The attached toolkit was put together by two dedicated local Democrats Abroad SMA members to help all of us do the most we can, as easily and efficiently as we can, during these chaotic times. We think you will find the attached information helpful and informative in providing a road map to taking some meaningful action.
DON’T DESPAIR; MOBILIZE
Donald Trump is now president of the United States of America and is trying to enact his agenda. In response, unprecedented numbers of Americans are mobilizing to oppose him.
This toolkit of resources has been put together two Democrats Abroad SMA members, Mark Bilker and Gunnar Erickson, to help make those efforts more effective.
A STRATEGY FOR ACTION
ADVICE ON EFFECTIVE ACTION
LINKS TO OTHER GROUPS
RESOURCES FOR FACTS ON ISSUES
IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR EXPATS
A STRATEGY FOR ACTION-- We suggest that everyone at a minimum do three things:
- get the contact information on your two senators and member of the House,
- pick three or four core issues that you feel are important and
- contact your representatives about them at least once a month, until things change.
You certainly can do much more. Many groups are forming; there will be marches and mobilizations you can participate in, but this is likely to be a long struggle and steady pressure on Congress will be key.
CONTACT RESOURCES--There are several websites and smartphone apps that are essentially “one-stop shops” for directing you to your respective representatives via phone, email and snail mail. The apps also let you track bills, hearings, how your members of Congress (MOC's) voted on issues of interest to you, and much, much more. The apps are free.
Smart Phone Apps: “CONGRESS”, “COUNTABLE”, “CONTACT CONGRESS”, “CALL CONGRESS” - - These offer complete contact information on all MOC's including their email, phone, address, website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Most allow you to contact them directly from the app.
Web Sites: “DEMOCRACY.io” is another way to easily reach your MOC's. Run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it allows you to write one message and it is automatically sent to your two senators and representative.
“https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials” is a resource for getting contact information for federal AND state and local officials down to the county level. Also The State Legislative Websites Directory (http://www.ncsl.org/aboutus/n cslservice/state-legislative-w ebsites-directory.aspx)
will take you to the National Conference of State Legislators
, a comprehensive and easy to reference directory of the nation's legislators.
ADVICE ON EFFECTIVE ACTION-
MAXIMIZING CONGRESSIONAL CONTACT IMPACT
The Chief of Staff to a West Coast Democratic Congressman, a close friend of a long time Dems Abroad SMA activist, has offered us some incredible, and sometimes surprising, insights into the way constituent contacts with Congressional offices are handled.
Of great importance are several cautionary notes concerning on-line petitions and emails: “Occasionally we get them (on-line petitions) in the office and they are a lot of random names, no address, no email (address). We note that we received them and then throw them out.” Also note, “Most members only accept emails from their constituents. We respond to everything that comes in from the state of Oregon”
On the positive side of the contact ledger: “We track all individual phone calls and emails. We have certainly seen an uptick of people communicating with our office and we use the system that we have developed over time, only just bumped it up.
“Every call, whether it's to our D.C. Office or (local) office is tallied. Often times, we ask people for their zip code and email address and ask if they want to receive (his) enews.”
Individual calls achieve maximum results: “Personally, I think the 'individual' calls are better than those that are done as part of a group. You start to tune out if every caller is using the exact same script. We tally it but it's less impactful than if someone makes it personal ie; ‘I am a school teacher and I am really concerned about xyz...’"
Calls to this particular congressional office in a single recent day involved issues ranging from investigation of the reputed White House/ Russian ties (21%), to if/when the Congressman planned to hold a Town Hall (23%), to ACA support to opposition to Scott Pruitt’s nomination to general expressions of thanks for the Congressman’s efforts in general.
“With groups like Indivisible and other organizations, we have seen a huge increase in written correspondence. The vast majority of them are postcards. Many people don't include their address which I think is foolish. If you are going to write anything to a member of congress, include your address so they can respond. Hard mail that comes into the office with addresses is entered into our system and people get a response.”
How do I contact my legislators?
You have many options! You can contact them by
- Snail mail (currently, incoming letters are undergoing extensive scrutiny, so it might take up to six weeks to reach your legislator. Postcards get through faster.)
- Social Media - Facebook and Twitter in particular.
- Set up an in-person meeting with your legislators and/or their staff
What do I say in a letter or an e-mail?
- Introduce yourself. Immediately say that you are a constituent, give your name and where you’re from and, if you are calling on behalf of a particular organization, the name of the organization.
- Tell your legislator what you want - be specific! Include the bill number, bill name (if applicable), a one or two sentence summary, a few statistics for good measure, and discuss why the bill or issue is important to you.
- Make it personal! Do you have any stories about the issue at hand, or do you know people who do? Share those stories!
- Be sure to be concise. The reader will have limited time. As noted above, most contacts will simply be tallied as Opposed or In Favor.
- Thank your legislator for his/her time.
How do I call an office?
- Call the DC or District office, give the receptionist your name and ask to speak to the aide in charge of your issue.
- Provide the staffer with the information you would include in a letter:
3. Be brief. These folks are as busy as you are!
4. If the staffer is not available, leave a message . . . and call back the next day, just for good measure! (S)he might be busy when you call, so suggest setting up a phone meeting at a mutually convenient time.
How do I set up an in-person meeting with a staff person?
- Your congress people have several offices, both in DC and in your state. Staff in the state offices are more constituent-oriented; staff in DC are more focused on the legislator’s legislative agenda.
2 Staff people in both offices are good points of contact. Staff in state offices are more likely to have time to meet with you and are, as mentioned above, more constituent-oriented (plus, you do not have to travel!), but the DC staffer is the person managing the legislator’s legislative portfolio.
3. Call either the most convenient state office or the DC office, introduce yourself, and ask to schedule a visit. Be sure to specify that you are calling about a specific policy so the receptionist puts you in contact with the appropriate legislative aide if applicable!
4. Bring others with you to the meeting if possible. You need to show the staff person that this issue is important to many people, just not you.
5. Bring fact sheets and other written materials to leave with the staff member.
6. Thank the staff member for his/her time!
7. Send a follow-up letter or e-mail to thank him/her for her/his time a second time and ask if you can be of any assistance.
Other Actions You Can Take.
- Letters to the editor are great.
- Comments on websites. Most media outlets encourage readers to comment and the comments are appended at the bottom of the story. While sometimes those exchanges can get rude, it is a public space for discussion.
- Viral social media. Gaffs and outrages can spread throughout the world in minutes through Facebook and Twitter. For example, a Dairy Queen owner lost his franchise after a live recording of him insulting a black family went viral.
- Bumper stickers, buttons and tee shirts. Wear them and advertise your views.
- Public protests and demonstrations. Old school but still powerful.
Spam Control- Once you start the contact process, it will be immediately obvious to you that virtually all the contact channels want to harvest as much of your information as they can; name, email address, phone and sometimes more. Whether you supply the information to your senator or representative, sign an online petition or join an organization, you are virtually certain to go on their mailing list. Some of the sites may appeal to your political leanings but are operated for profit and rent or sell the email addresses they harvest. As a result many people choose to create a specific email account for their political activism. All of the popular email services will work. There are also ones like ProtonMail.com that-- unlike Google-- do not scan and read all of your emails and provide encryption.
AN ENCOURAGING ASIDE -
For those wondering whether their constant calls to Republican legislators are being heard or noted, here's an FaceBook update from Ben Wideman, a Mennonite pastor in Pennsylvania about a visit to his Republican senator's office:
"Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey's Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban. Here are my takeaways:
1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven't stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can't check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.
2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point [Note: I've heard that postcards are better because they can impound letters for five weeks to check for contaminants]. Regional offices are a much better mail destination because the compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.
3. Toomey's staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, "we have a democratic system and process. Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch."
4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.
5. Toomey's staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey's published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.
6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.
7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation. Staffers want to know.
8. Don't stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President."
LINKS TO OTHER GROUPS-
There are many groups that you can join. Here are a few we like.
A group of former Congressional staffers produced a guide to best practices for resisting the Trump agenda and making Congress listen. It has become the de facto bible for activists and is worth a read and probably a sign up. The link is www.indivisibleguide.com
. Many local groups have been created under the Indivisible banner. If you go to the site and click "act locally," it will identify groups in your area.
- In their words: "control of the House in 2018 will be decided by a handful of Swing Districts, places where the last election was decided by a thin margin. Find your closest Swing District and join its team to learn about actionable opportunities to support progressives-- and defeat Republicans-- in that district, no matter where you live." www.swingleft.org
- is the Democratic Congressional Campaign website. It is the official campaign arm of the House Democrats with a principal mission to support Democratic House candidates. Their action center contains online petitions to sign and you can register to get email updates, but the emphasis is on raising money to funnel to Democratic House candidates. You also can donate specifically to their Latino Council. The website is at http://dccc.org/
RESOURCES FOR FACTS ON ISSUES-
Washington Post Newsletters- Go to their site and you can sign up for a variety of daily newsletters. WAPO has done the best and most hard-hitting journalism on Trump and it ain’t fake news.
Reclaim the American Dream
) is a resource website set up by Hedrick Smith, a long time NY Times reporter and editor who among other things won a Pulitzer prize for his work on the Pentagon Papers story. Its focus is on structural reforms of the US political system that will make it less partisan and more representative of the views of the majority of Americans. Fighting gerrymandering and changing the primary system are two of his issues. Student debt, amending the Constitution and inclusive capitalism are other areas of focus. The emphasis is on working at the state level. This is a different approach, more long-term, but an extremely important one. We urge you to look at the site and incorporate some of its causes into your activism.
bills itself as offering breaking news and views for the progressive community. Robert Reich is a regular contributor.
Politifact.com- Available both as website and as a free app called SettleIt, this is a solid reference source for the facts behind the spin. Similar to the Washington Post Pinocchio's, it digs up the real facts behind political claims such as the size of the inauguration crowd. It punctures fake news.
- One way to follow Internet news on an issue or a person is to create a Google Alert. For example if you want to follow "Trump Mexico Wall", you go to this site-- https://www.google.com/alerts
-- type that in and it will create a daily email that lists new Internet stories that are spotted with that search inquiry. The email is sent to your Google account.
Views from the other side. Lest you spend too much time inside your own political bubble, you might occasionally take a look at what the other side is saying and thinking. Weekly Standard is conservative but reasonably thoughtful. Breitbart News is hard core alt-right.
IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR EXPATS -
We know that our membership has “pet” issues that they will make known to their representatives, but we would like to single out several “hot button” issues that are of particular consequence to those of us living in Mexico.
Most obvious of course are the related issues of the Trump Wall, tariff threats, which threaten the very fabric of today's Mexico economy, and the deportation of long-time law abiding Mexican nationals who are in the US without proper papers. Trump has set out to insult and humiliate Mexicans and damage its economy. In two years Mexico will elect a new president and the emerging candidates are already challenging each other on who can be the most macho in responding to Trump. That puts the almost one million US citizens living in Mexico in a very vulnerable position. No one has publicly said that they will go tit for tat, if the US deports a Mexican, Mexico will deport an American, but it could deteriorate to that point. Your MOC needs to know that you live in Mexico, feel vulnerable and vote in the US.
THE BRIGHT SIDE-
From a friend:
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They're holding signs and marching every week.
4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone's forgotten he's kind of a jerk.
5. The Postal Service is enjoying the cash influx due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of antidepressants.
7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
15. Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today's Jon Stewart.
16. "Mike Pence" has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
17. Trump has succeeded where thousands of history teachers failed - now everybody knows who Frederick Douglass was.
18. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
19. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
20. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
21. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
22. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
23. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell's "1984" increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
24. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
25. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.