Editors' Picks

CALL TO ACTION

DEAR READER – 

Now is not the time to bemoan our political fate. It is time for action!

But where to start?  What should a progressive citizen do when the people elected to represent you don’t represent your views on, say, reproductive rights, racial justice, global warming? And what does any citizen, progressive or conservative, do about a combative, unpredictable President who eschews taxes, mocks physical disabilities, brags about groping women, and seems to measure governing success by shock value that generates high ratings on reality TV show?

You could take to the streets as over 5 million people in 50 states and four continents did the day after the inauguration, and smaller groups of anti-Trump activists continue to do. You also could wait for the right time and the right opportunity to do something more substantive. For all the Strum and Dang after the election, the mantra of many of the most thoughtful progressives has been, “I’m going to do something; I just don’t know what yet.”

THE PROBLEM WITH WAITING

It’s not too late yet, but if you wait much longer Mr. Trump will have finished all his campaign promises and moved on to even more worrisome policies.

To move you along, we have taken the liberty of vetting many of the political-action efforts now underway. Below you will find brief descriptions and contact information for ones that look especially promising to us. Check them out for yourself. If you find one that is a passably good fit, go for it. Not only will you stop wasting precious time, but you’ll also be gaining experience in the brave new world of Trump politics when the “right” project comes along.

Contact Your Representatives 

Communicating your views to elected officials might be the single most important duty you have as a citizen. Think of it this way: Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (as well as state and local assembly persons, council members, etc.) are elected to represent your interests. How can they carry out their duties if they don’t know your concerns?

        How-to COMMUNICATE in WRITING —

  • USA.gov has a section on “How to Contact Your Elected Officials” with links to names, addresses, websites, committee memberships, and voting records of Congress. The site also contains information on state officials.
  • About.com provides simple letter-writing instructions, including an example of a letter format in a section called “How to Write Effective Letters to Congress.” The site describes the proper use of titles, and what to say if you should meet a member of Congress face-to-face. A brief description of how the legislative branch works is also available, should you need a refresher.
  • National Write Your Congressman is an interactive website aimed at small businesses but useful for anyone who wants help focusing issues and strengthening arguments (for or against an issue). Topics covered include abortion, military, guns, immigration, and regulation.
  • The Art of Manliness, a charmingly named website, offers a step-by-step guide to the “civic skills” of communicating with politicians both by letter and by phone. Also, we think, appropriate for the Ladies.

   

   Q.  Do elected officials really care what constituents think?
    A. nIn a word, yes.  Lawmakers may not have time to read all the letters and messages they get, but their staffs keep close tabs on what issues are being raised by constituents and how constituents want the issues handled.

  How-to COMMUNICATE by PHONE —

  • Before you dial the wrong office or make a pitch in a way that will discredit your message, read former Congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth’s “Call the Halls: Why a Phone Call is Better than an E-mail.” Originally written as a series of tweets, now collected and organized in a step-by-step training manual, Ellsworth’s online guide explains her reasoning of why talking to legislators and their staffs is more effective than writing them. The guide includes templates and telephone scripts on how to introduce yourself and what to say (and not say). Ellsworth points out an important detail most how-to guides neglect to mention: the importance of being pleasant. Congressional aides, who are our conduits to members of Congress, are notoriously overworked and underpaid. The least we can do is be polite and appreciative.

  How-to USE a STRUCTURED PLAN —

Convinced that calling a representative is more important than showing up at a rally but not sure what issue to push when?  Overcome with stage fright at the thought of picking up the phone? Sites with step-by-step plans may be for you.

  • 5calls.org is a new level of inspiring in the world of tech-automation. Plug in your home or office zip code, check the issues that interest you, and the site will give you background information, tell you who to call, and provide suggested talking points. The goal is to make one call a day, five days a week. When you finish a call, you log in the results, indicate whether you got through, left a voicemail, or skipped the call. The site tallies the results and sends callers on to the next day’s assignment.
  • Consider The 65, a website named for the 65 million Americans who did not vote for Trump and now want their voices heard.  Select a topic from the site’s bank of issues— reproductive rights; changes in Medicare and Medicaid; the repeal of Obamacare—and the site will tell you whom to call. When issues heat up in Congress, callers are asked to redirect their pitches to that topic to maximize constituents’ impact.     
  •      

    Q. Is it better to write a letter or an email, post a Tweet, send a Facebook message or make a phone call? 
    A. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to that question, according to the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit that advises lobbyists on communication with lawmakers, advises lawmakers on office organization and communication systems, and prepares training materials for new members of Congress. The foundation urges constituents and lobbyists to keep in mind that Congressional staffs have not grown appreciably in recent decades, while the volume of postal mail, email, and posts on social media sites has mushroomed like an “arms race.” Before reaching out to lawmakers, check their websites to see if they prefer one form of communication over another. Some Congressional offices now ask constituents to use online forms instead of letters or calls. If you want to be persuasive, don’t use formats you prefer; use what they prefer.

             


    Become a Community Organizer 

    If you see a need, don’t wait for someone else to step up. Take the initiative yourself. Numerous sites give detailed instructions based on the successes of past community organizing efforts, including those of the Tea Party which thwarted the beginning years of the Obama Administration. 

    • In “10 Days 100 Actions,” organizers of the March on Washington provide step-by-step instructions on how to issue invitations and run meetings. They describe materials you’ll need and provide ideas for action. If these women can coordinate several million protestors in cities and towns in 50 states and on four continents, they can show you how to bring together a group of friends and neighbors in a common cause. 
    • Indivisible is an online political action website which the New Yorker hailed as ‘The Crowdsourced Guide to Fighting Trump’s Agenda,” and an admiring reader described as “not a guide to elections but a guide on what to do between elections.” Search the site for groups to join or register groups you want to organize. The Group Leader Toolkit provides would-be leaders with everything they need to know. “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” details the “best practices” of successful lobbyists and how the techniques the Tea Party used to thwart the Obama Administration in 2009-2010 can now be applied to the Trump Administration.


     

    Work on a Campaign 

    As a community organizer, you become the one who makes things happen. Sarah Palin, taking a jab at Barack Obama’s background as a community organizer, intimated there was nothing to it, so why not give it a try? Form a huddle. Invite colleagues or family members for an evening discussion. Here are resources to get you going and keep you going:

    • At Swing Left, an online clearinghouse for progressives, the slogan is “it starts with the House,” meaning that if Democrats are to have any meaningful say in government, they have to win 43 of the 52 toss-up races in the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections. Plug in your zip code on the site’s homepage, and you’ll see the nearest swing district. If you want to volunteer, you can get information about the district and the candidates, meet other team members, and receive notifications of events as they become available. Work either locally in campaign offices or at a distance via phone and computer on fundraising, canvassing, and social media campaigns. To find other districts at play in 2018, scroll down the Swing Left home page to the in-play district map. To become a District Leader, you must be a resident of the district. Click here to apply or nominate a District Leader.
    • To work on a Mid-term Senate campaign, check your  

    In the Senate, 33 seats will be voted on in the Mid-term elections, but so far, Democrats have not had the same enthusiasm as they have for races in the House of Representatives, because the mid-term political map greatly favors Republicans. Of eight Republicans seats up for reelection, only one is likely to fall to a Democrat, whereas Democrats have 23 seats to defend, 10 of which could go to Republicans because the seats are in states that went for Trump in 2016.

    ALWAYS CONFIDENTLY,
    CA & AC

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