Uh oh. Is It 2016 All Over Again?

Yesterday, I asked a simple question on Twitter. I was dismayed with the response.

With the Senate impeachment trial starting next week, I posted a quick poll with this question: Have you called your Senators about the impeachment trial yet? The poll offered 3 choices: 1) Yes, 2) I’ll do it today, and 3) No.

Not only did the Nos outpace the Yeses, here are the two replies I got over and over again:

I don’t need to call. I’ve got Dem Senators. I know they’ll do the right thing. or Are you kidding? I’ve got GOP Senators. It’s pointless to call them.

I’m like, has everyone forgotten the lessons from 2016? What happened to “I got complacent and wasn’t engaged, and that’s why we lost the presidency. I’ll never let that happen again.” But yet here we are, four years later, with the Democrats in control of the presidency and Congress, and all of a sudden, no one thinks its necessary to call their Senators anymore.

What happened to the outpouring of activism we’ve seen in these last four years? If you need a reminder, this is what that looked like. (Taken from a New Yorker article in February 2017 about what calling Congress achieves).

Perhaps the most striking shift so far, though, has happened on the Democratic side of the aisle, in the form of a swift and dramatic stiffening of the spine. In the past month, at the insistence of constituents, the party line has changed from a cautious willingness to work with the White House to staunch and nearly unified opposition. “If you ask me, before the calls started coming in, someone like Neil Gorsuch”—Trump’s pick for the vacant Supreme Court seat—“would have passed with seventy-one votes,” said one Democratic senator’s chief of staff, who has worked on the Hill for close to twenty years. “Now I’d be surprised if he gets to sixty.” More generally, that staffer noted, the newly galvanized left is suddenly helping to set the Party’s agenda.

Think back to the big healthcare fight in 2017. There was no reason to believe any Republican Senator would vote against their party, after the GOP had been fighting for 8 long years to tear the Affordable Healthcare Act down. Yet Congress was drowning in calls and emails and visits from voters.

Why? Because we had all woken up to the need to be engaged and in contact with our representatives in government. Which party currently controls the government shouldn’t change the calculus as to whether or not we are calling. We’re either engaged voters, or we’re not. I write Political Charge to make the case, and try to inspire folks, as to why being engaged with your politicians is important.

Yet here we are, on the eve of a historic impeachment trial, brought on by the former president inciting an insurrection on our government and refusing a peaceful transfer of power, and yet way too many people are shrugging their shoulders and not seeing any reason to call.

I could throw my hands up in the air and just give up. But I won’t.

Here’s why you should call. First, I know you have strong feelings about what happened on January 6th at the Capitol. You were horrified and want to see people be held accountable for this assault on our government. Your Senators should hear you say that.

If they are Democrats, hearing from you will stiffen their spine and let them know that they have considerable support back in their state for this important vote. I can’t think of anything worse than them having the MAGA faithful inundate their offices with angry, threatening calls and not hearing any counterbalance from Democrats in their state.

If they are Republicans, they need to know that you are watching and paying attention. That a vote to acquit an obviously guilty former president who has no business ever being in politics again will be a vote that you will make sure haunts them on the campaign trail. Not calling them is essentially letting them off the hook. If the only voices they are hearing are from the right wing nutjobs, how easy will that make it for them to acquit? Make them think twice by calling.

Making a call or sending a message through email takes, what, 2 minutes tops? Is being an engaged citizen worth 2 minutes of your time? If calling to try and stop our unhinged former president from ever holding office again isn’t worth 2 minutes of your time, I’m going to worry mightily about our ability to hang on to our slim majority in 2022. Please give me hope that the lessons of the past four years haven’t already been washed away.


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13 replies

  1. Congress Critters called about impeachment, and latest PoliChange shared with my activist group (which also meets tonight). Thanks for all you do.

  2. Okay, I shared this very important column to my Indivisible group on FB and I emailed my two Dem senators from WA state. Thanks for the shake-up/pep talk. We really need this constant reminder, sadly, to take nothing for granted.

    • Thank you for sharing it. I really appreciate that! It is natural to get complacent, but we just can’t afford to. Our democracy feels so fragile still.

  3. Excellent reminder, my friend. We rise up to meet a crisis, but then once the crisis is past, we get lazy. I don’t call my senators and representatives, for my near-deafness makes telephone conversations nearly impossible, but I write to them every time, and usually get a canned response, but occasionally one will actually address the issue. I will ‘re-blog’ this one in my usual way (damn I miss your reblog button!!!). Thank you!

  4. Tokyo, call them, email them. They need to hear from folks. Also call the brave Senators and Representatives in the GOP who have political courage and voted against the seditious acts of the former president or the inanity of the conspiracy parroting. I contrast a party who has lost Will Hurd (my favorite Republican Congressman) as well as Senators like Rob Portman, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker,etc. who I disagreed with often, but at least were statesman versus adding folks like Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene who just parrot nonsense. What is happening to folks like Liz Cheney, Ben Sasse, Adam Kinzinger is a damn shame.

    Thanks for the prod for all to reach out. Keith

  5. Thank you for that kick in the ass! 👏🏼👏🏼 I’ve only contacted my senator once and it was about something personal to me. I’m sorry if this sounds stupid but 1: What do you say when you call? and 2: Can you call Senators from other states?

    • I’m glad you wrote to me. Let me answer your questions in reverse: 2) Only contact your own Senators. They are the only ones who are affected by how you vote, so only your voice matters to them. If you were to call other Senators, they wouldn’t log your response. 1) Unless you’re calling a local legislator, you’re going to get a staffer or an answering machine. My basic script is this. “Hi, I’m [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [Zip Code.] I’m calling about [Issue.]” Then, in a sentence or two, tell them why it’s important to you, and if a vote is about to take place, how you want the Senator to vote. Then thank them for listening. Done!

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