Betsy Rubin is a lifelong resident of Hyde Park, Chicago. After retiring from a career in adult and family literacy, Betsy now has time to devote to grassroots political activism. You can follow Betsy on Twitter here: @BetsyRubin.
What do you feel are the biggest problems facing your community today?
The biggest issue on Chicago’s South Side is a lack of resources. We need good, affordable housing in our neighborhoods and robust retail. We need more opportunities for life-sustaining employment. We need solutions to gun violence and alternatives to mass incarceration.
While our community starts here in Chicago, it encompasses our nation and the world. We need a health care system that serves everyone well, regardless of employment status or ability to pay. We need to welcome people who migrate here seeking safety and better lives. We need to fight for our democracy. We need to know that our planet will survive.
What drew you to support Robert’s campaign?
Our district needs a representative who will fight for us. I met Robert Emmons, Jr. at a local gathering. He showed a depth of understanding on the issues and proposed thoughtful solutions. He explained that he felt called to lead on the complex issue of gun violence, but he is knowledgeable on a host of issues, with a progressive approach to overcoming problems facing our nation.
I liked that Robert was open — not defensive or dismissive. He really listened to the concerns and ideas posed by people who’d come to hear him. Mr. Emmons has a strong background of organizing and doing work to benefit the community. He is passionate and earnest. He’s very smart. He has a mix of fierceness and empathy that tells me he will go to Washington and fight for us every day.
We know you’re an active member of Indivisible. What brought you into political advocacy?
I believe everyone should be able to feel safe, healthy, and part of a community. Everyone should be able to live, work, and love in peace. While our country can be a place of opportunity and happiness, it’s also been a place of injustice, brutality, and suffering. Since I started high school in 1968, I’ve been politically involved to one degree or another: via demonstrations, a boycott, political campaigns.
As I was busy with family and a career in small nonprofits, I didn’t always have lots of time. In January 2017, my retirement coincided with Trump’s inauguration. Rather than experience the anticipated retired bliss each morning, I woke in dread, day after day, because I knew that Trump and his followers could destroy countless lives and our very nation. So I’ve been showing up for groups that defend voting rights and justice, like Chicago Votes. And, early on, I joined Indivisible Chicago. From its beginning, I got active with our local chapter, Indivisible Chicago-South Side, for which I’m the volunteer Twitter Coordinator (@IndivChi_South).
Through Indivisible and on my own, I’ve done volunteer work for recent political campaigns — Marie Newman, Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten, & others. Now I want to help with the campaign in my own district — to elect Robert Emmons, Jr.!
What would you like to see your elected leaders do to better involve their constituents? Are they doing anything now?
While effective leaders must have a vision, develop nuanced policies, and create plans to achieve goals, they also need to listen closely to their constituents and be aware of what’s happening in communities.
Responsive leaders will communicate in multiple ways — they can consult advisory groups of people from the community on different topics; stay in touch with local organizations; hold town halls; and share policies, updates, and responses to constituent concerns via an informative, easy-to-navigate website, as well as email and social media. Involved leaders will keep informed about their community, including local organizations and individuals.
All this requires a diverse and capable staff — no leader can do so much communicating without assistance! I hope my leaders will take the time to meet with and inform their own staff, so the people doing research and answering the phones are well prepared to respond and will pass along constituent concerns in depth to the leader.
More than ever, the 1st district needs a leader who will listen to constituents and not dismiss their concerns. Robert is out there now, engaging with the community by talking and working with groups and individuals. Robert Emmons, Jr. is already showing that he’ll stand alongside us, listen, respect, and respond.
Is there anything you would say to someone thinking of getting involved in Robert’s campaign or simply political advocacy in general?
Not going to lie, these are grim times. Our democracy is at stake. So is the health of our planet. It’s understandable that we might steep ourselves in reading all the horrifying news and just keep sharing our dismay with a small circle of friends. But we can use our strength, our anger, and our knowledge to act and make a difference. One way to do that is by getting active in a campaign.
There are so many ways to help a candidate. You don’t have to do everything, but the campaign staff will train you to do new things — phone banking, canvassing, campaign texting, events. You can donate your time and talent, and you can donate money. You’ll choose what works with your schedule, your free time, and your resources.
So find a candidate. Look for a candidate who best represents your worldview and your goals for the community and country. Look for someone who who has complex ideas and plans but who can express them in a way we can all understand. Find a candidate who is earnest and empathetic, who is driven to work for a better community and world. Find someone who will listen to you and fight for you. I sure feel that way about Robert Emmons, Jr., and I hope you’ll join me in supporting him!