How we can fight back
1/19/2017 EDIT: check out what we are building at standuptakeaction.com!
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I have been thinking a lot about the Trump “situation,” and more specifically what we can do about it.
We are in for a long stretch if I have to read on a daily basis for the next four years about all the terrible things Trump will likely try to do — bring racism into the highest levels of government, cut more taxes for the rich, repeal 50 years’ worth of environmental protections.
The problem is that most people don’t know HOW to effectively take action. Even large political nonprofits ask you do pointless things like sign petitions or send template e-mails. What we need is a REALLY easy way for ordinary Americans to hold Trump accountable — by using technology to mobilize people in volume, and together make coordinated phone calls and visits to the correct representatives in our government.
Here’s an idea: what if we made an app so with the push of the button you could directly connect via phone with your specific representative? What if there was a script to tell them directly what actions you want them to take, and you and thousands of other people actually called them? It would be unprecedented, because people rarely call or visit their elected officials in volume (only the lobbyists do!) Would you take the time to do this?
WHY THE OPPORTUNITY IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME
We are in this mess partly because of our broken political system, but also because most ordinary Americans have never really cared enough to take any political action.
But this time is different. We aren’t fooled by Trump; he’s already selected a known racist as his chief strategist, a climate skeptic to lead the EPA, and is filling the rest of his cabinet with Washington insiders and lobbyists (he’s even considering… Sarah Palin!) I have never felt so disappointed about American politics. But I believe there is a historic opportunity to channel this frustration into creating a new generation of young people that will care enough to take political action.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
It’s not easy to know HOW to influence our government; who to call, what to say, and knowing there are others that are lobbying alongside you. Here are some actions that are NOT effective in influencing our government:
- Writing Facebook rants or obsessively sharing news articles
- Signing online petitions
- E-mailing your Congress member (e-mails are easily ignored)
- Calling Congress members that don’t actually represent you (Pop quiz: can you name your Representative in Congress and your Senators? Most Americans cannot)
- Calling Congress members about issues they can’t do anything about (for example, if you are frustrated that Republicans are holding the Supreme Court hostage by not holding confirmation hearings — you have to call your Senator, not your Representative)
Previously effective methods such as signing petitions no longer work; representatives are inundated with petitions signed by people they don’t even represent. The only way that you can effectively influence government is to actually call or meet the one representative or two senators that represent YOU in government.
A NEW IDEA ON HOW WE CAN MAKE OUR VOICE HEARD — TOGETHER
We need an easier way to take action. I propose that we take a page from Silicon Valley and create an app that does the following:
- You input your location
- Get many people to focus on a few current issues: We coordinate with a leader in Congress to focus our efforts on 3 CURRENT issues that are a priority on their policy platform. You pick the issue that you are most interested in; the goal is to get a lot of people to act on just a few issues
- Get a script on what to say: The app will provide a script that guides you on how to effectively speak to YOUR representative on that specific topic
- Call the correct representative: The app will directly place a phone call to the appropriate representative at their LOCAL office (note that different issues will require you to call different representatives)
- Get recognition for your work: Nobody wants to make these calls alone, so we will track how many constituents contacted their representative on a particular issue. Once you are done making your call, you will get recognition for your work by receiving stars on the app; the same incentive mechanism that drives a few people to write hundreds of reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor.
- Build a community for in-person action: The app will also connect you to local advocacy groups that work on the issue, so you can meet up with other community members and go to in-person town hall meetings. Remember that government officials are humans too; rallying a large group and having a constructive meeting (or alternatively, protesting at your rep‘s office) will have an impact, assuming your representative is not a robot. Just ask the lobbyists, who cozy up with policymakers and have a ton of influence.
Importantly, this should NOT be a “non-partisan app” or a “platform for everybody.” This must be a tool to dramatically increase the influence of a charismatic, strong leader in Congress that can serve as an effective counterweight to Trump. I believe this leader must be Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders (I understand that this will alienate some readers, but in startups, it’s best to have a few users love you than a lot that are ambivalent — passionate supporters are the ones that will actually make the phone calls once the election anger subsides). A leader like Warren or Sanders can inspire tech-savvy young Americans to action; after all, more people under the age of 30 voted for Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined.
If there’s ever a time that people will actually make these phone calls, it’s to stop Trump. Republicans now control the House, the Senate, 32 state legislatures and soon the Supreme Court, giving them broad power to push through radical laws that most Americans do not agree with.
But on the bright side: this is a rare opportunity to gather a group of committed citizens to persuade our representatives to act in the interest or ordinary Americans — the way our government is supposed to work. Like any startup this idea might fail, but in times like these it’s the only option we have.
So who’s interested?