Every senior has a long personal view of U.S. history, but nearly all would agree that this presidential election will be the most important ballot they cast in their lives. The prospect of Donald Trump in the White House for four more years has ratcheted up emotions.

“The threat to our Constitution, to our institutions, and to our social norms is mind boggling,” said Dennis Cox of the CFT Council of Retired Members.

“All elections give us a chance to change the country,” said Susan Morgan of the San Diego Guild Retiree Chapter. “This one is a chance to change the world.”

The CRM has mapped out an electoral campaign with three basic objectives: inform retirees about key legislative issues, coordinate letter-writing and other activities, and respond to unfolding events with concrete political analysis.

“If people aren’t organized and coordinated, their power isn’t as effective,” said Cox, the CRM’s Southern Vice President.

The mobilization embraces local and national politics, from reaching out to Californians on a ballot full of propositions, to writing letters to “dormant” Democratic voters in Texas, Florida and other swing states.

“Retirees are almost desperate to do something, and we found activities that we think are effective,” Morgan said. “After all, this might be the most important political activity of our lives.”

Retirees work to pass Prop 15

CFT’s top statewide priority is Proposition 15, the Schools and Communities First ballot measure to close loopholes that have allowed corporations and developers to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes.

The San Diego chapter co-sponsored a Zoom discussion about Prop 15 with the League of Women Voters. The League endorsed Schools and Communities First and has produced campaign literature that CFT has distributed.

San Diego members and retirees have stepped up activity since the onset of the pandemic. Morgan said the Guild is active on multiple fronts, from workplace safety and health coverage to racial justice.

About 20 San Diego retirees are also writing letters to dormant voters in swing states who voted Democratic in the past, but don’t always vote. Research by Vote Forward shows that computer-generated, ‘personalized’ letters have a 3 percent success rate, Morgan said.

“That narrow margin can be a game-changer. Three percent would have been enough to win some states in 2016,” she said. “Five letters a day, or 25 letters a week will make a difference.”

Dennis Cox described the simple message of the letters: “You gave a voice before to truth and honesty and integrity. Don’t stop now. We need your help.”

Vote Forward volunteers had mailed more than 5 million letters by September.

CFT retirees from Santa Rosa to San Diego counties have also flocked to town halls sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans.

Silvia Rodriguez, head of the ABC Retiree Chapter in southeast Los Angeles County, said her volunteers at a CARA phone-bank made 100 connections in a single day and helped flip some key districts during recent elections.

Rodriguez was born in the Marianao neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. “My peeps are a little more conservative than me, but they listen because they love me. I’m the crazy one in the family.”

She described a popular saying her father often used to describe the power of people working together.

“He used to tell me, ‘Cada uno pone su granito de arena,’” Rodriguez said. “That means, ‘Everyone puts in their little grain of sand,’ and the unspoken ending is, ‘and soon we’ll have a whole beach.’”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ground rules of political campaigns. The ABC retirees held watch parties of candidates leading up to the March 3 statewide primary, and hope to hold virtual parties during the presidential and vice presidential debates.

Political activity aside, the coronavirus has also been a constant source of stress for seniors. Retirees have adapted Zoom, Webex and other apps for virtual meetings to lower tension levels.

Rodriguez said the ABC retirees relax with a Zoom Happy Hour the last Friday of the month. “It’s a totally social event. The discussion ranges from politics to grandchildren.”

The San Diego retirees hold a monthly meditation session online. Morgan started the Zoom sessions after she ran into a retiree during a walk on the beach. “I cannot describe how depressed he was, or how worried I was about him. People can feel very isolated and vulnerable.”

By Steve Weingarten, CFT Reporter

TOP FIVE THINGS seniors can do this election

1. Phone bank with CFT for Prop 15, the measure that will close a corporate tax loophole in California to bring in $12 billion more a year for public services.
2.  Join AFT’s get-out-the-vote campaign to elect Joe Biden. AFT is seeking retirees to help contact union members, and you may be able to choose the state for which you would like to volunteer.  Email retirees@aft.org or sign up through AFT Votes.
3. Join a Seniors Vote Virtual Forum if you are more interested in learning about the issues so you can talk to people you know on your own. The regional forums are hosted by the California Alliance for Retired Americans
4. Write letters to “dormant voters” around the country with Vote Forward and encourage them to vote in this most important Presidential Election.
5. Contact your friends and neighbors! Make sure your friends are registered to vote and explain this year’s new and safe mail-in ballot process.  Share CFT’s online voter guide, The Educators Choice.