I’d like to preface this post by saying that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone else already had this same idea that I’m about to share with you here. As it’s so simple, I’d actually be surprised if someone hadn’t. But, as I haven’t seen anything like it before, I thought that I’d mention it here, in hopes that it might lead to an interesting and productive conversation on how technology might help us battle against what’s coming… I should also mention that, if no one is doing it yet, I really wouldn’t care if one of you wanted to take the ball and run with it. The only thing that matters to me is that a tool, like the one I’m about to describe, gets made and distributed, and I don’t care who does it, as long as they’re on the side of truth, justice and fairness… With all of that said, though, if no one else is already doing it, and if no one else wants to give it a shot, I’d be happy to try, assuming, of course, I can pull together a motivated team of software developers, policy wonks, and marketing people capable of pulling it off. [Surely some of our left-leaning Ann Arbor tech folks would jump at a chance to help save their country, right?]
OK, so here’s the genesis of the idea.
A few days ago, I posted something here asking that people call their elected representatives in Congress and express their anger over President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, as his chief White House strategist. In the post, I included a number of links to sites where people could find contact information for their Senators and Representatives, as well as several other related resources, like a spreadsheet full of tips on how to communicate successfully with one’s elected officials. And, in addition, I also added a bit of detail concerning which House members here in Michigan had already come out against the Bannon appointment, and which hadn’t… And all of this got me thinking, “What if we could make an app that could deliver simple, targeted tasks like this to motivated members of the resistance every day?”
And that’s pretty much the idea. At it’s most basic, the app that I’m envisioning would send you an alert whenever it’s determined that one of your elected officials could use a call urging him or her to take a specific action to thwart the Trump administration. Your phone would buzz, and you’d get a message with the number of an elected official to call, a brief script to follow, and links to additional background information, should you care to do any further research of your own. It would be that simple. [By way of background, it’s important to know that constituent phone calls, to a large extent, dictate the positions elected officials take on specific issues.]
For instance, let’s say an app like this one that I’m describing existed earlier this past week, when I posted about Bannon’s appointment and encouraged people to call the district offices of their Representatives… Let’s say I had the app on my phone. I might get an alert telling me that, as a constituent in Michigan’s 12th Congressional district, I should call the office of Senator Gary Peters, asking him to go on the record against the Bannon appointment. It would do this because, at that time, Gary Peters had not yet taken a stand on Bannon, while my Congressperson, Debbie Dingell, already had. [Peters did eventually come out against Bannon, making a statement on the floor of the Senate yesterday.] In other words, the system, knowing where you were registered to vote, would suggest the best possible call you could make on a specific day to fight the Trump agenda.
And it wouldn’t just have to be about making calls. The system could give you a daily idea on how to push back against the administration. One day, it could be a prompt to make a call, like the one mentioned above. Another day, it could just ask you to post a particular news story to your social network. Or, maybe, it could tell you about a demonstration taking place at a Trump affiliated business within driving distance. Or, perhaps, it could suggest that you to give $5 to Planned Parenthood in response to something said by Vice President-elect Pence the evening before. The important thing is, it would give people something constructive to do every day, keeping them engaged, and helping them to find their voices and use them.
And that’s what I love about this idea… It would get people into the habit of calling their elected officials on a regular basis, a necessary first step in building an active culture of resistance in which individual citizens feel empowered to voice their opinions.
And, on top of all of this, if we could sell this app for a few bucks, we might also be able to raise some money for a few good causes, like the ACLU.
I should add that I know this isn’t a trivial task. It would require some work. In Michigan alone, we have 14 Congressional districts, and we’d have to have a team of people either constantly thinking about where pressure could best be applied, or a system where people could collectively decide on such things, which would add a significant level of complexity. But, given what we’re facing, I think the effort might be worth it.
So, what do you think? Is it worth pursuing?