In this chapter, we’ll cover:
- How to structure an ask for YOUR MoCs using this guide
- How to organize locally to implement this strategy
- Tactics that actually make your MoCs listen
- Ways that Indivisible National can support your work
Section 1: Make Good “Asks” to Make Your MoC Act
When meeting with constituents, just about all MoCs and their staffers thrive on strategic ambiguity. They want constituents to feel heard and represented, but they don’t want to have to do too much work. This is true even for friendly Democratic MoCs. They don’t want to be tied down — they want to maintain flexibility to act or not act as they see fit.
Well, that’s not our goal as Indivisibles — we want them to use their power to actively fight for us. Even our friendly Democratic MoCs need a nudge from time to time. To make sure they listen and follow through, it is extremely important to craft effective “asks” for your MoCs. You want them do something, so you ask.
The 3 S’s of a good “ask.” Any good ask for a MoC meets at least these three criteria, which, conveniently, all begin with the letter S. Good asks are “Triple S Asks” — specific, strategic, and seeable:
- It’s specific: Asks are not about philosophizing, they’re about prompting specific action. So your ask should be time-limited and precise. For instance, “Vote no on x bill,” or “Ask x witness about y issue at the hearing on z date.”
- It’s strategic. The reason you’re asking at all is because you want achieve something. If your MoC follows through on your ask, what will be accomplished? For instance, “Co-sponsor x bill” builds support for a policy you prefer, while “Make a speech about x issue” might not accomplish anything.
- It’s seeable. Look, we’ll say it, MoCs are really crafty. They’re politicians (yes, the Democrats, too)! Trust but always verify. If the action you’re asking for cannot be observed and verified, you will not be able hold your MoCs accountable for following through. You can check to see how they voted, you can watch the video of a hearing, you can ask to see the letter they sent.
The more you know about your MoCs, the more effective you can be at getting them to do what you want!
We know that pushing your Members of Congress can be a little intimidating, so it helps to go in with as much information as possible about their positions. Once you’ve looked up who your Representative and two Senators are, here are a few more basics to help you learn more:
A veritable smorgasbord of good asks for your MoCs.
Your MoCs — particularly House Democrats, since they’re in the majority— have a range of tools at their disposal that you can and should ask them to use in order to advance bold progressive policy, continue to play defense, and hold the Trump administration accountable. Some tools are more effective than others, depending on the objective. And some tools are more appropriate for only some Members, based on their committee assignments. Here is an overview of the tools your Democratic House Member has in the majority, and when they are most effectively deployed by which Members.
In this section, we cover 8 types of asks you should consider:
- Use their vote.
- Co-sponsor legislation
- Introduce legislation
- Use oversight authority, including investigation and subpoenas
- Write letters to the administration demanding answers
- Leverage procedural tools to slow the Republican agenda
- Join a caucus
- Publicly urge leadership to give greater attention to an issue
- Use their vote.It may sound obvious, but it’s worth stating explicitly: Often the most effective tool your MoC has is the vote. With control of the House, your Democratic House Members can and should use their votes to support progressive legislation and oppose legislation that falls short. The Democratic leadership will expect unequivocal support from rank-and-file Members on whatever they put forward — but your Democratic Members can and should withhold their support of legislation that sells out our values in the name of striking deals with Trump.
What should I ask my MoC? To state the obvious, it matters how every MoC votes. But it will be crucial for Democrats to stick together as a caucus to resist Republican-controlled Senate-initiated deals with Trump. And it will be most crucial if your Representative is a progressive Democrat for those MoCs to vote together as a bloc to continually push the Speaker toward more progressive policies.
- Co-sponsor legislation.There are a lot of bills introduced during a given Congress, and most will never get a vote on the House or Senate floor. One way MoCs can move their bills to the forefront of leadership’s attention is to rack up the number of its co-sponsors. Co-sponsoring legislation is a way that MoCs signal their strong support for a bill, and that the support is locked in. Your MoCs should co-sponsor only the progressive bills they want to see move forward for a vote in committee and on the floor.
What should I ask my MoC? This approach to co-sponsorship is important for all Members, so you can ask them to co-sponsor the right bills no matter what their committee assignments are.
- Introduce their own legislation.Any MoC can do this. And before legislation can go anywhere, it has to be introduced. But before that, your MoC should do the legwork to hear from stakeholders and constituents (that is, you!) before they introduce a bill.
What should I ask my MoC? You can ask your MoC to introduce legislation that advances your progressive policy priorities. They might tell you that a bill has already been introduced by someone else, or is in the works to be introduced. If that’s the case, ask them to co-sponsor it. But if there’s no other bill, ask them to introduce the legislation and actively recruit co-sponsors.
- Use oversight authority, including investigation and subpoenas.All Members of Congress — including yours, whether Republican or Democrat — have an obligation to responsibly use their oversight authority to hold the Trump administration accountable for its rampant corruption, abuse of federal resources, and conflicts of interest.
What should I ask my MoC? If your MoC is a Democrat in the House or a Republican in the Senate who chairs a committee and/or an oversight subcommittee, you should ask that MoC to state publicly and specifically which investigations they plan to launch and when.
What to do before you do this:
- Look up your MoC’s committee assignments, using the directions above.
- Look up the jurisdiction of those committees, using the chart in Chapter One.
- Pick one of the Executive Branch departments under your MoC’s jurisdiction and do a quick Google search for the Cabinet secretary and the word “investigation” (example: “Betsy DeVos investigation”). Seriously: This works for more than half the Cabinet.
- Choose a legitimate news source, read up on the ethical issues surrounding the Cabinet secretary, and make a direct ask of your MoC to use oversight authority to investigate.
- Write letters to the administration demanding answers.MoCs regularly send letters of inquiry to the Executive Branch to demand answers about questionable activities or activities that are hurting their constituents. These letters are easily ignored when they come from the party in the minority — but now that Democrats have control of the House, the administration will pay more attention, because they can more easily be escalated from a letter to a question at a public hearing.
What should I ask my MoC? You can ask your MoC to write directly to a Cabinet secretary or agency head to raise your concerns. The MoC should recruit colleagues to sign on as well, because the more Members on a letter, the likelier it is to get a response. If you raise an issue with your MoC and the response is, “Sorry, nothing Congress can do about that” — that’s not entirely true. Members can at least try this.
- Leverage procedural tools to slow the Republican agenda.Even though Democrats have control of the House, Republicans still control the agenda in the Senate, and the Trump administration still has the authority to issue new administrative rules. But that doesn’t mean we are powerless to stop them. Procedural tools can significant slow the agenda down.
What should I ask my MoC? You should ask Senate Democrats to continue using the filibuster to block Republican legislation that advances the Trump agenda, and to withhold consent or deny quorum when it makes strategic sense.
- Join a caucus.Caucuses are groups that MoCs join on the basis of either their values or issues that are important to them. It is intended to signal their priorities or support for an issue. Some caucuses have been around for decades, have paid staff, and are able to meaningfully advance their agendas. Other caucuses are less serious and less effective.
What should I ask my MoC? The caucuses your MoCs join — and the caucuses they don’t join — signal what kind of Members they’ll be. We want Democrats joining caucuses that prioritize our progressive values, like the Congressional Progressive Caucus or the Women’s Leaders Caucus. Of course, they should also join the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the LGBT Caucus if appropriate. But your Members should not join caucuses that work to thwart our progressive agenda. Those caucuses include the “New Dems” and the “Problem Solvers.” You can also ask your MoC to join an issue-based caucus. There are dozens of them, but, for the most part, they’re not very effective.
- Publicly urge leadership to give greater attention to an issue.Sometimes leaders need a little nudge — or tremendous pressure — from within the caucus to prioritize an issue. For example, it’s likely that leadership will want to steer clear of abolishing ICE. But with sustained, meaningful pressure from within the caucus, that could change.
What should I ask my MoC? Giving floor speeches, issuing statements, giving a platform to affected communities, and publicly calling out leadership for not prioritizing an issue are all ways that MoCs can hold their own leadership accountable.
Section 2: Organizing Locally Using Tactics That Work
Now that you have a new strategy for a new Congress, and you know what to ask your MoCs to do, let’s talk about the most effective ways to organize locally to make Congress listen.
In this section, we’ll cover:
- A refresher on tactics that actually work
- Strategies for Indivisible groups to organize locally
- How we at Indivisible National can help
Refresher: Tactics That Actually Work
Fact: The Affordable Care Act would be fully repealed today if not for the nationwide grassroots mobilizations of 2017. But it wasn’t just constituent anger that saved the ACA; on the contrary, it was determined, local organizing focused on Members of Congress, using tactics that work. We didn’t invent these strategies and tactics — we took them directly from the Tea Party, which used them to bring President Obama’s agenda to a halt. (See our original Guide to learn more.)
Our website is a critical resource for you.
Nearly every day, our team at Indivisible National is researching, writing, and publishing resources on indivisible.org to make it easier for you and your group to take action to hold your MoCs accountable (and win elections!). Check back regularly for the latest in resources, trainings, the IndivisiBlog, and the best of Indivisible news around the country (and a lot more).