The writer of this piece is a freelance writer in southwest Montana. If you’d like to offer your voice, we’re always open to posts from people concerned about the state of politics here in Montana. Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or just send a post to him.
The word went out: “Call your congressman.”
And they did, by the thousands. Women emboldened by the Women’s March on Washington – and in Helena – and 670 other cities around the world took to their telephones to call their congressmen over the latest insult to fairness and justice from the Trump Administration.
They fueled their outrage with posts from Facebook urging them to call daily. President Donald Trump’s nominee as secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, was a hot topic. “Staffers for Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mt.) can’t even keep up…the phone is ringing off the hook,” said a visitor to one of Daines’ state offices.
Callers were incensed that Daines received $46,800 in campaign contributions from the Devos family, but would not recuse himself from the vote in spite of the apparent conflict of interest. The full Senate vote on Devos is set for 6:30 a.m. on Friday, a procedural slight-of-hand that fools no one.
Sen. John Tester (D-Mt.), meanwhile, said he had heard from constituents and issued a statement that he would oppose the Devos nomination. A former public school teacher, Tester said our public school system is the foundation of our democracy, and “without public education, democracies don’t work.”
No one has heard a peep about any issue from Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mt.), nominated by Trump to lead the interior department. A staffer said he’s still on the payroll.
Not all elected officials appreciated constituents’ opinions. Rep. Dave Brat, (R-Va.) told Republican supporters he was upset with protesters. “The women are in my grill no matter where I go,” Brat complained.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) accused callers of being paid protestors from out of state. “There is certainly a number of people calling from out of state,” Gardner said. “New York, California. That’s happening. There are certain paid activists through Craigslist. We’ve seen the advertisements.” Gardner received $49,800 in campaign contributions from the DeVos family.
In contrast, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) urged voters to use the form on her internet page when phone lines were overwhelmed to make their voice heard. Murkowski received $43,000 from DeVos and her family during the last campaign fundraising cycle, but has said she will vote against the DeVos nomination.
What many congressmen are beginning to find out is that women are uniquely suited, verbally, to protest by phone. Results of a study by Oxford University evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar, released this month, shows women spend 30 more hours a year on the phone than men. Previous studies suggest women speak about 20,000 words a day, some 13,000 more than the average man.
Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2103 also reported girls tend to speak earlier and use more complex language than do boys.
A congressional staff said not all the language to congressional offices could be repeated. That’s wrong, of course. Even the prospect of a special interest advocate such as Devos as education secretary is not cause for rudeness. But among the other issues last week from women callers: The sale of federal lands, efforts to cut funding from Planned Parenthood, reproductive rights, the immigrant ban and repeal of Obamacare.
“We have found our voice,” said activist Jeanie Thompson of Washington. “And we’re not going away. We care too much about the environment, our public schools and our system of justice. I have my congressional offices and the White House on speed dial, and I know how to use them.”