Combating Extremism, Ninety Seconds At A Time
Americans who oppose Trump could be forgiven for feeling some fatigue these days. Since the president took office in January, it seems that a day can’t go by without a news alert about another controversial appointment or executive order. With this never-ending barrage, it can be difficult to determine which issues to take a stand on, and how.
Journalist Laura Moser addressed this problem with Daily Action, a text-based service that alerts subscribers about the most pressing political issue each day, from Kellyanne Conway's ethics violation to Jefferson Sessions' appointment as Attorney General. The service prompts subscribers to call a phone number and listen to a recording about that day's issue; it then connects subscribers to their representative's office, where they can voice their dissent. The whole process takes about ninety seconds.
Moser spoke to JWA about how her Judaism pushed her to start Daily Action; how she chooses each action; and how anti-Trump activists can avoid resistance fatigue.
What prompted you to start Daily Action?
My Judaism is a big part of why I started this. My grandpa is a Jewish refugee who left Germany very late in September 1938. He was a World War I veteran, so he had more rights than other Jews because of his special status. He stayed so long, I think, because he was comfortable and his life was prosperous. He was a lawyer in Berlin. No one, no educated people, thought that Hitler was a serious threat, and so I think that was definitely why some of the Jews stayed longer than they should have. When I saw this happening in America in 2016 and saw the platform that Trump was elected on, it was completely astonishing to me. I thought, I'm not going to wait. We all have a responsibility, and I'm not going to let the past repeat itself without doing my best to stop it. My husband works for a company that ran the digital campaign for Bernie Sanders and a bunch of progressive politicians, so they had this calling tool already. I had been playing with other ways to get involved, but this seemed like a good fit because I'm a writer and journalist, so I have research skills as well as access to the calling tool.
We at JWA are constantly inspired by the number of Jewish women who have protested and resisted over the course of our country's history. What has shaped your own activism?
Well, we have the drive to “heal the world,” that's something we're taught. My husband thinks there's something to the theory that social justice is inherent in the religion. Jews are taught to go out and make the world a better place. We're also fairly educated as a religious class, and we're fairly liberal for the most part.
With the constantly evolving political situation, how do you select each day's action?
I thought it would be hard to come up with an action every day, but it turns out that the hard thing is choosing just one. I have a friend who works in politics in San Francisco, and we email and text and talk on the phone to figure it out. Our choices are just kind of gut choices. We want to weaken the Trump coalition, so we want to pick things that will target that.
How did the word spread about Daily Action?
I wrote an article in Vogue, and the first day we had 8,000 people sign up. That was a lot, more than expected! Basically people shared it on Facebook, and then Vogue tweeted it, and then my husband's company got on board too. It was very organic. People really want this. I hadn't even posted an action at that point, I had just kind of explained what we were doing. Anyway, it kind of grew steadily by 3,000 people or 4,000 people a week. After the inauguration, it just exploded. I didn't do anything to make that happen; I think the mood just shifted.
How much time per day do you devote to Daily Action?
I spend most of my spare time on this. There's a lot of correspondence, a lot of organizational aspects that I didn't see coming, especially researching and writing. I thought I would give an hour a day to the resistance, but now it's more like seven or eight hours a day. But I feel good about that. I feel like I helped people find a voice, and we need that. People need to not be cowed into silence.
We found out about you from a Washington Post article about Daily Action. The headline for that article referred to you as a “Capitol Hill Mom.” As a feminist organization, we looked askance at that designation; of course “mom” is a valuable and important identity too, but you also have a professional identity that the Post could have highlighted.
Because that would never have been the headline for a Capitol Hill dad, right?
Actually, the old headline referred to me as a “stay-at-home mom.” I've never been a stay-at-home mom. I was furious about that. It's not true.
But it is what it is, and that's the world we live in. It's disappointing.
There is an element of accessibility to the fact that I'm a mom, though. And a lot of my motivation for starting this stems from the fact that I'm a mom. I don't want my kids to grow up under fascism. That gives it a different urgency. I thought my kids were being born into a brighter place, not Donald Trump's America.
So many Americans who oppose Trump are protesting and taking action these days, but it might be a long four years. Are you worried that this initial zeal will fade as fatigue sets in and Trump's actions become more normalized?
I'm definitely not seeing it happen. He's not the one running the ship. He has white supremacists steering the ship. So no, I'm not seeing any real diminishing of anger and passion, and he hasn't even tried to take the Affordable Care Act away yet. Why haven't they tried to repeal Obamacare? Obviously partially because they don't have a plan to replace it, but it's also because people are pissed. That shows me that the resistance is working. Trump doesn't have a mandate and the fact that he's acting like he won 98 percent of the popular vote is making people mad. My mom has protested every weekend the last three weekends in Houston with her 70-year-old friends, and they're not Vietnam-era hippie radicals. They're just mad. Sometimes, people on Facebook get discouraged. They say, we call our representatives every day and they still confirm all these appointments. I try to tell people that they were always going to confirm them. But it's okay; we still have to protest. Unfortunately, we're not going to win a special election, we're going to be in the minority until the next election, but within those parameters, we still have to fight. It's working, I think. It's just not working as dramatically as some people might like.
How to cite this page
Cataneo, Emily. "Combating Extremism, Ninety Seconds At A Time ." 14 February 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 14, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/blog/combating-extremism-ninety-seconds-at-time>.