A common refrain from varying political perspectives is how estranged and hostile we have become towards people on the “opposite side of the aisle” in America.  The complaint is that we can’t even talk to, much less respect, people on the other side of a political chasm.  Our civic world has become uncivil, and many feel there is nothing we can do about it.

In late 2016, a group of New Orleans women came together to talk about what we might do to counter this rush towards antipathy.  We formed NOW, LOVE and decided that we would unite around common values rather than political parties or stances on particular issues.  We issued an open invitation to join; expanded our group and held meetings.  Our members are black, white, progressive, centrist, seasoned and brand-new activists who are united around 7 values: justice, integrity, inclusion, honesty, anti-racism, respect and equity.

For the last three-and-a-half years, we have met regularly, sponsored speakers, held trainings and forums, and supported non-profits in our community.  Our goals are to learn together about critical issues; connect with other women and groups working in our communities; support organizations doing good work; act to amplify the voices of impacted residents around key issues; and to inspire each other to stay engaged in this work of building a more just and civil society.

We have taken to the streets and projected our values on buildings around the city.  We did this ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and we did it in anticipation of the upcoming November 3rd elections. Our goal is to get people to think about their values rather than their political parties. 

At the bottom of the projections, we invited people to visit our website. We’ve compiled information about where and when you can vote and breakdowns of the amendments in plain English and Spanish. You can also find voter guides by local and national organizations and links to other websites with information about fair elections and voting. At any rate, the message is clear: Vote Your Values.  

In the 2016 general election, nearly 33 per cent of Louisiana residents did not vote. We can see the impact of voter turnout when we look at the 2016 presidential election results. Michigan’s all-powerful Electoral College results were decided by 0.3% of the popular vote. In New Hampshire, approximately 2,700 votes determined their Electoral College votes.   

There are many reasons why people do not vote.  Some are systemic, like limited polling locations or exceptionally long lines at the polls. Some are personal, like not knowing enough about the candidates or realizing that every vote counts. NOW, LOVE aims to turn these narratives around by encouraging everyone to vote according to their values.  

NOW, LOVE assumes that the majority of Americans hold justice, equity, honesty, respect, inclusion, anti-racism, and integrity as core values.  And we assume that the majority of Americans would like to see our elected representatives turn the current state of civil unrest into a state of civility, with a civic-minded society that honors the values of democracy. From these assumptions flow the belief that we can turn things around if we get every voter out to the polls.

In the last few months, the media has covered all of the tactics that are being used to suppress the vote. This suppression is targeted and designed to undermine our democracy.  The 585 women of NOW, LOVE are working to counter these actions and encourage voting by all eligible voters in our city.

We support local and national groups who are working every day to ensure safe and fair elections. Like these organizations, NOW, LOVE is working steadily to ensure the safety of your vote. You don’t have to commit to the same, but you can take at least one critical step: get out and VOTE YOUR VALUES.  Election day is on November 3rd. Don’t wake up the next day and wish you had done more to protect our democracy.

About the author: Linda Usdin is a Doctor of Philosophy and a co-founder of NOW, LOVE. NOW, LOVE supports Power Coalition, Together New Orleans, Election Protection, Rock the Vote, Engaging New Voters and Voices and other local and national organizations that  are working every day to ensure safe and fair elections.

The Opinion section is a community forum. Views expressed are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To propose an idea for a column, contact Opinion Editor Amy Stelly at astelly@thelensnola.org.