Cognitive Psychology

Call Your Members of Congress: The Save Our Democracy, edition


In addition to our political psychology posts, Ye Olde Blogge makes these Call Your MoC posts to encourage us to engage our government representatives on legislation, policy, appointments, and other issues.. Our biggest impact was probably in encouraging readers to contact Emily Murray, the GSA administrator, to authorize the transition.

We’ve relied on Indivisible to help us make sure we’re giving good advice and supplying good information about how to influence your government.

Indivisible has gone through several iterations of advice as our national situation has changed.

  1. They started in 2017 to help the resistance resist The Ol’ Pussy Grabber and friends more effectively. That was back when the Dems were shut out of majorities anywhere in the federal government. We needed to figure out how exert ourselves as the minority party.
  2. Then, they adjusted their advice when the Dems took back the House in 2018, after all, we had some friendlies that we could influence. But, they still needed influencing, and the Repubes needed to remember that we were still there, too.
  3. Now, that the Dems are holding the whole enchilada with sauce dripping down their arms, we need to adjust our strategy once again. We need to become the 52nd vote in the Senate and reassure the House that we’ve got their backs.

There’s so much in their new guide that I want to cover here on the blog that I’m going to divide it into two posts. First, we’ll cover their updated set of tips and suggestions from the third part of the guide. I really like what they’re saying and hope people will follow their advice. I’ll be updating the scripts, tips, and suggestions section of my posts. Then, we’ll cover their Fix Our Democracy plan just because they give such great detail about what to do. The first part of the document is about lessons from 2009, and while interesting and useful, I’ll leave it for you to read.

Remember, the folks who are writing these guides or at least the people who initiated and oversee the whole thing are ex-Congressional staffers. They’ve been there, done that, and they know what works to break through the obsession that Congress folk have with re-election. Everything is seen through the lens of how it will affect their re-election. The more controversial it is, the more “urging” they’ll need to act on it.

That’s where we come in. We need to let ’em know that we’re watching, we’re voting, we’re actively participating, and what we want ’em to do. If we do, there’s a much better chance that they’ll do it.

Let us know your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and reactions to the new guide in the comments below!

The Hierarchy of Be Best

The rule of thumb is the more personal the contact with the Congress person, the more effective it will be. They listed this hierarchy (in order of most to least effective):

  1. In person, or what passes for in person during the time of #COVID19. Being in their office either in person or virtually and talking to the Congress person or a staff member is your best bet for getting your message heard.
  2. Phone call. Phone calls are probably the easiest thing to do on the list. You pick up your phone, dial, and yack either at a person or a machine. That’s good, but we also know that there are too many ways for Congress folks to dodge phone calls like allowing their voicemail in-boxes to fill-up and letting the intern either field calls or tally recordings.
  3. Personal letter or postcard. If you can’t go down to the office or make a call, write. Write in longhand. The more personal, the better, remember? In spite of the sabotage of the post office in 2020, most mail will be delivered across town or even across state in a day or two, so it’s reasonably timely and reliable.
  4. A form letter or petition. You see these on social media all the time. Text to this number and they’ll send a postcard. Sign the petition and they’ll deliver it. It makes it easier for you to do, and I guess it makes up for its lack of impact through its larger numbers? But, you wouldn’t be here reading this and thinking about calling your MoC if you were all about ease and comfort. There’s nothing easy, comforting, or comfortable about reading my syntactically garbled ranting snarky posts.

Be polite. Always be polite. Not only do you catch more flies with honey than you do with a foul mouth, you’re actually more convincing, too. Remember, whoever answers the phone or the door is a real human being with real human feelings, and most of them are young idealistic recent college grads, so be nice.

More Tips, Suggestions, Hints, and Stuff

Only Contact YOUR MoC

  • They don’t listen to you if you’re not a constituent. So, you’re wasting your time, there time, everyone’s time just to make yourself feel better by bitching out McConnell’s intern or whatever. If you gotta get something off your chest for a specific MoC, social media at them.
  • You’re tying up resources that real constituents need to make their views known. If you’re calling, you’re filling-up the phone in-box or giving someone a busy signal. If you’re writing or showing up in person, then you’re taking up space and attention that is better directed at real live American constituents.
  • You’re giving them an excuse to blow off the issue entirely because of outside agitation.

Coordination Makes an Impact

  • Having a group either visit, call, or mail letters has a bigger impact than just one person doing it, and it’s more fun. So, get your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, kidnap victims, whoever together and pass the phone around. Make it a day drinking game. Call in sick to work. It’s fun for the whole family!
  • This is a real good reason to join an Indivisible chapter if you haven’t already. There are thousands of them dotted across the land. They sprouted and grew like bamboo or invasive muesli after 2017.
  • I know those emails that claim to be from Elizabeth Warren, other political celebrities, or at least a real name are annoying, but they do help coordinate national action on issues. So, if a Congress person realizes that they just got a gazillion calls on issue X on the same day, then they know there’s a group that is pushing the issue and has voters behind it. See how that works for the anxious-to-be-re-elected Congress critter?

Film at 11:00

If you meet with your Congress person or staffer, film the interaction — this is where having a group comes in handy, one person talks, another one glares, and the third one films. So, if they are squirming or hemming and hawing or saying stupid stuff, you could go viral, and isn’t that everyone’s dream in this age of social media?

Use the Local Press

Again, if you’re going down as a large group, the press will cover it. If you’ve got a large phoning party, the press will cover it. And, you know who reads the local press? Congress folk, do, or at least their interns do. If you make the hometown newspaper or TV news, you’ve got that Congress person’s attention! So, go on, grab ’em by the press!

Be sure and take a moment to review their other suggestions from their first guide. Those worked in 2017, and they’ll will work in 2021. Give yourself a little refresher. Also, think up a few of your own and share ’em with the class right down there in the comments.

Understanding Your Congress Person

No matter which party your MoC’s are affiliated with, there is a good reason to contact them. If they’re Democrats, we can encourage them to be bolder by calling them out when they go all wussy on us or applauding them when they are. And, if they are Repubes, we can let them know we are organizing against them. If we don’t contact the opposition, and their only contacts are from supporters, then they won’t know how many constituents oppose them. There will be no hope of changing their minds or votes.

This section on understanding your Congress person is right up the Old Psy’s alley! They break down the four types of Congress person you might could be dealing with and discuss their motivations and how best to appeal to them. We’ll summarize:

Congressional Leadership

Motivation.The part caucus leaders aren’t so concerned with holding on to their seat, as they are with holding onto or gaining the majority of seats in their chamber. Their constituents are the members of their chamber. They tend to listen to their most vulnerable members and make decisions that will help them. For Dems, that often means appeasing the Repubes and drifting back to the center.

Influence. To influence the caucus leadership, you go through your MoC, either your one representative or your two senators. If your MoC knows that they have strong support for good progressive legislation, they’ll be telling that to their leadership, and leadership will be more inclined to support it..

So don’t go calling no Nancy Pelosi of Stent Hoyer or Chuck Schumer to get them to do something.. Contact your MoM and demonstrate the size of support for the issue among their constituents.

Moderate Democrat

Motivation. Moderate Dems will refer to leadership and avoid controversy.

Influence. Every time they stay silent or talk about moderation, they’ve got to hear from you. They’ve got to know that there is a cost for being cautious and middle of the road.

Progressive Democrat

Motivation. The Democratic progressive caucus is small, although it is bigger than the Squad + Sanders and Warren. They plan to operate more as a block with their votes, too. They are feeling emboldened and are willing to push and vote for more progressive legislation.

Influence. If you have a representative or senator that is progressive, then you’ve got to let them know you’re supporting them when they vote for progressive legislation, but also when they vote against non-progressive legislative options.

Conservative Democrat

Motivation. If you’re living in a red or purple district of state, then your Democratic MoC worries about re-election and is hesitant to go big or good on progressive legislation. They will openly fret to leadership about the party going too far left,and costing them re-election.

Influence. Let them know that (1) the Repubes will paint them as radical left anyway — remember refund o the police? — so they may as well help pass big bold progressive legislation; and (2) that there will be a progressive backlash against them if they don’t support progressive legislation. As bad as it feels and sounds, we gotta put them between the proverbial rock and hard place..

Repube

Motivation. They want to gaslight you. They’ll tell you they want the same things you do: protecting pre-existing conditions, free and fair elections, reforming immigration, racial justiceand other issues. They’ll assure you the real difference is in how to do it. They’re lying.. Don’t let them gaslight you. They’ll accuse Dems of being radicals and refusing to compromise. Now that’s real gaslighting, accusing your opponent of what they’re doing.

Influence. Let them know that you’re watching. You’ve got to contact them each and every time they pull some gaslighting bull shit. They’ve got to know you’re working against them. You’ve got to be super organized and get lots of calls and frequent visits by lots of constituents every time they lie or pull some other crap. This is where working the state and local press really helps.

We live in editing times. Our democracy needs our help in ways I never thought we’d see. It is time to rise to the occasion to fulfil our part of the bargain. We’ve got to be engaged, informed, and organized..

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