Every woman I’ve spoken to for this series is busy by definition. But in the case of Laura Moser, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I can hear the time pressure in her voice over the phone – understandable for a woman who is surely experiencing one of the busiest times in her life.
A woman who, in a matter of months, has become the person on whom hundreds of thousands of people depend to help them strike back at the Trump Administration’s most extreme positions.
A woman with a $30,000 phone bill.
How did Moser, 39, an accomplished writer and mother of two, come to preside over the phenomenon that is Daily Action, a service through which users can easily sign up – just text DAILY to the number 228466 – to receive a daily text tailored to their specific location with a key message to convey to their representatives? (The service then automatically connects the user to the elected official of the day, making a daily call a one-stop operation that can be done almost hands-free on the way to work.)
The answer, I discovered when Moser spoke to me on Feb. 8 from her Capitol Hill home, is that she just decided to do it. We talked about the project, the value of a phone call, and how Daily Action has counteracted her naturally pessimistic nature. Excerpts follow.
One of the reasons I started Shadow Cabinet was that I was feeling so lost: there’s so much to do. Seeing Daily Action every day has helped a lot, so thank you, first of all… And how’s it going? I’m sure it’s evolved a wee bit in the past few weeks.
Yeah, as has much in America. It’s been great – I was just on a call with two friends who are my main volunteers. We’ve seen a lot of people reaching out trying to help, and we’re just trying to figure out how to make use of their energies, because I certainly need a lot of help.
Can you tell me more about how you prioritize each day and figure out what the Daily Action should be?
So far it hasn’t been super hard – there’s a vote or a confirmation hearing every day. The tagline of the organization is “Resisting Extremism in America,” so I decided to focus on the things [the President] does that are beyond the pale. If he wants to be a reasonable leader, that’s great, if he ever has any reasonable proposals – but where he pushes the boundaries of what’s normal, that’s when we will speak up.
Did you come up with how this was going to be structured on the technical side?
My husband’s company, Revolution Messaging, had this technology already. They did Bernie [Sander]’s digital campaign and MoveOn. I was talking to one of his business partners and said, “Someone should do an activism app that makes it easy for people to get involved. I’m getting too many petitions – every day there are 40 things we’re supposed to do. We need to make it easy.” And he said, “Why don’t you just do it?”
I had been following you and assumed this was a big organization behind this. It wasn’t until I saw the Washington Post article that I realized it was just one woman.
I didn’t realize how big it would be… We had a $30,000 phone bill last month.
Yeah. We’ve started connecting 25,000 calls a day – each call only costs a few pennies, but now one saw these quantities coming. So my next thing is funding. If you go to the website, you can donate; on Inauguration Day the action was, “Help us keep growing!” and we raised $17,000.
Are you planning beyond a daily basis at this point?
Just this afternoon I started my first Google Calendar, because I’m going away for two days next week and I’m really stressed about that. Even though it’s only two days, I don’t know how this ship will continue to sail.
Normally, if someone has a Facebook page, even if it has hundreds of thousands of followers, no one will freak out if there’s no post one day. In your case, people are really looking to you.
Right. If I sent one message a day it would go to California at 7:15 in the morning. Now I’m segmenting it so the Californians don’t get it until 9:30, which is a more reasonable time, but some people are like, “Where’s my message?!”
I’ve noticed sometimes in the comments there’s a back-and-forth where people express “This isn’t doing any good,” and you and others respond, “It is worth it!”
Today people are very upset about the Betsy DeVos vote – I personally would have been very surprised if another Senator had broken ranks. Obviously she was completely unqualified and scandalously bad, but the Republicans don’t break ranks. People really thought they could flip another Senator, and people are feeling really bad today because she got through. They say, “Our calls don’t matter.”
They do matter. They are not necessarily going to overturn everything right now, considering we are completely in the minority: There is a limited amount of stuff we can do, but that doesn’t mean we have to give in. We have to keep our energy high for the battle to come. And I feel less hopeless than I did. Working on this all the time, however consuming it is – it’s good to be here in the fight.
Do those sort of ups and downs affect you, too, or are you so busy that you don’t have time to sit around and wonder if it will work?
I think we’ve had more successes than I really [expected]. We’ve accomplished stuff! I have a friend who’s mom is super shy, and she wrote me and said, “Even my mom is making calls.” It’s habit-forming. Once you start, you say, “Oh, this isn’t that scary. This is a 22-year-old who’s picking up the phone who’s on an internship from college. I can say what I think to these people.”
My mom, who’s always been very politically involved, she and her friends have marched three Sundays in a row. She says protesting is the new brunch. I really think making the calls is a gateway drug to political involvement. That alone is very valuable: teaching people that they have a voice in their own country.
A lot of people didn’t really feel that way. I did, but I didn’t feel that my country was under threat the way I do now. Not even under [George W. Bush]. It didn’t feel this way.
What have you learned that others can take away from this?
This is not really in my nature, but I’ve learned that it’s better to stay positive, even when times are really dark. That’s not my tendency – I’m a pessimistic person, a dark person in general… On Saturday the USDA purged their website of animal abusers. Who wants to support animal abusers? I don’t even understand what these people are trying to accomplish. So I Tweeted something that said, “Oh, how monstrous these people are.”
My brother, who has been helping me, said, “You know what? We all agree. Let’s focus on positive actions that we can do rather than wallowing in despair.”
In general, this project has been my effort to do that on a larger scale. Instead of dwelling on how bad these people are or how scary these policies are, let’s remember: We’re the majority of Americans. We don’t like this and we’re going to do something about it.
So now, when I start to feel upset about something, and I just try to convert that into a positive action that we can see.
Does that make sense?
That make sense. It’s what we all need to do.
Browse other Shadow Cabinet interviews here.
Do you use Daily Action? Have you found another way to organize your Congressional pressure or other daily habits? Please share them with me – and next week, stay tuned for a little reflection on the biggest lesson I learned during Shadow Cabinet, Month One.