Stay-at-home mom di­rects anti-Trump ac­tivists via text

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MICHAEL ALI­SON CHAN­DLER

It was still dark last week when Laura Moser rose from bed and tapped out a script for her lat­est call to fight what she and oth­ers view as ex­trem­ism in Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica.

A few hours later, when her kids were in school, she recorded a voice mes­sage and crafted a text alert to blast out to her grow­ing army of ac­tivists: 100,000-plus and count­ing.

The mes­sage went out at 10:15 a.m.: “To­day’s daily ac­tion is urge your sen­a­tor to place a ‘hold’ on Ses­sions’ AG nom­i­na­tion un­til Trump shows some re­spect for the rule of law.”

Her work, for the mo­ment, was done. Her Capi­tol Hill liv­ing room was quiet, her cat stretch­ing lazily on the cof­fee ta­ble. Soon, phone lines would be light­ing up in con­gres­sional of­fices across the coun­try.

Her call­ing sys­tem, called Daily Ac­tion, is one of hun­dreds of ef­forts be­ing launched across the coun­try to har­ness the en­ergy from the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton and wres­tle Democrats’ un­rest and fear into some­thing that can pivot the course of the coun­try.

“Peo­ple were re­ally fo­cused on the march af­ter the elec­tion,” Moser said. “Now we are in a fright­en­ing new world.”

The first days of Trump’s pres­i­dency brought a flurry of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and Twitter pledges as he moved to de­liver on cam­paign promises, and pro­test­ers re­sponded with a sim­i­larly fre­netic set of re­ac­tions. Peo­ple ral­lied out­side the White House on Wed­nes­day to protest Trump’s plans to build a wall on the border with Mex­ico, and they marched Thurs­day in Philadel­phia, site of the con­gres­sional GOP re­treat, to protest the re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Also this past week: A pe­ti­tion call­ing for Trump to im­me­di­ately re­lease his tax re­turns sur­passed 400,000 sig­na­tures; the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Association re­ported that more than 1 mil­lion emails were sent to sen­a­tors to protest the nom­i­na­tion of Michi­gan bil­lion­aire Betsy DeVos for ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary; and Green Peace ac­tivists un­furled a gi­ant “Re­sist” ban­ner from atop a 270-foot con­struc­tion crane in down­town Wash­ing­ton.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the Women’s March launched a “10 ac­tions for the first 100 days” cam­paign, prompt­ing a new pas­time of post­card-writ­ing par­ties to alert law­mak­ers to con­stituents’ pri­or­i­ties. And thou­sands of peo­ple vis­ited their sen­a­tors’ dis­trict of­fices to con­test Trump’s Cab­i­net nom­i­nees on the first of what they vowed would be many “Re­sist Trump Tues­days,” ac­cord­ing to a spokesman for the In­di­vis­i­ble Guide, one of mul­ti­ple or­ga­niz­ers in­volved with the ef­fort.

Phone calls — harder to ig­nore than emails or the echo cham­ber of so­cial me­dia — have be­come a key av­enue for op­pos­ing Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions and Cab­i­net nom­i­nees, with ur­gent ap­peals “to flood the lines” cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia, fol­lowed by long lists of phone num­bers for lo­cal leg­is­la­tors or con­gres­sional com­mit­tee mem­bers.

Lib­eral film­maker Michael Moore gave out the main switch­board num­ber for Congress in a speech at the Women’s March, and many ac­tivists say their law­mak­ers’ phone num­bers are on speed dial.

Since the Trump White House does not have a pub­lic com­ment line, some have be­gun cir­cu­lat­ing the num­ber of the “Win­ter White House” — Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s re­sort in Palm Beach, Fla. An­other web­site, white­hou­se­, routes call­ers to mul­ti­ple Trump busi­nesses, so peo­ple can air their po­lit­i­cal con­cerns with the front desk staff at his golf cour­ses, re­sorts or ho­tels.

Democrats who served dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion are tak­ing lead­ing roles in the Trump op­po­si­tion. A group of for­mer con­gres­sional staffers drafted a “Prac­ti­cal Guide for Re­sist­ing the Trump Agenda” that draws on the tea party’s play­book for get­ting the at­ten­tion of Congress. More than 4,000 groups have since or­ga­nized around the strate­gies laid out in the doc­u­ment, in­clud­ing seek­ing out their leg­is­la­tors in town hall meet­ings and over the phone.

Rise Stronger, started by a for­mer of­fi­cial at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, aims to or­ga­nize “ci­ti­zen watch­dogs,” in part by crowd­sourc­ing a “cit­i­zens cal­en­dar” to publi­cize the pub­lic ap­pear­ances of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Moser, 39, is a well-po­si­tioned, if un­likely, can­di­date to lead a phone-blitz rev­o­lu­tion.

The Hous­ton na­tive and freelance writer is con­nected to pol­i­tics by marriage. Her film­maker hus­band got a job as a videog­ra­pher with Barack Obama’s cam­paign in 2007 and, later, at the Obama White House.

While her hus­band spent the ma­jor­ity of time on the road, Moser pre­ferred to stay away from the all­con­sum­ing horse race and keep her at­ten­tion fo­cused on cre­ative projects and her chil­dren, now 7 and 3.

But af­ter the elec­tion, she could not stay away, she said.

She thought that “if we can all do some­thing more than we were do­ing be­fore, if we can all work a lit­tle bit harder,” it would add up to some­thing, she said.

As she scrolled through the del­uge of ac­tion news­let­ters and head­lines each day, she thought about how she could make it eas­ier for other peo­ple to en­gage within the con­fines of their own busy lives.

She turned to tech­nol­ogy. Us­ing soft­ware from the dig­i­talmes­sag­ing con­sult­ing firm where her hus­band now works, she launched Daily Ac­tion.

Here’s how it works: Peo­ple who sign up re­ceive a text mes­sage ev­ery week­day at 10 a.m. Eastern de­scrib­ing a prob­lem and a con­crete task. There’s a link to a phone num­ber where a recorded voice mes­sage gives enough in­for­ma­tion to help peo­ple feel com­fort­able talk­ing with a young staffer an­swer­ing the phone. The sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally routes them to their lawmaker’s of­fice.

Her first ac­tion was a round of calls to thank the sen­a­tors who called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

Other ac­tions have in­cluded calls to the Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­mand that Trump di­vest from the Old Post Of­fice Pav­il­ion in Wash­ing­ton, a his­tor­i­cal fed­eral build­ing be­ing leased to Trump Ho­tels, and a thank-you call to com­pa­nies that pulled ad­ver­tis­ing from the far­right Bre­it­bart News site.

Moser cred­its her call­ers with in­flu­enc­ing House Repub­li­cans to back down on plans to gut the in­de­pen­dent Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics. Law­mak­ers cited a high vol­ume of calls in their de­ci­sions.

Most of the ac­tions have fo­cused on protest­ing Trump’s Cab­i­net nom­i­na­tions.

They may be con­firmed, she said, “but it should be a fight. Ev­ery­thing should be a fight.”

Within two weeks, she had 14,000 sub­scribers. Num­bers have grown steadily and, since the Women’s March, ex­po­nen­tially. From Wed­nes­day to Fri­day, the num­ber of sub­scribers grew from 76,000 to more than 100,000.

Aaron Becker, 42, a chil­dren’s book author in Pel­ham, Mass., signed up for Daily Ac­tion af­ter the march and said he was re­lieved to find “a kind of plug-and­play, app-style ac­tivism.”

For some­one who had not been po­lit­i­cally ac­tive be­fore, cur­rent events have be­come ex­haust­ing, he said.

“Peo­ple are feel­ing fa­tigue. I feel it my­self as a par­ent, with a daily life and a job,” he said. “We are not re­ally de­signed as hu­man be­ings to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­thing at once.”

But he said that he found him­self par­a­lyzed by the on­slaught of news ev­ery day.

So on Wed­nes­day, at Daily Ac­tion’s prompt­ing, he called Citibank and told the “friendly woman” who an­swered the phone that he was con­sid­er­ing clos­ing his ac­count if the bank did not di­vest from the con­tro­ver­sial Key­stone XL Pipe­line. Then he felt bet­ter.

“Now I feel like I can turn off my browser win­dow and do some work,” he said.

Ann Ewoldt, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing for a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was in­volved in ac­tivism be­fore, but she signed up to help her fo­cus.

“There are so many things right now we could be go­ing af­ter. It is hard to know what has pri­or­ity,” she said.

Pri­or­i­tiz­ing is one of the most chal­leng­ing parts of Moser’s job.

“Ev­ery day there are 10 new hor­ri­ble things,” she said.

To choose her tar­gets, she taps old friends from the Obama cam­paign and gets re­search help from other moms with chil­dren at home and pent-up in­tel­lec­tual en­ergy.

As the num­ber of sub­scribers grows, the com­ments sec­tion on the group’s Face­book page is be­com­ing a fo­rum for how to get through on over­bur­dened phone lines, with peo­ple ad­vis­ing one an­other on which dis­trict of­fices have busy sig­nals and where hu­man be­ings are pick­ing up the phone.

By the fifth day of Trump’s pres­i­dency, Moser had a cold. She sipped a con­coc­tion of gar­lic juice and lemon while scrolling through her feed, re­coil­ing at ev­ery pic­ture of Trump. Her hus­band is away on a two-week trip in Africa, and she is work­ing in be­tween run­ning chil­dren to school and gym­nas­tics and ap­point­ments. She said that she feels “ex­hausted” and “em­pow­ered.”

“Ev­ery day I feel bet­ter,” she said. “If we can sus­tain this en­ergy and this anger, maybe we can re­claim our coun­try.”


Laura Moser di­rects more than 100,000 ac­tivists by text from the liv­ing room of her Capi­tol Hill home.

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