Dialing Up the Pressure
February 7, 2017 4:21 PM   Subscribe


 
"Some staffers really love to get into debates, and really fight the people on the other end of the phone. I just didn’t do that.”

Mine are just nasty and condescending but they're republicans so what can you expect.
posted by winna at 4:39 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


Do staffers read their bosses' official Facebook pages? Senator Toomey's (R-Pa., SHAME) voice mail was full for days, if not weeks--and several of his posts on FB filled up with thousands of comments on the DeVos nomination. Are those comments counted in any way, or even looked at?

After calling my representative's staffer several times, I stopped by to introduce myself. He was diplomatic and somewhat nonplussed that a constituent would stop by with an opinion rather than a request. I am going to bring him impeachment cupcakes, with CTN 25:4 written on them in cheerfully-colored frosting because he looks harried these days.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 PM on February 7 [17 favorites]


Fax them.
posted by Sphinx at 5:10 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Also remember that all of them have offices in their district, as well, and you can register your opinion there if you can't penetrate the phone-of-silence in DC...
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 5:34 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


... All of this effort still is based around the assumption that there are Republicans with a conscience and /or sense of shame and / or more fear of a loss in the general than the primary. Even if calls actually do stiffen D spines, as long as the R's are a bloc it doesn't matter.
posted by PMdixon at 5:55 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Apparently giving them sixty thousand dollars also works. That's how the Devos family communicates with my Congressman.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:02 PM on February 7 [29 favorites]


After calling my representative's staffer several times, I stopped by to introduce myself. He was diplomatic and somewhat nonplussed that a constituent would stop by with an opinion rather than a request. I am going to bring him impeachment cupcakes, with CTN 25:4 written on them in cheerfully-colored frosting because he looks harried these days.


I don't want to be a cold water bath, but be prepared for any food gifts to be rejected as soon as you are out of sight. When I was a wee Congressional intern one semester, post-anthrax, I was trained to never put anything brought into the office by strangers (including constituents) near our mouths. The threat of poisoning was very terrifying and very real. (But I think some verbal thank yous will be highly appreciated.)

Someone mailed us an elaborate box of cookies -- unfortunately in the time it took for the mail to get irradiated, they probably went stale, and no one would have dared to eat them anyway if they weren't stale...it was very painful tossing them out, as it looked like the lady had put a ton of thought into it...

Fax them.


In many offices, the faxes are converted into emails.

I always found it fascinating that Intranet Quorum, the miserable software panned in the article, is produced by Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:11 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Sing Or Swim: Apparently giving them sixty thousand dollars also works. That's how the Devos family communicates with my Congressman.

Precisely. While the peons are playing the mugs game of futile phone calls and faxes, the real constituents are greasing palms and getting their way. How anyone expects fair play from such a blatantly corrupt system is beyond me.
posted by dr_dank at 6:24 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


There needs to be a shame campaign. I wonder how senators and the media would respond to regular, loud protests which ask "How much Senator?" "How much does it cost for you to listen to us?"

Speaking of phone calls, maybe that can be part of the script. Ask the phone staffer for a price list. Ask if plastic is accepted, or does the Senator prefer cash or cashier's checks?
posted by honestcoyote at 7:21 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


Fax them.
Our critters don't take faxes.

Is democracy really over?
posted by anadem at 7:48 PM on February 7


Unfortunately, it is very ineffective in the short term, but I can't help but start thinking that if all these phone calls and faxes and tweets and Facebook comments and everything else, if you added up all that effort and put it into starting to GOTV for the 2018 races now--for the 2020 election now!--that's the thing that really makes a difference. A noisily angry 49.9% of their districts/states could very well fill up their emails and faxes and phone lines, but I don't think they care until they've seen evidence that angry emails mean failed campaigns. And aggressively fought primary races against incumbents.

Not that I'm saying people shouldn't call now, but now is when we need to be figuring out how we're going to pay for 2018, and who we're running against every single one of these bastards, and how they win. The moment their races start looking competitive, then they'll start standing up to Trump, and not a second before.
posted by Sequence at 8:44 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Not fair play, dr_dank, obviously not fair play. But it seems counterfactual to say it hasn't or couldn't have an impact when Republican senators have crossed the aisle already, in the first two weeks (Murkowski and Collins on DeVos; Chaffetz on public lands; McCain and others on the refugee ban. Collins is particularly, unusually someone who sometimes responds to her constituents.) We are fighting an extended, ridiculous, lopsided war; this is one weapon.
posted by peppercorn at 8:44 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


The Indivisibles are on this. We are growing faster than anything I have seen in 60 years of watching politics. The Indivisible guide lays out a brilliant strategy, clear and absent any ideological rhetoric. I urge you all to check it out at https://www.indivisibleguide.com/. Then look for your local Indivisible group. See you on the street.
posted by charlesminus at 9:30 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]




Yep. 85 at my first Indivisible meeting this week. We're energized! Divided into action groups. Work begins this week!

Also: swingleft.org
posted by persona au gratin at 12:36 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


And Countable.US
posted by persona au gratin at 12:40 AM on February 8


Even if calls actually do stiffen D spines, as long as the R's are a bloc it doesn't matter.

I'm suspicious that, this being only a couple weeks in, Rs are afraid to do anything to signal that people are getting to them. Especially on super high-profile votes. Cracks are showing though. They just turned Warren's reading of an old letter against Sessions into a spectacle by voting her to silence on a technicality. Not exactly a demonstration of cool confidence.
posted by zennie at 7:11 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


the agents of KAOS: Funding a Democrat for every seat
[Jonathan] Zucker is only asking donors to give a total of $56 per year. If everyone who gave Sanders or Clinton money—some 10 million donors—gave just $5 per month to congressional candidates, Zucker says, It Starts Today would be able to hand each candidate $2.5 million dollars to run on in 2018. “You’re not having to raise this money, and you’re accountable to millions of people, each of whom only gave you a little bit,” he says.

The Long Shots
That’s a great dream, but a highly unlikely one. To put that figure into perspective, Barack Obama’s lauded populist campaign garnered donations from just over 4.5 million people. Most challengers running in congressional races raise around $200,000. Still, if It Starts Today were able to raise even that much, it could have a real effect. “It might give your local official incentive to run, knowing that you wont have to go into debt to do it for a hopeless cause,” says Michael Malbin, director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

And it’s in those seemingly hopeless races where political scientists see the potential for real change. Under the current funding model, Malbin says national political organizations tend to focus their resources on competitive races where slight advantages could tip the results. It Starts Today, on the other hand, is agnostic about district or probability of victory—everyone gets the same amount. Long shots get the same backing as sure things and candidates in swing districts. Individual donors are rarely eager to similarly distribute their largesse because who wants to throw their money at a lost cause?
Interesting idea, and the low threshold for entry is tempting, like Bernie's emails asking for $3, or $2.70. ItStarts.Today doesn't have any current funding figures, which is probably good because 1) it's a wee bit early for fundraising for the most part (ignoring the Orange Menace's ... unique choice to start fundraising for his second term already ... but not officially, mind you, though he's more than happy to take your money now), and 2) low starting numbers could discourage others from donating.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


That article was interesting.

I think though in terms of what's most effective, in person meetings and snail mail letters are probably more effective than phone. My aim is to start writing more letters.

For folks counting on Dems sweeping the mid-terms, it's going to be incumbent on us at that point to put enormous pressure on them to enact stricter campaign finance reform, voter protections, and limitations on gerrymandering.
posted by latkes at 7:55 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


We have been hammering on our rep with constant calls and contacts and weekly protests since the inauguration- her only response has been to send out a fundraising letter saying something to the effect of "nancy pelosi's cronies are at it again." In response to a front-page newspaper story about how inaccessible she is, her statement was that "members of this protest group have repeatedly harassed the congresswoman’s staff and have personally targeted specific staff members. These disruptions prevent us from working for our constituents." I'm pretty sure 'personally targeted specific staff members' refers at least in part to me- I've called repeatedly for an appointment with the staff director, who promised to meet with me one-on-one and then refused to answer phone calls or emails ever since.

I want to say that I find it shocking that they don't understand that these protesters are in fact constituents, but actually, I don't- our congresswoman is known to be pay-for-play and she's ignoring us because she doesn't care and the local GOP party is pretty strong despite the demographics of the area causing a sharp shift to the left in recent years.

So it's been pretty demoralizing to see that she probably never intends to hold a town hall and will continue to vote for Trump's agenda 100% of the time (Clinton won the district by 5 points)- but I've decided to treat this behavior as fact-finding. It will be easier to run against her in 2018 when we have a long list of examples of how horrible her behavior has been. Still, she won by 17 points (Dems don't put up a real challenge in our district; nonetheless this was her smallest victory margin to date), so what's a victory- actually flipping the seat? or just narrowing the margin even further to force the GOP to allocate its resources differently?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:35 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Is the fact that I am a green card holder a bad thing in terms of calling?
posted by Poldo at 3:30 PM on February 9


Is the fact that I am a green card holder a bad thing in terms of calling?
posted by Poldo at 3:30 PM on February 9 [+] [!]


I'd say it might very well be. Members of Congress are predisposed to pay attention to only those who they believe affect their reelection. So the totem pole of importance to them would have big donors and lobbyists at the top, voters in their district below that, American citizens who can't vote for them near the bottom, and people who can't vote in the U.S. at all on the bottom. I'd guess the only way to get any lower would be to not even live in the U.S.

If you call the person who represents your district, emphasize your relationships with voters.

(I'm no political expert, this is just what I think.)
posted by Sleeper at 12:45 AM on February 11


When I have called a representative, half the time they don't even ask for my name, just my zip code. So depending on your personal ethics, it might be worth calling anyway and just not disclosing that you're not a voter.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:41 AM on February 11


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