One Million Emails Against DeVos: Citizen Activists Bombard Capitol Hill

Yes, that's a message in a bottle

Donald Trump’s nomination of billionaire school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary does not sit right with many Americans. They’re not being shy about it, either: they’ve jammed the Capitol switchboard trying to reach their Senators on the phone, and they’re carpet-bombing the Hill with emails and tweets, too. According to Politio, over ONE MILLION anti-DeVos emails have hit the Congress already. As The Hill notes, Sen. Tim Kaine alone has received 25,000 letters and emails alone, and offices have struggled to keep up on all fronts:

Several GOP Senate offices report being overwhelmed with protest messages against Trump’s Cabinet picks, with the volume so high that some mailboxes are full.

Liberal advocacy groups have gone all-in on the anti-DeVos push, sensing the chance to derail at least one Trump nominee odious in their eyes (my email inbox contains one action alert after another). But not all of the calls are sparked by an appeal from the “professional left”:

While liberal groups are largely behind the push, members of the general public are calling too, likely motivated by organic calls to action on social media.

“Progressive groups are seeing explosive responses to requests to take action, but there are waves of phone calls that have nothing to do with any organized group,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director at MoveOn.

Politico notes that elebrities like George Takei and Stephen King have joined the social media push, asking their millions of Twitter followers to join them in pressuring Congress. But the idea of citizen action has taken hold broadly on the Left, and this detail from The Hill is particularly fascinating:

At the Women’s March on Washington and at rallies around the world, Wikler said groups were chanting (202) 224-3121.

That’s the number to the Capitol switchboard! Activists have turned a means of communicating with Congress into a public call to action of its own. Awesome.

But can the Trump resistance keep the troops fired up for long? Trump’s chaotic style of governing creates a new outrage every day, which could simply burn progressive activists out. Advocacy groups will need to nurture their communities of activists, balancing the need to keep people involved with the need to leave at least some water in the well.

This may help: hard-core protesters plan to dog Trump’s every step, using his businesses as a proxy to hit hit him where it hurts (his ego and his wallet). Perhaps advocacy groups could learn from this approach: they could organize “super advocates” to stay in the fight every day, but save full-on mobilization of their less-committed followers for the most important moments. Very few of us can stay angry every day without simply wearing out…though if anyone can keep liberals at a boil for four years, I suspect it will be Donald Trump.


Written by
Colin Delany
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