So you’re meeting with a staffer. Now what?

During the Cornyn Stakeout last week, I, on impulse, walked into the Chase Bank Building, rode the elevator to the 15th floor, and knocked on the door to Cornyn’s office. Next thing I knew I was sitting face to face with a young staffer. Now what?

I had my talking points about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s–and especially John Cornyn’s–lackluster response to Russian election interference, but it seemed weird to launch into that. When there is a human being sitting a few feet away, the dynamic is very different compared to speaking on the phone or firing off angry tweets.

She may have been more nervous than I was. I’m a tall man in an Indivisible Austin t-shirt and for all she knows I am about to start shrieking at her, or worse. So I explained, calmly, that I was from Indivisible Austin, one of the organizers of the stakeout, and that we aren’t scary. I joked that most of the Indivisible activists look like our moms, and in fact, my mother is an Indivisible activist in rural Texas. (See, we’re not all Austin hippies, either.)

The staffer smiled, and let her guard down a bit. Sure, she was being paid to listen to my concerns, and we might disagree vigorously on many things; but it was clear that a human connection was forming.

I believe these human connections, seeking common ground, will save our Democracy.

Paraphrasing what I said:

On the AHCA

“Getting people to question facts is a hallmark of authoritarianism. When John Cornyn called CBO data ‘fake news,’ that sent a dangerous signal. The CBO score may not be perfect, but it’s the only data we have, and the Congressional Budget Office is as nonpartisan as it gets. For our Democracy to function, we need to have agreed-upon facts. If we can’t agree on facts, our Democracy dies.”

On withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

“Sen. Cornyn signed a letter encouraging Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Cornyn and other Republicans like to point out that the treaty is not legally binding. But one thing we have learned from the Trump presidency is that norms and traditions uphold our Democracy far more than laws do. By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, we send a message that we no longer take seriously the bonds, however symbolic, between the U.S. and our global allies. Additionally, climate change is a nonpartisan issue, affecting everyone. We can disagree about the means with which to solve the problem, but we first need to agree on the basic fact that it is happening.”

On Russian election interference

“The original purpose of the Cornyn Stakeout was to send a message to Sen. Cornyn that Americans take very seriously the issue of a foreign power interfering in our Democratic process. Sen. Cornyn’s seemingly flippant attitude toward his own committee’s investigation is inappropriate. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. If Russia, or any foreign power, is influencing our elections in any way, that is dangerous to both parties, and to our nation as a whole. We need Sen. Cornyn to take this issue more seriously.”

I spent 15 to 20 minutes sharing my concerns with the staffer, who was very professional and polite, and took notes that she said she would deliver to the senator. It is quite possible that she was seething inwardly, disagreeing with everything I said… but I don’t really think so. Human beings are social creatures and instinctively seek common ground. And it is much easier to find that common ground in person, than on social media or phone calls.

This summer we’ll be kicking off a series of “air-conditioned activism”* events, centered around meetings with congressional staffers. We’re planning a toolkit to make your meetings with staffers as effective as can be, and we would love to hear what has and has not worked for you. We would especially welcome feedback from staffers. Please email vp@indivisibleaustin.com or leave a comment here.


*Many thanks to the Indivisible TX-25 Eanes / West Austin group for coining the term “Air-Conditioned Activism.”

 

 

Cornyn Stakeout: A Statewide Success

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

The stakeout was amazing, y’all. Thirty-one groups came together from all over the state to hold John Cornyn accountable at each of his Texas offices, all day long, for four days. (See highlights here.)

As an all-volunteer community of citizen activists, this was a big commitment of time and energy, and we definitely got Sen. Cornyn’s attention. (We know because we talked to staff.) What Cornyn chooses to do now that he knows he’s under scrutiny is on him. So far he seems to be doubling down on his fecklessness. That will change, or he will be voted out.

But this is just the beginning. We Texans are stronger together, and won’t let our beautiful, but vast, geography get in the way of organizing. These are the groups that organized the stakeout, to whom we owe a Texas-size thank you.

Austin

TX21 Indivisible

TX25 Indivisible Eanes (West Austin)

Pantsuit Austin

TX-10 Indivisible

Indivisible South ATX

Indivisible TX-17

Women’s Action Group – Cedar Park/Round Rock

Wilco Indivisible

Dallas

Indivisible TX-03

Indivisible Oak Cliff

Indivisible TX-24

Indivisible06

Houston

Neighbors in Action – Indivisible!

PSR Houston

Visible Indivisible

Indivisible Houston

Indivisible Katy Huddle

Liberty County Indivisible

PSR Houston

Indivisible Cypress

Golden Triangle Indivisible

Indivisible TX-02

Indivisible TX-36

Emerson UU Advocates Indivisible Action Team

Lubbock

West Texans Concerned About Vladimir Putin

San Antonio

TX21 Indivisible

Indivisible Seguin

Concerned TX-27 Democrat

TX20 Indivisible

Indivisible NB

Tyler

Indivisible Smith County

Day One: Why We Need the Cornyn Stakeout

Cross-posted from cornynstakeout.com

Today is the first day of the Cornyn Stakeout. Citizen activists are making their concerns known at Sen. Cornyn’s offices all over the state.

Sen. Cornyn himself has reacted, if obliquely. His Houston office has a sign on the door cautioning protestors not to demonstrate on private property.

And there was this tweet:

Put aside that the article Cornyn’s references in the tweet gives clear examples of the mounting evidence that Russian interference tipped the election to Trump. As a member of the Senate Intel and Judiciary committees, it is John Cornyn’s JOB to find and parse that evidence, and above all to take that evidence SERIOUSLY.

This is why we are protesting. This is why, statewide, we are rallying outside Cornyn’s offices. John Cornyn’s fecklessness on Russia and other issues has entered dangerous new territory.

It’s not just Russia. Take this tweet, sent over the weekend:

What John Cornyn calls “fake news” is data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)! If this is fake news, then there is no such thing as real news. This is so completely irresponsible of the second-most powerful person in the Senate, and he needs to hear about it, loudly and frequently.

It’s a Stakeout! Conference call on the John Cornyn Stakeout

Guest Speaker:

Dan Epstein, TX-19 Congressional Candidate and founder of West Texans Concerned About Vladimir Putin

Dan Epstein is a Visiting Instructor at Texas Tech University. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2008. His research focuses on political parties, electoral competition, and political culture in developing countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America, with particular focus on Russia and Brazil.

John Cornyn wants to hear your Obamacare stories

From Sen. John Cornyn’s newsletter:

Health care affects each and every Texan’s life. As the United States Senate continues the process of replacing President Obama’s healthcare law, I want to hear about your experiences and how we can do better.

Texans across our state have told me that under Obamacare, they haven’t been able to keep their doctors, plans have disappeared, and high deductibles and double-digit premium hikes have made coverage unaffordable. 

But, I’d like to hear from you. Let me know how Obamacare has impacted your family, your loved ones, or your business by replying to this email. As Congress crafts a new health care law, I want to be sure your voice is included in the conversation.

You can send your stories to newsletter_@cornyn.senate.gov with the subject “Tell Me Your Obamacare Story”

Update to the Update:

May 11, 2017: A reliable source tells us that Cornyn’s office is seeing your ACA stories; they are just having trouble with the auto-responder. So keep emailing!

Update

Emails are bouncing back with this message:

This is the original email, which we pasted verbatim (including links):

It is unclear whether Cornyn’s office is actually receiving messages, and forgot to turn off their auto-responder, or whether your ACA stories are going into a black hole.

Please call, fax, and snail-mail your ACA stories to  Sen. Cornyn’s offices and ask why your email bounced back!

Washington, DC Office
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934

Central Texas:
Chase Tower
221 West Sixth Street
Suite 1530
Austin, TX 78701
Main: 512-469-6034
Fax: 512-469-6020

East Texas:
Regions Bank Building
100 E. Ferguson Street, Suite 1004
Tyler, TX 75702
Main: 903-593-0902
Fax: 903-593-0920

North Texas:
5001 Spring Valley Road
Suite 1125 E
Dallas, TX 75244
Main: 972-239-1310
Fax: 972-239-2110

South Texas:
222 East Van Buren
Suite 404
Harlingen, TX 78550
Main: 956-423-0162
Fax: 956-423-0193

Southeast Texas:
5300 Memorial Drive Suite 980
Houston, TX 77007
Main: 713-572-3337
Fax: 713-572-3777

South Central Texas:
600 Navarro
Suite 210
San Antonio, TX 78205
Main: 210-224-7485
Fax: 210-224-8569

West Texas:
Wells Fargo Center
1500 Broadway, Suite 1230
Lubbock, TX 79401
Main: 806-472-7533
Fax: 806-472-7536

Dear John : Democrats’ Scorched-Earth Strategy and the Trump Tax

Dear John Cornyn,

Your tweets continue to show that you prefer careful consideration to knee-jerk extremism. Thank you!

First, you tweeted — without comment — a link to this Politico article about the Democrats’ scorched-earth strategy. Both sides will interpret this as a dog whistle: Trump supporters will hear “look at those idiot Dems!” and progressives will hear “Cornyn is watching this carefully and withholding judgment for now.”

Whatever your intent, it’s good to at least know you’re paying attention. As the Majority Whip, you’re going to be in for a wild ride.

Then there was a series of tweets about Trump’s proposed border tariff, or, as we like to call it, the #TrumpTax, which would have a devastating effect on the Texas economy.

You added a hashtag to this one, which pretty much cements your position.

We’re right there with you! Let’s continue to engage on our shared values: openness, honesty, and prosperity for all Texans.

Sincerely,
Indivisible Austin

Dear John: Voter Fraud and The Wall

Dear John Cornyn,

We know you know that Trump is dangerous. According to the New York Times, you tried to prod Trump to change the subject after he used an unhinged anecdote about a golf buddy to justify his lies, and now a possible Executive Order, on voter fraud:

“The anecdote, the aides said, was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.”

Later, on MSNBC, you looked a little stunned and said Trump’s allegations about voter fraud were a “distraction” and a “rabbit trail.”

We agree with you on this!

Later that same night, you retweeted the Texas Tribune’s findings that not a single Texas member of Congress supports the border wall, at least not in full.

Cornyn's retweet of Texas Trib on border wall

Why would you do that, except to send a signal that there is distance between you and Trump?

Let’s explore that distance. We have common ground. You seem like a decent man who wants to legislate. You don’t want a madman for president, and neither do we. Let’s work together to return civility to the political process, disagreeing — often intensely — on policy but not on our core values as Americans.

This is the first in a series.

Sincerely,
Indivisible Austin