Recently at the Sonoma Valley Democrats board meeting, I learned a new word I had never heard before: astroturfing. It is defined as the “practice of creating the appearance of grassroots support for a position, as by hiring bloggers (or TV actors) to promote that position or establishing ostensibly independent advocacy groups.”
The White House spokesman had reported that recent protests around the country were “just astroturfing” and not real grassroots efforts. Excuse me. The people of Sonoma Valley, whether on the right or left, have always been community activists and champions of the disenfranchised. We even built a Field of Dreams. We are not paid bloggers or actors acting on behalf of alternative realities. We are grassroots activists.
In these times Democrats in Sonoma Valley are talking about what is true and possible for all Americans. We are real people protesting cuts to health care and human services, the appointment of a man to head the EPA who made his reputation suing to block the EPA’s major environmental rules, and the banning of people from Muslim countries (of the President’s choice) from entering the United States. We know that climate change is real, coal is not coming back, and that gerrymandering and voter suppression are threats to democracy. We are talking back.
We formed an action team and it’s called DRRT (Dirt) or the Democrats Rapid Response Team. We meet at the Barking Dog weekly for postcard writing to key players and organizing actions. We hold weekly phone banks. We are working with OFA, Organizing for Action, to make phone calls into Republican-held districts where the current Representatives won by only a slim margin in the last election. Where they refused to hold Town Hall meetings for their constituents, we called Democrats in their districts and asked them to contact their local offices to demand a meeting. The topic was the Affordable Care Act and many Representatives had refused to meet to answer questions about the loss of coverage and predicted cost increases. After the public input, many of them quickly decided that it was to their advantage to meet with voters.
Sonoma Democrats are also committed activists that are working to protect immigrants and their children from harassment or possible deportation. We support the Know Your Rights/Sonoma Prepared movement. Recognizing that it is important to influence county and state government, we endorsed the “It Won’t Happen Here Resolution” and the “Resolution of the County of Sonoma Commission on the Status of Women in Support of Safeguarding the Equal and Inalienable Rights and Inherent Dignity of All People.” They were presented to the Board of Supervisors earlier this month.
We have a team working on protecting the environment and we are in touch with key scientists, biologists, and environmental lawyers who live right here in Sonoma Valley. We have started collaborating with Transition Sonoma Valley to encourage jurisdictions throughout the county to “stop waiting for Godot” and to start implementing the local measures they identified last year in the Climate Action 2020 plan. April 22 is Earth Day and we hope to help plan an event to rival the turnout at the amazing March 11 grassroots protest in Sonoma: the Women’s March in downtown Sonoma to protest the trampling of women’s rights by this current government. Clean water, open spaces, and air we can breathe are essential to Sonoma Valley’s people, wildlife, and economic health. There is no astroturfing here!
And we believe in taking action to protect the future. The Sonoma Valley Democrats give scholarships each year to two Sonoma Valley High School graduates in memory of local activist Gerald Hill. The recipients are chosen by their teachers for solid academic performance and community service.
We are reaching out to the high school this year to have students join us at meetings. We now have over 90 people attending on the fourth Monday of each month at the Seven Flags Community meeting room, 100 International Drive, off Watmaugh towards the west. Students can see how grassroots organizing works and contribute their opinions. Meetings start at 6 p.m. with a potluck and then local speakers tackle important issues. The March 27 meeting will feature Michael Karath, who will speak at on “Media and the Message,” at 7 p.m. If you want to hear us talking back, join us. President Beth Hadley can be contacted at [email protected]
Linda Hale, Kenwood