Ready for action? Calling your elected representative is one of the most important actions you can take. Even better news? You can make this a daily habit, one you can accomplish from home in just five minutes a day. In addition, phone calls are the actions that my local Resistance group, MVCAN, receives the most questions about. The MVCAN Leadership Team recently met with Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA)’s State Director, Sean Elsbernd. He confirmed many of MVCAN’s tactics and shared some of the ways that calls are effective in promoting change.
Why Calls Matter
According to Elsbernd, Senator Feinstein receives daily and weekly tabulations of the number of phone calls, emails and letters she gets about each issue. The weekly report includes quotes from phone calls and emails – so if you have a story you can use about how an issue touches you personally, your phone call or email is the time to use it.
For Senator Feinstein, all phone calls, emails and letters count as one contact apiece. I have read that for some other representatives in less populous states, phone calls count more than emails or letters.
What to Do if You Can’t get Through
For Californians: Because the two CA Senators represent 40 million people each, it can feel as if we’re all calling them at once – it’s impossible to get through on the phone. In that case, MVCAN recommends calling one of the senators’ regional offices, like Fresno or San Diego. Those numbers are listed here. All calls to any of our representatives’ offices are counted the same. It’s fine for someone in Marin to call San Diego, or someone in L.A. to call Sacramento. If you just can’t get through, then email. Those addresses are also on the MVCAN web site.
How Calls Have Had an Impact
Feinstein’s director shared that our phone calls, emails and letters to the senator about the Cabinet nominees have had a real impact. They bolstered her reserve to ask Jeff Sessions the tough questions during his confirmation for Attorney General. They supported her to continue her thorough investigation of Russian hacking of the election.
Who to Call
One question MVCAN often gets is: Should people make phone calls to representatives in states other than their own? While MVCAN concentrates most of its efforts on the two CA Senators, Feinstein and Harris, and the Representative in the House, Jared Huffman, the group does occasionally advise calling other states’ representatives, on national issues, selectively and strategically.
Another type of call that effects change is a call of support for a senator, in our out of state, Democrat or Republican, who has taken a stance you support. Feinstein’s State Director shared that calling across the aisle from out of state with a positive message is especially noted.
How to Call
What happens when you call? Sometimes you reach a live person, an aide. This is usually a young person who is getting his/her start in a congressional office. These people are usually very friendly. You’re not bothering them. Their job is to take our calls.
Sometimes you’ll read a call script. You can certainly follow a script, but the more you get used to calling, the less you’ll need one. Just speak with passion and tell the person why you’re calling. If you have a personal story or angle, you should share. You can keep it really simple. “I’m asking Senator ______ to Vote Yes/No on ______. My name is _______. My zip code is ______.” Be prepared to leave your message on a machine. If you get a live person, you can also ask if the representative has made a decision about a particular issue and if so politely reinforce or oppose it.
Be clear and declarative. Call about one or two issues at a time. You can call back another time about another issue. (In fact, it’s good practice to call the same representatives often.) Also, if you’ve ever donated to the person’s campaign, mention it.
One Other Important Type of Call to Make
Call friends and family in red or purple states and urge them to contact their members of Congress. Congresspeople want to hear from their own constituents, so think of the people you know in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada and others, and get in the habit of nudging them to call their representatives. Send them scripts. Make calls yourself so you can tell them how it’s done. These calls are working around the country, and it’s vital that participants keep the pressure up. Democrats from purple and red states like Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, and more need lots of reinforcement to stand up to Trump.
The MVCAN page lists actions you can take
See other Calling Action Resources here
Read the Indivisible Guide to learn more about exerting pressure on Members of Congress (MOCs)
Now, make those calls!