Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lobby for your Life: A Gun Violence Action Kit

LOBBY FOR YOUR LIFE: A Kit for Effective Action to Prevent Gun Violence

The youthful activism coming out of Florida in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting could be a game changer in the fight for sensible gun laws in America. Or, it could fizzle out after a march or two, as it has after so many mass shootings, leaving us with the status quo. Progressives tend to flit from issue to issue. What incenses this morning is forgotten at dinner after it falls three screens down the Facebook feed. The NRA doesn’t beat us with money (more on that below) they beat us with discipline. They show up to fight, and they push their agenda to their base and to Congress  every day of every year. We show up a couple times a year, scream for two days, then move on.  NRA’s supporters vote, in every election. They don’t wait for the perfect candidate or storm off in a fit of pique when their favorite candidate loses a primary. DISCIPLINE. That’s the key. This is a long battle and we need to be tougher.

A complete gun ban is presently impossible due to two recent Supreme Court cases (DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago), in which the right of an individual to possess a gun for self protection was asserted. So, don't focus on the impossible. We can't ban all guns until those two decisions are overturned,  which is unlikely for many years. We can ban assault rifles, we can limit ammunition, we can ban bump stocks and we can vastly improve background checks. Focus on the possible.


A sample letter to Congress is here:                             
It's not really about money. While you should pressure elected officials to stop taking campaign contributions from the NRA, don’t delude yourself. The NRA derives power from conservative culture far more than from money. The environmental movement often provides significantly more contributions to politicians in a two-year election cycle than the NRA, but we don’t have comprehensive climate change legislation to show for it. Money matters, but it is by no means everything:                                                                       

Write letters and call, but avoid ineffective online petitions. More on that here:


This is part of the Oxford University  ”Everyone Needs to Know” series on public policy issues. It is fact filled and presented in a question/answer format that makes it a useful reference work. It’s also balanced and level headed throughout. The numbers here are real, and are presented without any hyperbole.
Gunfight, by Adam Winkler                                                     
A UCLA professor’s thoughtful book on the history of the Second Amendment.


Everytown for Gun Safety. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s organization, primarily focused on passing sensible gun laws at the state and local level.

Gabby Gifford's Law Center and PAC. Founded by former Arizona House Representative Gabrielle Giffords after she was wounded in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011. The Law Center has good coverage of existing firearms laws, divided by topics.
Candidates and Campaigns. Give to our smart crop of candidates running for Congress, and volunteer to make calls and knock on doors. 


The National Rifle Association. Yes, this site will raise your blood pressure, but get to know the opposition.


When  writing a letter to Congress or discussing gun issues with a Congressional staffer, use language they recognize and relate to. Lobbying is persuasive communication, it’s not venting personal spleen. When a Congressional staff member reads your letter, they should not be able to immediately discern if you are a Democrat or a Republican. If they don’t see you as a latte sipping, Birkenstock wearing. doobie toking opponent, your words will carry more weight. 

DON’T SAY: Gun Control
DO SAY: Common Sense Gun Laws

DO: Talk in the moral language of the right.
 ***“Common Sense gun laws are the right thing to do to uphold FAMILY VALUES.”
 ***“ Common sense gun laws are the CHRISTIAN thing to do.”
***“The Second Amendment refers to a citizen militia. We need to focus on the Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Children are dying; we have a moral obligation to stop this madness.”


The Brady Act of 1993. Named after President Ronald Reagan’s  Press Secretary Jim Brady, who was permanently disabled in the attempt on Reagan’s life by John Hinckley at the Washington Hilton in 1981. The Act forbade gun sales to any person who was a “fugitive from justice." The FBI interpreted the law to include anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant. Since 1998, when background checks were formally put in place, 180,000 gun sales to fugitives were successfully blocked.

In 2017, the Trump Administration weakened the Brady Act by siding with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Administration, who favor a far weaker regulatory approach than that of the FBI. Now, the law only blocks gun sales to individuals who have fled across state lines to avoid prosecution. This removed 500,000 individuals from the background check database.

The Brady Act further imposed a five day waiting period for gun purchases.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
This law actually banned semi-automatic weapons, like the AR15! The law specifically made it “unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess” a semi-automatic assault weapon. Unfortunately, to garner enough votes to pass the law, Congress put in a 10 year sunset clause. Congress failed to reauthorize the law in 2004. The ban expired, and assault weapons again flooded our streets. These weapons are now legal unless banned by state or local laws. Both this law and the Brady Act were supported by former President Ronald Reagan.
It is perfectly legal and Constitutional to ban AR15s and other semiautomatic assault weapons. We did it before and we can do it again.
National Firearms Act, 1934: This law makes it difficult to obtain a “suppressor” or “silencer.” A suppressor muffles the noise of the gunshot and reduces the muzzle flash. By so doing, it is much more difficult for law enforcement to find the location of a shooter. The SHAPE Act in the House would weaken this law.  


1939, US v. Miller. The court ruled that owning a sawed off shotgun was not protected under the Second Amendment because it had nothing to do with a well-regulated militia. This held until...

2008 District of Columbia v. Heller. DC had a complete handgun ban. The court ruled this unconstitutional because they found the Second Amendment allowed a right to own a gun for self defense. This was affirmed in...

2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago. For the second time, the court over-ruled a total gun ban and asserted a right to own a gun for self defense.

These recent cases do not mean we cannot ban assault weapons, but they do close the door on banning ALL guns in society, at least until a new court decision overturns Heller and MacDonald. Furthermore, both Heller and MacDonald were very narrow in scope, allowing leeway for local and state bans of certain weapons to stand. 


HR3999. A bipartisan bill to ban “bump stocks,” introduced by Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Seth Moulton (D-MA). This bill is stalled in the House, as is companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Bump stocks turn semi-automatic weapons into defacto fully automatic weapons, vastly increasing their firepower. The Bump Stock was the primary reason the Las Vegas shooting was the deadliest in US history.

Obama Administrative Rule on Social Security, Mental Health and Gun Ownership. In December, 2016, the Obama Administration passed a rule that added persons to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System who were receiving Social Security checks for mental illness, and who further had been deemed incompetent to handle their own affairs . The Trump administration overturned the Obama rule. While the rule only impacted about 75,000 Americans, it nonetheless runs contrary to GOP lawmakers who insist we must focus on mental health, and then weaken what few checks we actually had in place to screen for mental health. 

The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHAPE).  This bill would make it far easier to buy a gun silencer (or “suppressor” in more formal parlance). Ironically, hearings on the bill have been delayed twice due to gun violence. The original hearing was scheduled on the day a gunman opened fire at a Congressional baseball practice, seriously wounding GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise. It was delayed for a vote after the mass shooting in Last Vegas last October. This bill would disembowel the National Firearms Act of 1934. 

Silencers mask a gun's muzzle flash and the sound of the shot. Silencers make it far harder for law enforcement to find the location of a shooter. Silencers are useless when hunting. The “Sportsmen’s Heritage” reference in the name of the bill is frankly a smokescreen.


1999 Columbine High School, Columbine, CO: (15 dead, 24 injured)
2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School (28 dead, 2 injured). Point to make with your Congress critter: the Shooter’s mother was an NRA member and gun enthusiast. She believed arms training would help her mentally disturbed son, who stole her gun, turned it on her and killed her, then massacred 6 and 7 year olds at the local elementary school.  NRA rifle range practice runs made this shooter a more effective mass murderer. 
2012 Movie Theater, Aurora, CO: (12 dead, 58 injured).
2016 Pulse Nightclub, Orlando FL: (49 dead, 58 injured)
2017 Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Music Festival: (58 dead, 520 injured). The shooter in Las Vegas used both semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks. His arsenal is what made this the worst mass shooting in US history.
2018 Parkland High School, FL: (17 dead, 14 injured)


High Capacity Ammunition Clips: Generally, any ammunition “clip” that contains more than 10 bullets (10 “rounds”) is defined as high capacity. These clips allow shooters to fire faster, killing more people.  The Sandy Hook, Columbine and Vegas shootings were far more deadly due to high capacity ammunition clips. Forcing a shooter to reload after just 10 rounds makes surviving a mass shooting far more likely and makes capturing the shooter, as his attention is on reloading, far more likely.

Bump Stocks: A bump stock allows a shooter to turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon. A semi-automatic weapon fires a bullet each time the shooter squeezes the trigger. An automatic weapon files a stream of bullets with one push of the trigger. The shooter in Las Vegas used bump stocks to kill 58 and injure over 520, spraying a crowd with a constant hail of bullets. 


Common sense gun laws aren’t just about mass shootings. Guns are used every day of the year in robberies, homicides, domestic violence incidents, and suicides. Every day in America, guns kill. Unregulated bulk purchases of semi-automatic rifles at Texas gun shows contribute to the appalling violence of Mexico's drug cartels. No one law is a panacea, so it is senseless to focus on how one bill might not have prevented the latest mass shooting. Background checks have prevented murders, and when we outlawed semi-automatic rifles, they disappeared from our streets. When you meet with or write to Members of Congress, point out the variety of problems with guns. Mention recent incidents, perhaps a high school student murdered the week before or a toddler who killed another toddler with an improperly stored weapon, or a boyfriend who slaughtered his girlfriend and their children. Sadly, you will not have to look hard or long to find a plethora of recent incidents.


Specifically for Nevadans, but it’s easy to customize. Call your GOP representative and find out which staffer handles education issues, then contact them.
Here's what you do. Call Dean Heller's Education/Arts/Humanities/Family/Child/Women's issue staffer. Plan on a long conversation. Don't leave a message. The key here is to force the Congressional office to really address this issue with you.

Her name: Rachel Green
Her Number: 202 224 6244

Let her know why you are calling: "I am a teacher. Under no circumstances do I want to carry a gun to protect my students. The very suggestion that I need to run my classroom like the wild west  is deeply offensive and insulting to my profession and my personal ethics. I go to my school to teach not to shoot to kill, nor do I believe more armed adults at my school make me or my students safer. I want Congress to take action now against the epidemic of gun violence  in our society. The Second Amendment refers to a well-regulated militia, not disturbed students carting high capacity semi-automatic rifles gunning down my students in the hallways. We can and should pass sensible laws to end the threat of violence in our schools.".

Present specific asks and actions for the Member: "
I want my Senator/Representative to address to me, in writing, the following specific items:"

***Is my Senator/Representative willing to support and  co-sponsor a bill to ban AR15 style semi-automatic assault weapons? No one needs an assault weapon for self protection. President Reagan wanted these weapons banned, and if my Senator/Representative disagrees with President Reagan, I need them to explain why.
***Is my Senator/Representative willing to support House Resolution 3999 or the companion Senate proposal to ban bump stocks?  Bump stocks were the sole reason so many Americans lost their lives in Las Vegas and no law-abiding citizen ever needs to own one. We do not need to wait months for the Department of Justice or the Administration to Act.  Congress can ban bump stocks now.
***Is my Senator/Representative willing to enact a system of background checks that has real teeth?
***Is my Senator/Representative  willing to immediately stop taking campaign donations from the National Rifle Association? If not, I need an explanation why.
***If your Senator/Representative has taken donations from the NRA, ask if they will  donate those funds to assist victims of gun violence and mass shootings.
If you get voice mail, simply say "I am a teacher in NV and I must speak with you about an education issue as soon as possible." Then leave your name and number. Elsewise, she'll be likely to wiggle out of calling you directly. Make her call you back if you don't speak with her directly.

If you don't get a specific letter, call Ms. Green EVERY DAY until you get your letter.


If you insist on arguing with trolls online, as far too many of us do, be polite but tough. Focus your comments on morality, don’t get sucked into endless debates about the Second Amendment. State simply that the Second Amendment refers to a well regulated militia. We banned assault weapons for a decade, and we could legally, constitutionally, ban them again. There is no legal argument here, so don't engage in one. Call an assault weapons ban the Christian thing to do. Seriously, bring religion into the discussion. These trolls aren't on the side of family values on this issue, so hammer that point home.

If trolls threaten you, which they do far too often, make a complaint to Facebook, or report the posts as abusive if you are on a news media site. If you are tangling with a troll on a Congressional Facebook page, take a screen shot of offensive comments and send the offensive quotes to your Congressional Representative. Ask them why they don't speak out against the hate speech on their page. Call the Congressman's office and ask to speak to the staff member in charge of the page. Urge them to moderate comments and to add official comments, on the Facebook or social media page, to directly address the folks spewing the bile. 

When you write members of Congress, include quotes from their abusive supporters. Elected officials  should be speaking out against hate speech among their political base; they  do not because we don’t push the issue with them. Point out that NRA commentators are many things; fine upstanding Christian family values people is often not one of those things. Point out that NRA supporters never show sympathy for victims. They want a gun filled society; we want one teeming with compassion, not AR15s. Ask them why they are willing to take campaign money from these hateful trolls.

Most of these actions only take a few minutes longer than engaging with the troll. If we cannot resist feeding trolls, we can at least try to up our efficacy a tad.


Call the f*****g NRA after every shooting. Fuggetabout "it won't help." It actually will. The NRA's members are older and less likely to give online. So, the NRA is old school in their fundraising, and  they rely on their call center to get their low dollar donations, the $100 and under gifts that are their bread and butter. If we made that call center chaotic for three or four days after every mass shooting, we'd make the price of getting donations a lot more expensive.

(800) 672-3888
In my toothy youth, between campaigns, I once worked in a call center as a manager. My employer was a long distance phone carrier. Their number one cost: training and keeping good customer service representatives. You get nasty calls. It doesn't take many to totally demoralize the team and the staff turnover was gigantic. The NRA never hears from its detractors. They need to. Demoralize the NRA team.
(800) 672-3888
Make that call center a distinctly unpleasant place to work. Talk to the beast. Don't scream like a liberal and hang up after 30 seconds. That's a losing strategy. Engage the person who answers your call. Start with questions about what the NRA does. Do you guys lobby? Do you weigh in on campaigns? Don't sound like an opponent for the first two minutes. Get and keep them talking. It frankly wastes their time. When you pivot to "how can you [rep's name] in good conscious work for an organization that kills our kids?" Don't yell. Seriously, make the call as long as possible.
(800) 672-3888
Waste their time, those customer representatives are on the NRA dime These folks are the front lines of the most immoral organization in the country, and we never call them out for it.
(800) 672-3888
Two weeks from now, when we have another mass shooting, which we will, call the NRA again. Over the years, I've convinced two representatives in that call center to resign. One even voted for Obama. You can have an impact on the beast, but only if you engage the beast directly.


(It’s “common sense gun laws” not “gun control”).

The single most powerful thing you can do is meet with your Representative or Senator or a member of their staff to discuss their opposition to sensible gun laws. If you can, bring young adults and teenagers who care about the issue with you. Bring the grandparents.

(It’s “common sense gun laws” not “gun control”).

Office visits require more work than a simple phone call to the front desk. A quick call, at best, results in a staff member dashing off a vague form letter that they send to several thousand complainers. End of discussion. A meeting sends a stronger message: it’s far harder to dismiss you face to face and your are sending a message to the Congressional office that you really care deeply about this issue. Take an in person meeting seriously. Dress like you are going to a job interview.

(It’s “common sense gun laws” not “gun control”).

Some offices don't offer "issue meetings" at local district offices, but others do.  If they won’t schedule an issue meeting locally, schedule a phone call with a staff member in DC. Insist that this cannot be covered in a 30 second message you could leave at the front desk. You want a longer conversation and want to talk to their staff expert on this issue.

(It’s “common sense gun laws” not “gun control”).

DO: Be flexible scheduling a time. Staff members are busy.
DO: Be upfront about who will be in the meeting or  the conference call. Don't blindside a staff member with 6 high school students. Let the staffer know they'll be there.
DO: Come prepared. Know the Member’s voting record and know which bills you currently support. 
DON’T: Sound partisan. If they think you are a latte sipping, Rachel Maddow watching liberal, they’ll dismiss you. Be calm and forceful. Leave the staffer believing you could vote for their boss, if only they’d pay attention to this issue. This is deadly serious: leave them thinking they’ve annoyed a constituent that can cost them on election day.
DO: Couch your arguments in terms of traditional family values. Using language the staff is used to hearing from  friendly supporters is critical. It gives your arguments far more persuasive weight.
DO: Demand that your call or meeting be followed up by a letter from the Member (Representative or Senator) specifically addressing your concerns. Don’t take a vague form letter. If they send you one, call them back and demand something specific in writing.
DO: Demand the Representative meet with you and your neighbors about this issue when they are in the District. They won’t want to do that. Push them. Children’s lives are at stake.
DO: Follow up your meeting or call with a letter outlining what was discussed and what you expect from the office.
DO: Take the moral high ground. Assault weapons aren't Christian. Bump stocks are not a family value. The NRA is not a moral or ethical organization.
DO: Make your meeting about more than mass shootings. Come prepared with a list of gun victims in your city over the last month, especially those that involved innocent bystanders. Guns kill every day.


THE BIGGIE: The Court cases of Heller and McDonald, discussed above, allow citizens to own guns.

Your response: Yes, Heller and McDonald assert the right to own a gun for self defense, but the decisions were narrowly drawn. We can and should ban assault rifles. These are not designed for personal protection, they are weapons of war. And language matters, always say "Weapons of war."

We have a moral obligation to uphold life. Our children should not fear walking down the hallway of their school.

1) “The old saw “it’s too soon to talk about gun laws.”

Your response: Too many Representatives and Senators said this in 2012 after Sand Hook, and again after the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas shooting and several times in between, after every massacre. Is it time to talk about sensible gun laws with regard to the Sandy Hook shooting yet? It’s been nearly 6 years. People are dying, and you have a moral, ethical and Christian obligation to have a public policy discussion now.

Mass shootings are the tip of the iceberg. We have shootings every day, and every day abusers use weapons to terrorize their girlfriends or spouses.

2) We must protect the freedoms of gun owners.

Your response: I am here today to protect the lives of children. The Second Amendment refers to a citizen army, a well regulated militia, it does not reference kids carting around weapons of mass destruction in our schools. The Heller and McDonald decisions don't change that. No moral, law-abiding American needs to own an AR15. Frankly, my children’s lives are more important than the “freedom” to own a firearm that  can slaughter two dozen of our citizens in a minute's time.

We legally banned these filthy weapons for 10 years, and the ban was both perfectly legal and perfectly Constitutional and we can and should do it again. We need to focus on the Biblical  proscription here: THOU SHALT NOT KIL and not the NRA's gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. The high school students calling “BS” on this argument are right; you need to act to make them safer.

3) Laws won’t work, or [a given law] would not have prevented Parkland [or whatever shooting is the most recent].

Your response:  If we never pass any laws, we’ll never know if they'll prevent future massacres, will we? Ask the staffer if they are familiar with the
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. If they don’t know the law, and many younger staffers will not, it’s helpful to discuss it to gain the upper hand in the conversation.

This law was passed as a result of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. It had the support of Reagan, Bush Sr. , Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton. It banned assault weapons for 10 years. In a joint letter to the Boston Globe, Gerald Ford and Reagan wrote “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals."

Those Presidents were right.
Let’s look at the impact:

According to the Department of Justice, t
he percentage of  crimes that utilized assault weapons declined by 32% once the law was enacted. By 2004, assault weapons were just 10% of recovered crime guns. Then, Congress was foolish and let the ban expire. By 2014,  assault weapons were 22% of recovered crime weapons and mass shootings, with increasingly alarming casualties, soared to epidemic proportions.

No, the AR15 won’t disappear overnight should we ban them again, but it will disappear over time. Furthermore, we can ban the sale of high capacity ammunition clips for any weapon. Without the ammo, the guns are far less effective. Not passing any law is simply immoral given the steady stream of massacres on our soil. You owe our children a more responsible response than a smug “No law can fix this” shrug. That is not only false, it’s disrespectful to the lives lost to simply throw your hands in the air.

4) The Second Amendment is sacred

Your Response: The Second Amendment referred, EXPLICITLY, to a “Well Regulated Militia.”  Congress enacted the Second Amendment, in no small part, to explain to the world our justification for overthrowing a European power. We were a poor bunch of colonies. Dirt poor. In order to have an army, we had to require that members of the militia bring their own weapon. The Heller and McDonald decisions don't change this. Owning a handgun is not the same as owning an assault weapon, a defacto weapon of war.

In any event, banning bump stocks or assault weapons is perfectly legal. We legally banned assault weapons in 1994 and could do it again, if your Representative/Senator shows the courage to buck the NRA and protect our nation’s children.

If the staffer insists on pushing the Second Amendment argument, push back. Their argument will be based upon “Original Intent.” That is, we should only pass laws in line with the original intent of the Constitution. The Constitution is well over 200 years old. It was a brilliant, but by no means perfect document in a world very different from our own. The Original Intent of the Constitution allowed white citizens to own and sell blacks. The Original Intent of the Constitution denied women the right to vote. The Original Intent of the Constitution did NOT allow for the popular election of US Senators. Senators were elected by State Legislators. Over the decades, we recognized the flaws in the original document and passed laws/amendments to make the document more just.  

The Founders were very firm on the sanctity of human life. Jefferson would not favor massive civilian ownership of AR15s in light of massacres in our schools, and we can legally, under the Constitution, ban them TODAY.

5) The Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agency should regulate bump stocks.

Your response: Using the ATF to “review” bump stocks was suggested by the GOP and the NRA after the Las Vegas massacre on October 1, 2017.  Nearly five months later, no action has been taken, and now we have dead children in Parkland, Florida. Both Senator Chris Murphy (D CT) and Lindsay Graham ( R SC) have stated they believe the ATF will take no action unless directed by the White House. President Trump has refused to give that direction. This inaction is unconscionable. No moral American needs to own a bump stock, which turns a semi-automatic rifle into a hose spraying bullets. We have a moral, ethical and Christian obligation to outright ban them, now.

If the staffer insists on the “ATF solution” push them. Would their Representative/Senator be willing to hold a press conference DEMANDING regulatory action by the ATF and demanding the Trump Administration act. If they aren’t willing to do that, demand that the Representative or Senator explain why they will not do so in writing.

President Trump has indicated he would be in favor of banning bump stocks. But he's only asked the Department of Justice to craft a rule. That could take months, and some experts suspect the intent is simply to delay until attention of guns has waned. What we need is an act of Congress.
6) We just need to focus on mental health.

The guys who are grabbing assault rifles and shooting dozens of people aren’t “sane” in common parlance. But, they are likely not “insane” under established medical guidelines. The American Psychological Association’s 2016 guide “Gun Violence and Mental Illness” found 1 percent of fatal shootings involved a mentally ill shooter. Just 22% of mass shooters might have diagnosed as mentally ill. Angry or depressed young men aren’t easy to diagnose, particularly given our very lax background check systems. Adding checks for mental illness would be a start, it will not and should not be considered a panacea.


If your Representative or Senator is Catholic (or particularly religious), print this letter in the link below. It was penned by a Catholic Bishop, urging Senator Marco Rubio to take sensible gun laws seriously. Take the letter with you to a meeting with your Congressman, or email it to a staffer so they can read it if you choose to do a conference call.  Ask them to comment on the letter. The NRA is many things; Christian simply isn’t one of them.

Tell the staffer that you take family values seriously and you demand that your elected officials do more than thunder about morality while backing groups like the NRA that are complicit in the murder of children. Tell them you are disappointed that the GOP is abandoning your children for the NRA’s “right” to litter America with dangerous, unnecessary weapons.


The GOP has blocked votes on bump stocks, assault weapons bans, and background checks. Let the staffer know that this is unacceptable. You can oppose a law, but we should never prevent fellow lawmakers from voting. You want them on the record on how they stand on these bills. Hiding behind procedural rules that prevent votes on controversial issues is one of the reasons Congress is so unpopular.


This will be a long fight. Don't get discouraged. If you can, join a march or rally. There is nothing more cathartic than yammering about the NRA with thousands of your close friends. Public opinion is on our side, we just need to keep up the discipline.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jesus Tweets: Yes, it's true. Donald Trump is racist poo

Next weekend is the first big test for those of us dedicated to fighting the Twittering Twit the GOP is installing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You don’t have to travel to or live in DC to partake, there are marches planned all across the county. SHOW UP. Numbers matter. Seriously, SHOW UP. We have an opportunity to turn coverage away from pomp and circumstance and back to the issues that actually matter. Trump is an existential threat to our Democracy. Don’t run to the beach or the mountains or hide in your house binge watching some TV series. SHOW UP. If you don’t feel comfortable marching, think of it this way: how comfortable is a 17 year old Mexican girl whose parents brought her over to the US at age 2, and who recently discovered she isn’t a citizen?


Ten years from now, when your children ask what you did to stop Trump, do you really want to say “nothing”?


As a veteran of a lot of marches, I offer a few humble suggestions on how to ruckus right.

1) Signs and posters should be painted on BOTH SIDES. One of the more amusing things in DC is to see a rally or protest from afar, and approaching from the rear, you gaze upon a sea of blank poster board because the slogans are only on one side. Paint your slogan on BOTH sides of your poster board.

2) Don’t use a stick as a base for your poster. In some areas, sticks won’t be permitted.

3) Wear comfortable shoes. Marches aren’t fashion shows and you’ll be on your feet for a long time, especially if you are attending the events in DC.

4) Stay engaged: Chant and make noise, and take your nose out of your IPhone.

5) Remember your audience. This isn’t just for us, we need to send a strong message to Team GOP and the press. The paramount message is that the Republicans are NOT the team that stands for Family Values; the press has given them a pass on this point for far, far too many years. Family Values Presidents don’t grab women by the pussy and they don’t call all Mexicans rapists and they don’t blow off critical national security briefings. It’s time to take that phrase “Family Values” back. Many in the GOP are worried about Trump, even if they’ll never admit it publicly, at least not yet. They are beginning to see the size of the moral abyss they just elected. Calling them out will get us noticed.

If you are interviewed by the media, draw a distinction between the GOP and actual morality. The question they’ll ask is almost always the same:

Q: “Why are you out here today?”

A: " I have grown tired of being told the GOP stands for family values. Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans don’t support family values. They don’t. Trump is a disgusting ill-informed racist, sexist pig and Congressional Republicans need to call him out on his outrageous behavior.”

6) Chant and sign suggestions. The press delight in the ironic chant; try some of these “best of the Anti-Trump movement”  signs and slogans below. If you have other suggestions (we need all the slogans we can get, it’s going to be a long day) put them in a comment.

For the family values message:


And don’t forget Russia….


And the wall….


Or the hair…


Or Twitter…


Or the aggressive sexism…


Or the immigrants, with maybe a nod to Boradway's Hamilton:


Have more ideas? Post them in the comments. And happy ruckusing. We should remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. had to march down a lot more dangerous roads than what is required of us. SHOW UP, Let's get the job done.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Musician's Resolution

My road to data driven politics was long and winding. I hearken from a classical music background. Conservatory training brings with it a natural “glass half empty” attitude I find helpful in the political dodge. Serious musicians spend a lot of time alone, in a practice room, constantly evaluating their playing and making changes and improvements.  If you aren’t your own harshest, most iconoclastic critic, you will never succeed. This isn’t considered noble or out of the ordinary for a serious classical or jazz musician.  No one has ever become a better musician practicing what they already know. You identify and attack bad habits and drill and listen to hone your skills.

And you do it 4 or 5 hours every dang day.

For those of us in the progressive space, the musician offers helpful lessons. Let’s make 2017 a musician’s year. First, let’s all be hard on ourselves. I’m seeing a bit of the blame game on the Internet of late. The left is blaming the center, state players are blaming their national organizations, folks who don’t understand data are waxing Luddite and blaming the “white coated statisticians.” Vendors are blaming the campaign. Folks who didn’t spend one millisecond helping out a campaign with their dollars or their time are kvetching as if they have all the answers.

Screw all that.


We just fought a long, hard campaign and we not only lost, we put a dangerous, anti-intellectual, racist, sexist, megalomaniacal butthead in the White House. All of us bring some blame to the table. EVERYONE. No exceptions.

 Sure, it hurts to realize that not all of those  midnight data pulls on Saturday, the weeknight wee hour sessions, or the daily grind for months failed to move enough votes on election night. So, we need to do better. And we need to be tough on ourselves this year, the very Republic is at stake. But I’m not shedding tears.  It’s just time to re-evaluate and get back in the practice room.

First, we need to get out of our silos; yes, we need to do the work we do in our niches to pay the mortgage and keep our pups in kibble, but we need to be far more flexible.

Did the big data folks oversell their usefulness? YES

Did we  ignore turnout indicators on the other team (turnout after all is relative)? YES

Did the field become too obsessed with the base, all the while ignoring persuasion: YES

And even if you don’t work in politics, you aren’t off the hook here:

Did the political left become solipsistic and smug, utterly unwilling to accept that a huge chunk of the electorate DOESN’T always see the world through their eyes? YES

Did too many folks think this election was a done deal and sit on their hands? YES

Are too many of the folks reading this guilty of kvetching about the state of America (on and off line), all the while donating no money to the cause, refusing to find the time to knock on doors or make phone calls? YES 

Let’s all take a day or two, or even a week, and look at our own failings. No one is guilt free. Don’t blame others, that won’t make you a better player, a more refined politico capable of the adroitness of a fine violinist or jazz improviser. BLAME YOURSELF. All of us, every last one, made mistakes. It’s not self-flagellation. It’s the only way out of the pit we’ve dug. No musician ever improved blaming the conductor, or the Oboists poor “tuning note” or the humid weather that caused their tone quality to suffer. They look within, they evaluate, they criticize themselves, and only then do they grow.

And that’s what we need to do tonight and moving forward.

Stay tuned both here and on the Democratic Daily, I'll be offering a lot of actions, sample letters to elected officials and things to do to fight Donald the Tweeting Twit Trump.

So, let’s get busy, Let’s get in that practice room, and let’s get to work.