The Day After: And Tomorrow

What the U.S. Elections Mean For Our Work

Lindsey Allen headshot By Lindsey Allen

Yesterday’s election gave many of us mixed feelings as we try to assess what actually happened and how it’s going to play out in the coming years.

The political climate has become so divisive and contentious across so many different factors, that it can become hard to know where to focus. Climate protection, Indigenous rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, voter engagement and voter suppression were all in play yesterday — with mixed results in almost every arena.

But one way to keep perspective is to remember that — aside from being a fundamental right — voting is a core tool in the fight for people and planet. But it is just one tool in our toolbox.

At Rainforest Action Network, our driving vision is of “a world where the rights and dignity of all communities are respected.” And one of our core values is to celebrate People Power, meaning that people organized for action drive the success in our campaigns and in our organization. And looking at the early numbers of voter turnout during yesterday’s midterm elections, it’s safe to say that people are engaged.

But we also know that organizing power for positive social change takes more than voting. Voting creates the environment in which we can organize — and it sets the stage for future progress. So while we should all be encouraged by the growing commitment to exercise this fundamental right, we should also be aware and alert to the efforts to curtail this right. We are seeing the ugly effects of anti-Black Jim Crow tactics: long voting lines, reduced or remotely located polling places, the aggressive scrubbing of voter rolls, and openly onerous and discriminatory voter suppression efforts in many regions (which unfortunately have arisen from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act five years ago). In short, we should not be making it harder and harder for people to vote. These actions do not represent the principles of democracy. In fact, they embody the principles of white supremacy — and they must end.

Voting is our right. Equal representation is our right. Free speech is our right. And protest is our right.

That’s why we at Rainforest Action Network are confident going forward — because we know that together, we are doing the work that is necessary to bring about the change we need.

Yesterday, we saw the seeds of hope and inspiration emerge. We saw people power at its best, with the highest voter turnout for a midterm election. We saw the re-enfranchisement of more than a million voters in Florida. We saw record-making candidates better reflect the true diversity of America. And we saw the influence of big oil money directly challenged in the face of urgent climate change demands.

As the late activist and writer from Detroit, Grace Lee Boggs put it: “You don’t choose the times you live in, but you do choose who you want to be.” And we have a plan that has not changed.

1) Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
Yesterday we saw Big Oil continue to pour millions into elections to foil efforts to stop drilling in California, to stop fracking in Colorado, and stop a real carbon tax in Washington state. That is why we will continue to challenge corporate power, follow the money and stop banks like JPMorgan Chase from financing the fossil fuel sector — and the environmental and human rights impacts that come from such reckless investing.

2) Keep Forests Standing
We will continue to follow the money and target multinational corporations and banks responsible for rainforest destruction. We will continue to fight for human and labor rights and against land grabbing associated with deforestation. And we will need your help to pressure companies like PepsiCo to get Conflict Palm Oil out of their supply chains.

3) Defend Indigenous and Human Rights
We will continue to stand with Indigenous communities who are protecting water, forests, ecosystems, and life in North America, South America, Southeast Asia and around the globe to secure their rights and sovereignty. We continue to see the power of Indigenous leadership gaining traction in these fights despite the legacy of colonialism and continued voter suppression.

This is why we campaign.
This is why we do the work we do.
This is why we follow the money and who is bankrolling —and profiting from — climate and forest destruction.

Tomorrow, we continue the fight. I hope you’ll join us.

Lindsey Allen
Executive Director
Rainforest Action Network