Letters to Schumer is a series in which we’re publishing a collection of Natalie Holme Elsberg’s letters sent to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Find the previous letter here.
I started writing letters to Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, (and arguably most senior Democrat), shortly after I discovered Resistbot. I sit in a darkened room with my little ones as they fall asleep after story time. As I scroll through the news of the day, every story brings a new outrage. Schumer voted to confirm Trump appointments? Sean Spicer said what? Trump did what? A Muslim Ban – are you kidding me? Alternative facts? #ShePersisted!? The State Department is advertising Trump’s properties? Open Kleptocracy?! We need to break up airline monopolies! Another person was shot for being black while driving!? How do we have money for a huge bomb to drop on Syria and none for healthcare and education?! The DNC lawyer said THAT?! And so on…
Still stung by the DNC’s conduct during the primary election and angry with the Clinton campaign for its hubris and mismanagement for losing against an even worse candidate than Clinton, I fired off a couple of text paragraphs. Resistbot turned it into a letter and faxed it off to Washington D.C. Much more cathartic than haranguing my neighbors, children, family, dinner companions, and fellow dog-walkers and strangers with my daily outrage! And *maybe* more effective. I mean, I had plenty of reasons to be mad at former President Obama — including the Wall Street Bailout, Standing Rock, the expanded NSA powers, deportations and bombing seven (!) Muslim-majority countries as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but overall I believed in his integrity and that somehow he was trying his best to do his best, even when I disagreed with him, but I wasn’t tempted to yell at him every darn day. Sometimes I can’t resist SHOUTING at Senator Schumer IN ALL CAPS, because …. WTF CHUCK?! I think of it as putting Senator Chuckie on notice. Hey, at least he won’t be able to say: “Nobody told me!”
On the theory (and considerable evidence from this last slow-motion-train-wreck of an election cycle) that our elected Democratic Party representatives may not actually have a clue, I have been employing my texting thumbs to complain, cajole, and educate them on their mistakes and also on what progressive policy looks like. (Resistbot will send your letter to all your Senators and Congresspeople if you ask it to.) On their federal responsibilities, and their duty to coordinate and empower state and local government. The right wing and Tea Party activists together with ALEC successfully took over legislation and policy at the state and local level while the Democratic Party was asleep at the wheel. A group of us got together and formed LEAP, which is putting together progressive model legislation for the state and local level — watch this space.
So consider these templates and examples — you can do it too. Feel free to copy, paste, send, call, fax or scribble a postcard. Holding our reps accountable is an important part of the renaissance in democratic engagement we see going on in town halls and protests across the nation. Let’s push them in a progressive direction and promote the progressive narrative. It takes 5-10 minutes a day… and it’s better therapy than yelling at the Rachel Maddow Show.
Senator Charles E. Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Schumer,
Please support the No Money Bail Act of 2017, a bail reform bill that seeks to eliminate the use of money bail. No one should be held in jail solely because of the inability to pay bail. More than 2.3 million people are incarcerated in America, of which 450,000 individuals have never been convicted of a crime and are often detained because they cannot afford to pay bail. The No Money Bail Act ends the money bail system because America should not be a country where freedom is based on income.
Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) has had the moral clarity and organizational wherewithal to introduce this bill. Frankly, I am disappointed that it was not introduced by a New York Democrat.
As Representative Lieu stated: “We cannot be a nation that believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, yet incarcerates over 450,000 Americans who have not been convicted of any crime. Throughout the United States, those with money can buy their freedom while poor defendants languish behind bars awaiting trial. The fact that many Americans decide to plead guilty purely to get out of jail because they cannot afford bail is intolerable. Justice should not be bought and paid for in the United States. We are a much better nation than that.”
Nearly 80% of women in jail are mothers. With Mother’s Day coming up soon, please vocally and unequivocally support the No Money Bail Act. Please send an unequivocal message to these mothers – most of whom have been detained on minor charges, that in future they will be able to spend Mother’s Day with their families, regardless of their economic status.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center stated: “The Southern Poverty Law Center supports this important federal reform effort to reform our troubled cash bail bond system. This current system, active in most states, ignores factors such as ties to the community and flight risk, and instead sets an arbitrary dollar amount people must pay to get out. People must literally buy their freedom, even though they have not been convicted of anything. When the poor cannot do this, they languish in jail for often months or years until their trials. The No More Money Bail Act of 2016 seeks to end this harmful practice and restore economic fairness to our justice system.”
Please stand with citizens in enforcing their right to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, and help stop this unjust, arbitrary and disgraceful incarceration of impoverished Americans.
Natalie Holme Elsberg
Find the previous letter here.