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, whitehouseinc.org, 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 all-consuming horse race and keep her attention focused on her writing 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 digital-messaging 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 far-right 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-and-play, 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.”