phone-banked, connected on social media, and recruited 8 new community leaders, 3 of them in the most Republican districts in Gallatin County. Over the summer, we held 5 trainings that prepared volunteers to knock on doors and engage their neighbors in conversations that matter. From October through December we knocked on 2000+ doors. As a result of this outreach, we recruited a fantastic candidate for House District 69 (Manhattan, Churchill, and Three Forks)–local law enforcement officer Rocky Hamilton. Well known and well respected in his community, Rocky is invested in talking across the divide to all the people he lives and works with. He will present a strong challenge to Jennifer Carlson, the radical Republican who carried House Bill 702 (now Montana law, it prohibits private businesses from requiring vaccinations).
The brilliant new movie Don’t Look Up describes a society that is not able to face a preventable disaster. A meteor is headed to Earth. There is the technology, the resources, the means to stop it, but that society fails to do it. There is even a public media campaign to convince people to pay no attention to the talk of the meteor. Yet the meteor is literally visible in the sky.
It is vital that we all do look up. There are solutions. Let’s get out and talk to each other about what they are. I hope you will join me and my fellow Gallatin Democrats in this work. Let’s get out there and talk to one other person. Let’s look up and look out–for each other, for the planet. We are greater than fear.