None of us has a ton of time. Hanaa and I each have two kids. We work. We act (as in activism — as you can tell from the videos, we are NOT actors). We write this awesome blog. You have your own conflicts and limited time — so what do we do? How do we effectively deploy our time? And since we have such little time, why not just fill out all of those online petitions?
These aren’t inherently a waste of time. I mean, they are quick so why not fill one out? And, if I have a complaint, why not start an online petition? Four things to consider. The first is that they are easy. So there could be duplicates and they may be hastily written and deployed. The second is that an online survey alone will not work. But as a part of a coordinated strategy of other techniques (which we address below), they might just work, a fact that the New York Times has written about.
Third, they also might just be fake. Snopes did a nice job of vetting some of the more popular ones that have circulated recently. Many were either quite misleading or had outdated information. Do your homework.
Finally, it is difficult for legislators to know if the person who signed is in fact a constituent. So, again, one online petition, no matter how large, will not change one MOCs mind.
There have been online petition success stories (as change.org loves to tell us!). I recommend browsing their list of successes. I noticed a trend in looking over their list. The ask is easy for the asker. For example: Whole Foods — Don’t waste your food!!! Whole Foods loves having the crunchy, do-gooder image. Asking them made sense. Asking Walmart would have been unproductive. The surveys also got media attention and had several concurrent strategies (rather than just the petition). So, they can work but probably because they raise awareness and get attention in other ways.
Here are some recommended actions to do in conjunction with an online petition. Let’s start with the low hanging fruit that take no time:
- Twitter storms. You might be a great Twitter-er. More likely than not, you’re like me and have 48 people who follow you, 20 of whom you know personally. If you aren’t great at social media, don’t bother. On the other hand, you might be plugged in and have a lot of followers. Use that power.
- Form emails to MOCs. There are lots of form emails that come through. Say “No” to the Muslim ban by clicking here and sending to your Senator. It’s not a bad thing. However, MOCs will pay much more attention to personalized emails, especially if you have a personal story or some credentials to back it up. Also, be sure to ask for a response. If you ask for it, it will come.
- Phone calls to the White House. They don’t give a rat’s ass. ‘Nuff said.
So, what if I have a little more time time?
- Phone calls. We’ve discussed before and we will keep pushing it. Call your MOCs. Tell them your perspective and ask for a response. They will then be required to follow up.
- Personal emails. Phone calls are still the best. We know this from Indivisible. (Plus, Hanaa worked as a Hill staffer.) As I said above, make it compelling.
- Meetings. Town halls, visits to the local congressional offices, or, even better, getting a meeting in DC.
- Organizing. We have seen so much grassroots activism. We are each involved in efforts in our community to be the change. There are groups through Indivisible, the Women’s March 100 days, and even the Democratic party. Get involved with a group in person. Meetings can be painful, but they are the first step toward coordinated action.
Action of the Day
Finally, we ask for your action. Believe it or not, I suggest you find a good online petition. Look at Change.org. Consider what worked. What gets you fired up? Sign a few, but perhaps focus on ones that you know about or have momentum. Then, share what you’ve done. If it’s particularly relevant to where you live, then perhaps write an op-ed or contact your local elected official. So don’t write them off, but — really — don’t spend more than #FiveMinutes (ok, maybe this time 30 seconds).