A group of former congressional staffers has put out a great-looking, short guide on how to influence legislators. Their angles include:
- They’re Democrats, focused on resisting the Trump/Bannon Administration.
- They base their views heavily on the successes of the Tea Party in the Obama years.
- As might be inferred from the name they chose — “Indivisible” — they’re focused on protecting-the-threatened kinds of issues, such as religious discrimination, sexual discrimination, or health care for the poor.
- They’re focused on Congress — House and Senate — rather than state legislatures.
I’ll quote the summary in its entirety:
How grassroots advocacy worked to stop President Obama. We examine lessons from the Tea Party’s rise and recommend two key strategic components:
- A local strategy targeting individual Members of Congress (MoCs).
- A defensive approach purely focused on stopping Trump from implementing an agenda built on racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
How your MoC thinks — reelection, reelection, reelection — and how to use that to save democracy. MoCs want their constituents to think well of them, and they want good, local press. They hate surprises, wasted time, and most of all, bad press that makes them look weak, unlikable, and vulnerable. You will use these interests to make them listen and act.
Identify or organize your local group. Is there an existing local group or network you can join? Or do you need to start your own? We suggest steps to help mobilize your fellow constituents locally and start organizing for action.
Four local advocacy tactics that actually work. Most of you have three MoCs — two Senators and one Representative. Whether you like it or not, they are your voices in Washington. Your job is to make sure they are, in fact, speaking for you. We’ve identified four key opportunity areas that just a handful of local constituents can use to great effect. Always record encounters on video, prepare questions ahead of time, coordinate with your group, and report back to local media:
- Town halls. MoCs regularly hold public in-district events to show that they are listening to constituents. Make them listen to you, and report out when they don’t.
- Non-town hall events. MoCs love cutting ribbons and kissing babies back home. Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
- District office sit-ins/meetings. Every MoC has one or several district offices. Go there. Demand a meeting with the MoC. Report to the world if they refuse to listen.
- Coordinated calls. Calls are a light lift, but can have an impact. Organize your local group to barrage your MoCs with calls at an opportune moment about and on a specific issue.
That covers most of what’s in the paper, but I’d also like to call out a few more points:
- If your elected representative is actually doing as you’d wish, contact their office to voice your support! Most issues-related contacts are negative, and support is an important counterweight to allow them to discount the inevitable criticism. (Congresswoman Niki Tsongas made the same point in a recent meet-up.)
- The guide focuses heavily on influencing the relevant (i.e. local) press. This is a classic case of influencing a particular group of influencers.
- Similarly, the guide draws a useful distinction between Congressional staffers with no influence on legislative or other political outcomes (most of them) and those who are actually senior enough to make a difference.
I plan to keep updating the list of links at the bottom of my post Politics and policy in the age of Trump.