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5 Ways to Get Unstuck: A small act now can lead to a new direction in January

Shauna Bona is a Better Utah board member.

My friend LaVonne recently created a Facebook meme highlighting the fact that our next presidential inauguration day is a palindrome: 1/20/21. What could it portend?

Most of the comments that followed saw the palindrome as a positive sign—an omen of good change. My fear is that it means the election could go either way—which means we must work even harder between now and election day to ensure a decisive end to the backward reign of President Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, this critical need for action comes at a time when many of us feel paralyzed by the monumental challenges of this moment. We flip through the bluster of news and scroll through the dismal blur of social media and wonder: What can one person in a red state do in the face of systemic racism, global pandemic, and climate change? What can one person do when the field of debate is mine-pocked and volatile, and when huge swaths of our populace can’t even agree on facts?

The answer to these questions is this: what we can. Not what must be done. Not what we would do, if only. What we can.

Each person’s “can do” list will vary, but here are some small actions that could add up to big change:

1.      Speak the truth about vote-by-mail. As one of five states that had general mail-in voting before the pandemic, Utah knows first-hand that voting by mail is convenient, safe, and secure. We are in a unique position to cut through the invective about voter fraud (which is fraudulent in itself) and encourage friends in other states to support vote-by-mail.

2.      Send some cash to a change candidate. One way to stop the Trump administration’s devastating rollback of environmental, anti-racist, and health protections is to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell by taking away his majority in the Senate. We can do our part by supporting new and better voices—not just in Washington but also in Utah’s statehouse. Find a candidate you love and send them some love.

3.      Call for debates now. After refusing to debate gubernatorial rival Chris Peterson last week, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox indicated that it’s too early in the election cycle for Utahns to be checking in on election issues. If you disagree, let him know. And while you’re at it, call on all your federal, state, and municipal candidates to accept every reasonable debate request and respond to every voter information survey. If they haven’t, ask why.

4.       Amend the Utah Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude as forms of criminal punishment. Vote “yes” on the amendment this fall, but more importantly, talk to friends and family now about the importance of their “yes” vote in November. If ending slavery isn’t a reason to show up and vote in 2020, I don’t know what is.

5.      Ask your city or county council member or district attorney where they stand on policing practices. While the Black Lives Matter movement is playing out on a national stage, many policing decisions take place locally—in council chambers or, in much of Salt Lake County, at board meetings of the Unified Police Department. Attend a meeting. Let officials know you’re watching. Let them know you vote.

Many polls predict a “Return of the Jedi” moment for all of us this fall. While I hope that prediction proves true, I can’t forget that palindrome: 1-20-21. This could go either way. Let’s shake off our feelings of overwhelm and act now—in whatever large and small ways we can—to make sure it goes the people’s way.

Shauna Bona is a Better Utah board member.

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