Call me, call me anytime

The other day Matt Yglesias fielded one of those emails that we see all the time asking, what the hell is one person supposed to do? Matt said what I would say, more or less – we live in a participatory democracy, so participate. Phone your congressperson. Write a letter to your newspaper. Show up to town halls and get involved in local government. You know those call-in shows that every wingnut has their truck radio tuned to all day? Call in. Look up Mike Stark to find excellent advice about their schtick and how to use it against them. If you have friends who care, organize them to and make it a group thing. Let people know what you think about things (within reason; I hate bringing up politics at work). The right wing organizing strategy literally hinges on these points. Overwhelming participation at the local level is the only way that they pull off policies that that over and over again poll worse than malaria. It empowers Republican officeholders to act and it gives Democrats second thoughts.

Even his advice to unplug more makes some sense, as long as you use your net connection mostly to get mad at something and then vent your rage in some blog comment section. Signal to noise is a problem online, but it does not change the simple fact that the internet is an excellent organizing tool. Where one person phoning a Congressional office might as well save your breath (more or less), a medium sized blog like this can mobilize hundreds of calls, letters and even a few visits per day if we push hard enough. That kind of volume starts to have a tangible tidal force on the Hill.

President Obama has the good sense to realize this. From what I hear people have followed his lead and phoned in huge numbers. The best thing that you can do right now is ramp up the volume and help turn the tidal pull that most offices are feeling into a rip current that they have to think hard about fighting.

Have a Republican representative? Pick up the phone and ask them to stop acting like children and more like grownup problem solvers. The economy is not some piece on a board game. If you have Democratic representatives then you might ask them to grow a goddamn spine and get behind the one proposal that even tries save their ass and the economy in 2012.

Find your Congresscritter here.

Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Guide for first-timers here.






48 replies
  1. 1
    Tata says:

    Further: that helpless feeling is a big problem on its own.

    Get up, find someone who needs help and has no expectation of it. Provide help. It doesn’t matter if you paint a hallway in a new home for returning veterans or ladle soup at a food kitchen. Get out and move. Help a senior carry groceries. Replace your helplessness with the feeling that your actions matter – because they do.

  2. 2
    harlana says:

    Look up Mike Stark

    Mike Stark??! [insert hysterical scream here]

  3. 3
    JR says:

    Some problems simply do not have solutions. In this case, my answer would be that there’s very little anyone can do. In a democracy where the voters consistently make idiotic choices, nothing short of a clarifying disaster will change their minds — and even then it may be too late.

  4. 4
    Elie says:

    Uhn Huhn…. very important…

    Just got a note back from Maria Cantwell (D-WA), acknowledging my letter to her on supporting the Jobs bill.

    It does all start locally though. Why is it that progressives have such a hard time with organizing and consistently pushing their agenda? We always blame our leadership, but I swear I have a hard time getting my progressive neighbors to even turn out for a tea with a local progressive candidate, much less to donate money. The right wing took over the county council here almost without a fight and with truly weak candidates, and yet it continues…

    It always starts with you — what are YOU willing to do? Unfortunately for too many, not much. Always easier to bitch about what others are doing that could be done better.

  5. 5

    I regularly contact my representative, Peter Welch. Mostly to give him props for doing the right thing. He and Bernie Sanders are two of the better folks in Congress. Bernie was on Vermont Edition (VPR) the other day talking about the awful numbers that just came out about poverty in America. If you have never heard Bernie talk about issues you should give it a listen. Bernie is the man. BTW Welch will be on today’s show. We’re pretty lucky here in VT to have some sane representation in DC.

  6. 6

    i’m working with a group called “Progressive Majority” today on a messaging piece. the message is about running for office at the local level. it’s about building a farm team. it’s about having people on the inside of the party infrastructure voicing their frustrations, rather than from the outside.

    i believe they are a worthy organization and i think the message is right.

  7. 7
    Cat Lady says:

    Democrats need to stop undermining each other and this President. The one thing – the only thing – I ever gave Reagan props for is the 11th commandment. Democrats in Congress need to stop whining to the nearest reporter about things that should be kept internal, and liberals and progressives need to show unity, and just be Democrats. That’s the only option at this point.

    Democrats used to be able to deliver large voting blocs – unions can still do that, which is why they’re under attack. There are single issue voters that regardless of their other beliefs which may be more liberal will vote against abortion, or against gay marriage, which Republicans can count on. I’ve actually heard a so called progressive here say they weren’t going to vote for Obama because they don’t agree 100% with him. That shit’s fucked up. It’s not about you, and as some witty commenter said here, the ponies aren’t going to come out of hiding under President Perry.

  8. 8
    Nevgu says:

    You forgot the most important advice of all. Don’t take blogs such as BJ and that Orange site seriously.

    Wrong Way Cup Half Empty Cole and that douche that owns the orange site are ReThugs greatest allies. Whether they realize it or not (sometimes I wonder which it is).

    The whole goal of the GOP is to divide and conquer. They want you to become disenfranchised. They want you to believe gov’t can’t do anything. They want you to complain. They don’t care so much whether you complain about their or Dems. They just want you to lose hope. Ultimately their goal is for you to not participate in your right to vote.

    People like Captain Doom John Galt Cole are doing everything they can (whether they realize it or not) to make the GOP’s wishes come true.

  9. 9
    Elie says:

    @Cat Lady:

    ..and it still effing amazes me that people would remotely consider giving the reigns back over to the people who created this economic mess to begin with — and who shamelessly promote policies only for the wealthy! It boggles my mind over and over when I head Democrats and progressives criticize this President for trying to make something happen on the jobs/stimulus front. It renders me almost speechless when I hear it from friends and associates who should know better and who I consider smart folks.

    And the idiocy does not end at our shores. Heard the new head of the IMF highlighting budget cutting as a means to save world economies. WTF? How do people without money grow economies? Who will have money to buy anything?

  10. 10
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Nevgu:
    Te ullum ridens antiopam cum. Vis cu nostro fabulas constituam, an sit harum errem voluptatibus. Eam at blandit legendos atomorum, amet disputando adversarium pri no, magna facer ad sea. Ea erat volumus necessitatibus per, pro ex movet fierent. Cu eruditi albucius conclusionemque eos, in ubique aliquam ius.

    Cum ex legere vocent. Has et inani viderer debitis. Te nec soleat posidonium, augue omittam comprehensam ei sit, nec congue inermis ea. Id vix erant viris dicant, ea ludus legere sed. Eum at eros epicurei, nobis disputationi sea ne, errem feugait ad eum. Id vix alterum inermis, inermis mandamus in quo, id homero soluta vis.

  11. 11
    Catsy says:

    @Dennis SGMM: I have no idea what you just said, but I feel you man, right here.

  12. 12
    Cat Lady says:

    @Elie:

    It’s inexplicable to me too, Elie. The left appears to be only good for whining. It’s pathetic.

  13. 13
    evap says:

    I would like to send a letter to my two horrible Rethug Senators (thanks, GA voters), one of whom is up for election in 2012. I find it hard to compose such letters, though. Can someone post a letter they have written, or a link to one online, that I can use as a template?

  14. 14
    Elie says:

    @Nevgu:

    I go along with what you are saying about Kos but completely disagree about BJ — which has a pretty open forum and I don’t consider doom and gloom without substance.

    There is no substitute for real boots on the ground activism though. Blogging doesnt do that directly, but it sure can help to inform, shape, synthesize….

  15. 15
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Catsy:

    LOL! I felt that the only answer to nonsense was nonsense. The text is known as Lorem Ipsum. It’s Latinate filler text used as a placeholder in printing and graphic design.

  16. 16
    Linnaeus says:

    @Cat Lady:

    Democrats need to stop undermining each other and this President. The one thing – the only thing – I ever gave Reagan props for is the 11th commandment. Democrats in Congress need to stop whining to the nearest reporter about things that should be kept internal, and liberals and progressives need to show unity, and just be Democrats. That’s the only option at this point.

    This is a challenge inherent, I think, in any kind of organization that’s a coalition, which I think accurately describes the Democratic Party (much more so than the Republicans). What’s happening in the Democratic Party now is also the fruit of fissues in the party that became pretty apparent by the late 1970s. These still haven’t been resolved.

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Ah, a Blondie reference on a Friday morning.

    Oh, and good advice. CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSCRITTERS!

  18. 18
    Cat Lady says:

    @Linnaeus:

    Disagreements are inherent, I understand, but there’s a lesson from Republican message coherence – keep it simple, have it repeated over and over by a few high profile people, and keep disagreements in the back room. Too many Democrats are preening assholes first, and Democrats second.

  19. 19
    Paul in KY says:

    @Nevgu: Anyone who frequesnts this site (or KOS, for that matter) is beyond these strategic differences debates influencing whether or not they vote.

    IMO, we’re all political junkies to one degree or another & you can’t really be a political junkie if you don’t vote.

  20. 20
    Paul in KY says:

    @Dennis SGMM: can you put that to a nice Gregorian chant?

    Maybe interspirsed with the sounds of monks hitting themselves in the head with the bible.

  21. 21
    scottinnj says:

    One other thing on calling your Congressman – redistricting will happen in 2012. So even if your Congressman is a teatard, he may not be sure who will be his constituents next time. We called our teatard congressman a few times and got a (nicely worded) FU email in response. But you know they are keeping a tally.

  22. 22
    Paul in KY says:

    @evap: How about: ‘Die in a fire, you cheap, evil lackey to power. You will die alone & hated & one day your name will replace ‘Quisling’ and ‘Benedict Arnold’ as an epithet for traitor to our country’.

    I sorta like that.

  23. 23
    Paul in KY says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Saw them in concert back in 1982. Great show, great band.

  24. 24
    Paul in KY says:

    @efgoldman: I can always count on you! Thanks a bunch.

  25. 25

    Where one person phoning a Congressional office might as well save your breath (more or less), a medium sized blog like this can mobilize hundreds of calls, letters and even a few visits per day if we push hard enough. That kind of volume starts to have a tangible tidal force on the Hill.

    This. It’s concerted action that makes a difference here.

    The problem, as best as I can tell, is that most of the time on the left, nobody in a position to do so is trying to get people to call in about something specific. When a number of blogs (including this one!) got us calling up our congresscritters to Pass The Damn Bill, we mobilized, made lots of calls, and it worked. They passed the damn bill.

    Since then, there’s been very little in the way of that. It’s good to see it come back with the Obama jobs bill; I’ll be calling my Congresscritters, even though I know they’re sure votes for it, just to let them know I’ve got their back.

    But when this push is over, we ought to have an evolving list of 2-3 issues that we denizens of lefty blogs are calling our Congresscritters about at any given time. It doesn’t all have to be legislation; part of the game is to raise the salience of issues that aren’t currently in play. And maybe sometimes we should be calling just Dem legislators, to tell them to generally grow a spine. (I’m periodically tempted to order 250 copies of Watership Down, and deliver a copy to each Dem Congresscritter, just to remind them that it’s possible for even a pack of scared rabbits to learn to be brave.)

    I don’t think it should be a top-down thing, but what’s needed is for some lefty blogger with a pretty decent audience to lead the discussion on which things should be on the list. Any volunteers, BJ front-pagers?

  26. 26
    Nevgu says:

    @Paul in KY: Let me remind you that Sesame Street Cole voted for the Texas dummy twice.

    Voters that stupid can be convinced of just about anything. I wouldn’t put it past him to vote for the likes of Ron Paul given half a chance. He is naive enough to believe Pauls idealistic and childishly simplistic bs about ending all military conflict.

  27. 27
    Munira says:

    I contacted both my senators. Even though I live in Quebec, I vote in Washington state since it’s the last place I lived in the states. I told Murray and Cantwell that I knew they’d support the bill, but I’d like to see Democrats talking about it everywhere they went. It’s time people understand who’s on their side and how obstructive the Repubs are. I also sent a message to Boehner for what it’s worth. I just said, Pass the bill. America needs it.

  28. 28
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Like this?

    EDIT: efgoldman beat me to it.

  29. 29
    ruemara says:

    I post on food, I get a million comments and lots of positive feedback. I post calls to action, I get crickets. I’m going to agitate again today, but it’s hilarious how chewed out I get for being critical of teh lawds of teh left, but I can’t get 5 people to make a phone call to their Reps. I just don’t understand what ‘excitement’ has to do with working for yourself-which is what this is.

  30. 30
    Paul in KY says:

    @Nevgu: I was just saying the people in here will go to the booths & vote for someone. I’m pretty damn sure Mr. Cole will not be voting for any Republican or 3rd party candidate.

    I don’t think Ron Paul really believes he could or would ‘end all military conflict’.

    He voted for Batshit McChimpy before he’d seen the light. He’s one of the converted now & you know converts are usually the most rabid adherents to whatever they converted to.

    Look at Samara, for example, she’s calling out a Malay, family been Moslem since 1200, for not being Moslem enough. That takes some chutzpah, IMO (and I personally like Samara).

  31. 31
    Paul in KY says:

    @Dennis SGMM: You are pretty good person to rely upon also. Thanks!

  32. 32
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Linnaeus:

    What’s happening in the Democratic Party now is also the fruit of fissues in the party that became pretty apparent by the late 1970s. These still haven’t been resolved.

    Good point. I think that we’ve also picked up numbers of people who would have in the past been moderate Republicans. They are not as gung ho as many of us are on some social issues and the party hasn’t, to my mind, been effective at addressing some of the attitudes and issues of these voters while not alienating the more left-leaning segment of the party.

  33. 33
    Linnaeus says:

    @Cat Lady:

    I agree that the Democrats need to do a better job of keeping their elected officials consistent and on message. I do think, however, that it’s easier for the Republicans to do so because they are, internally, a more coherent party and hence there’s less confusion among Republicans as to whom they serve.

  34. 34
    Nevgu says:

    @Paul in KY: He may be converted but you can’t fix stupid.

  35. 35
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @evap: OK, here’s one I wrote the other day to Jim Webb.

    Hey, instead of pasting it here, I just remembered that months ago I had set up a blogspot account!

    Here’s the letter on MY BLOG. Wow, I feel so 2002.

  36. 36
    Linnaeus says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    Good point. I think that we’ve also picked up numbers of people who would have in the past been moderate Republicans. They are not as gung ho as many of us are on some social issues and the party hasn’t, to my mind, been effective at addressing some of the attitudes and issues of these voters while not alienating the more left-leaning segment of the party.

    Yes, and I think this is why it’s so important for the Democrats to get their economic stance straight. Personally, I’d like the Democratic Party to be a left-liberal party that still attracts more moderate voters because those voters still think they’re get enough of what they want with the Democrats. I think how that will happen best is if the Democrats find a way to make who they stand for economically less ambiguous.

  37. 37
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    I think that we’ve also picked up numbers of people who would have in the past been moderate Republicans. They are not as gung ho as many of us are on some social issues

    Actually IMHO the people who would have been moderate Republicans but are now Democrats are pretty solid on “social issues” like civil rights. What they’re not so gung-ho about are the issues of economics and social class. For instance, they tend to like balanced budgets, lower spending, and lower taxes, and not like labor unions.

  38. 38
    negative 1 says:

    One thing that I think is very important is calling your republican congressthing even if you are a registered democrat. People tend to believe that if they are not a repub, than their local rep will not listen to them. This is truly not the case. They’ll grandstand for national media because 99.999% of people watching it can’t vote for them. But if you live in their constituency, you can, even if you don’t. Besides, getting called a bigot by NBC doesn’t do 1/4 as much to harm them as getting called ‘unresponsive’ by their hometown Podunk Times. And they know it.

  39. 39
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Linnaeus:

    Personally, I’d like the Democratic Party to be a left-liberal party that still attracts more moderate voters because those voters still think they’re get enough of what they want with the Democrats.

    That would be great, but Sun Belt Democrats came up with something else, which is the idea of a Democratic Party that attracts moderate voters by being business-friendly and catering to apolitical people’s exasperation at the (supposed) excesses of bleeding-heart liberals. And a lot of them got elected on that. So you’d have to dislodge them while at the same time perfecting the New Liberal Populism. And while that’s getting sorted out, a lot of nominal Democrats will lose, which will hurt the better Democrats’ chances of accomplishing a modicum of progressive change, because it will put them farther from majority-party status.

    That’s the problem: transitioning from the “DLC” model for how to win over moderates, which sometimes works, to some other model, which hasn’t yet been particularly successful.

  40. 40
    Elie says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Hit the nail on the head. Absolutely…

  41. 41
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Well put, in both of your posts. The “some other model” is going to be a long time coming because our party tends to throw out anything that doesn’t produce immediate results. The Republicans spent decades building their juggernaut and their work is paying off for them. We seem to change strategies and rhetoric with every election cycle. It might advantage us to agree on some simple, one-sentence core principles and keep on hammering on them until people who aren’t hanging out on left-leaning blogs will know what we stand for, first, last and always.

  42. 42
    B W Smith says:

    @evap: I don’t think either of Georgia’s US Senators are up for reelection in 2012. It still doesn’t hurt to write them. I write them, call them, and participate in Isakson’s telephone town halls (though it is hard to get a question in). I would offer one of my letters but they are pretty position oriented and I haven’t written one for the jobs bill yet. A few hints: make it personal about how the bill affects you and Georgians you know, point out what portions of the legislation they have supported in the past, and let them know how they decide will be remembered and affect your support. Chambliss had a very close race in 2008. Isakson won easily in 2010 and is the least likely to change his opinion.

  43. 43
  44. 44
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I’m literally right now playing phone tag with a staffer for my congresswoman. In my case, the issue is veterans benefits, and I realized that bitching about it on blogs isn’t gonna do anything, I might as well complain to someone official.

  45. 45

    […] As a practical matter, for the next thirteen months, whatever truth there is to any of our grievances with our Democratic leaders doesn’t matter.  Not one damn bit.  (I.e. – what Tim F. says.) […]

  46. 46
    Mino says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Laughed at your header.

  47. 47
    Nathanael says:

    “That kind of volume starts to have a tangible tidal force on the Hill.”

    No. It doesn’t have any effect on the Hill.

    Ask the ACLU, who can mobilize more people than any blog.

    Total outside the system organization, that’s probably the only way to go. Not looking forward to it. But the people of the Mediterranean Basin countries seem to be making it work….

  48. 48
    Canuckistani Tom says:

    A reminder to those living in America’s hat, we’ve got a bunch of provincial elections coming up. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, PEI, Newfoundland, Yukon and NWT are all having elections between now and early November.

    Get involved. It’s easy, and even if you can only help for a few hours one day a week, they’ll appreciate it.

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