“Yes, of course my senators voted for her, and what kills me is members in lost states wasting their limited time contacting committed, immovable Democrats in safe seats – like DiFi, Boxer and Schumer – when we could’ve been contacting swing Republicans and Republican leadership,” an activist friend observed in response to a national gun group email asking if his senator voted to confirm Loretta Lynch for Attorney General. “And why did we contact DiFi and Schumer? Because legislators tell us they don’t want to hear from loyal Americans outside their district, and we accept that objection at face value without questioning the assumptions.
“And so we LOSE,” he concluded. “The establishment won with the minimum votes and maximum cover. And they’re going to keep winning, because we will continue to issue the same tired, weak, harmless ‘Contact DiFi’ alerts when we could go cutting-edge tactical and focus on vulnerabilities.”
He’s right, and that’s been a constant weakness or political action alerts occasionally discussed on The War on Guns blog and in very few other places. But what alternatives do we have, since even though the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate provide links to individual politician’s official websites, the contact forms intentionally exclude communications from citizens living in other districts and states? Is all we’re left with responding to gun rights advocacy group alerts that pick our representatives for us based on our addresses and email them form letters, whether the politician is persuadable or not? Or paying some third party outfit to send out a mass “fax blast”?
What’s obvious is many gun rights organizations and their members are squandering valuable political resources by not stepping up lobbying efforts using social media. Resistance and objections to signing up include feelings that it’s a waste of time, fear of privacy intrusions, not wanting to join gun-censoring Facebook, or the seemingly ubiquitous “Molon Labe!” excuse for doing nothing besides leaving occasional blog and forum comments.
For that last group, aside from recalling an experience-formed Churchill quote, there’s not much that can be offered. For the other objections, you’ll only be wasting time and sharing TMI if you allow your time to be wasted and use the tools for trivial reasons. If you use them to act as force multipliers, passing along information fellow activists ought to know about and/or react to, the benefits to the cause of liberty can outweigh the other considerations.
Besides, “progressives” are already on it, big time. The Obama administration has been mobilizing “gun control” devotees to great effect, and for gun rights supporters not to counter their efforts means an entire significant and growing command, control, communications and intelligence front will have been ceded to the enemies of the right to keep and bear arms. That ground will have been surrendered without a fight for no better reason than the excuses cited above by people who could have made a difference expending minimal personal effort.
How does that make sense?
Still, what does all this have to do with getting unified messages to politicians where they can do more good?
They, or at least their tech-savvy staffers, are well aware of the power of social media, and as such, they have established presences through which they can receive communications, bypassing official website gatekeeper contact forms that block non-constituents. That their political actions affect everyone does not factor into their arrogant practice of exclusion (note they take donations from everybody), so we need to be able to quickly and easily bypass any obstacle put up to keep us out, and to make sure our voices are heard on issues that affect us.
Unfortunately, none of the national gun groups appear to have devoted resources to help members do this, so we have to look elsewhere. One of the first sites I found was by CSPAN, which provides linkable Twitter accounts for members of Congress. The problem is, the format makes using this more time-consuming than it needs to be.
Fortunately, someone else has taken on that task, meaning the wheel does not need to be reinvented. GovSM has created a “Social Media Wiki” for both the House and the Senate that appears to be the most up-to-date resource available.
With the basic information now available to message representatives through their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, there are other tools we can then use to determine if it’s worth our time to contact a politician, and which ones we should focus on.
A natural first place to look is the National Rifle Association’s political arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, to view grades and endorsements. Inexplicably, the only grades currently displaying are in a May 5 New York special Congressional election between an “F”-rated Republican and an “F”-rated Democrat. To access the archives and see how other pols have been rated, members need to sign in.
Much more useful and handy tools available to all are the House and Senate ratings provided by Gun Owners of America, a group some feel offers more stringent and reliable grading criteria anyway. By being able to instantly locate politicians, anyone, not just paying members, can see if a politician is rated “A,” meaning they ought to be counted on to do the right thing, or “F,” meaning they don’t care what gun owners think and nothing you can say will move them. As a rule of thumb, those in-between grades indicate someone who may not do the right thing out of principle, but may vote correctly out of political self-preservation if they see enough voters and potential contributors care. The more he or she gets feedback that they’re straddling an issue that will result in blowback if they choose wrong, the more their decision will be influenced.
There’s another tool as well, for those who recognize that amnesty for illegal aliens leading to a “pathway to citizenship” endangers the “single issue” more than any other threat facing gun owners in the long term (and by that we’re talking over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond). NumbersUSA provides a national report card for Congress to find out where representatives stand on the issue, again one in which GOA has taken the lead, being the only national gun rights group pledged to factor amnesty votes in with gun ratings.
With all that as backdrop, we can return to the Lynch approval. Republicans enabling it have not only empowered someone who will continue and expand on the policies of Eric Holder, but they’ve also helped let him off the hook for Fast and Furious and other actions, as he will no longer be an advantageous political target.
So what could have been done differently if national gun groups had launched targeted social media campaigns?
A handful of Republicans enabled cloture, to bring the Lynch nomination to a vote, and then ensured her confirmation. A targeted message — one not wasted uselessly by appealing to Dianne Feinstein or to Chuck Schumer, but to key influential betrayers like Mitch McConnell, who rely on gun owner support to stay in power — would have made a strong impression on their staffers and on them. Imagine if the squishy ones had received tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of angry messages threatening political consequences. Those would have taken individual gun owners mere seconds to send if they’d only received such an appeal and been set up to respond.
Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know. What would it have cost each of us to try? One minute? Two?
And what needs to be done to make future efforts possible?
First, individual gun owners need to set themselves up on social media and be responsive to such appeals.
Second, a gun rights group with national reach needs to recognize the power of social media, devote some clerical resources to updating and expanding on the work started at GovSM, and tailor it to innovative, targeted campaigns. They also need to make member participation a priority. Such efforts can also be customized to put political campaigns on notice, and also to yank the establishment RNC’s chain.
Third, you’ll note this has been focused entirely on national officeholders. While a tentative social media list has been created for state governments, it is an ongoing work-in-progress, and for the most part, incomplete. State gun rights groups which have not yet done so (and if any have, I’d be pleased to help publicize it) need to compile state representative social media contact lists, and conduct targeted campaigns of their own.
Or, we could just keep on doing what’s always been done (or not done) and continue achieving results like the Lynch confirmation: A Republican majority in both houses of Congress just gave Obama and the Democrats what they wanted, while the architects of the surrender appear to have escaped any meaningful repercussions.