Jon Tester Montana Politics Steve Daines

Guest Post: We’ve Found Our Voice

Written by Don Pogreba
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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 dpogreba@gmail.com 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.”

 

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

12 Comments

  • Yes, we’ve found our voice. Thanks for your excellent contribution to this site. Now we need to turn our voices into electoral wins.

  • My prediction, your voices will be heard and those Dems preaching to what they think are their strong bases will see heads roll based on the elimination of illegal undocumented voters, jobs that are good jobs not part time at the burger joints with no benefits, sustainable affordable health care, safer communities, and a real attack against terrorism. You are providing good lessons on how to disenfranchise voters. Hollywood is helping the republicans. I wonder how many dems are fed up with the politics in the award shows and all the press. 2018 will not be pretty for the dems. Ask yourself are your actions and battles being negatively heard by the working families and small and large business?

  • Are you sure those protests in Helena weren’t organized by the MEA – who want to help the Dems continue the money-laundering?

    • What are you talking about, Eric? MEA? Money laundering? Got any links? The protests I’m familiar with were all organized by grassroots groups concerned with the auctioning off of public lands, the erosion of women’s rights, the rise of intolerance and bigotry … and they’ll continue as long as the administration in DC, and Republican controlled Congress and Montana Legislature, stomp all over people’s rights.

  • Pete – The big complaint I saw is Trumps Education nominee, and despite the USA spending more money per student than any other country in the world, our education system ranks between 14th and 27th in testing scores, depending on which set of stats you are reading. It’s not something I’d be proud of if I was running the Dept of Education.

    Follow the money.

    So if DeVos is a proponent of school choice, the ones who are threatened are the people who make their living from Public Schools, such as teachers, who pay Union dues, which are laundered and sent on to the Dems in the form of campaign contributions.

    I would love to hear you elaborate though, on what public lands are on the auction block, or what rights women do not have. And most of the intolerance I’ve seen lately has been from the Dems, who have been frantic ever since Hillary was sent packing.

    • Let’s start with the facts, Eric. There’s a nifty report with more tables than a Stickley Furniture factory. The criteria affect the outcomes but basically, the U.S. is sixth on the list for spending per student, behind Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands. Also keep in mind that countries like Mexico, which spends less than $3000 per student, are factored in (the U.S. spends about $15,000 per student). So, should we continue a race to the bottom?

      Here’s the report.

      I’m not a teacher and I’m threatened by DeVos and her attack on public education. Public education is one of the great equalizers in our society: no matter what your background, each American child gets an equal opportunity to get a quality education. Sure, some public schools do better jobs than others, but those problems are more regional and socio-economic than from anything that comes out of the U.S. Department of Education.

      What really scares me is seeing my tax dollars going to some school that teaches creationism, advances Noah’s Ark as a biology lesson and denies climate change.

      By the way, from Education Week magazine, “PAC or political-party spending … cannot come from union dues.”

      As to your final statement, here’s just one example of public lands on the auction block: state Sen. Jennifer Fielder’s bills to move federal lands into state hands. And what’s to keep the states from auctioning off these public lands, especially with so many of them suffering budgetary woes? Or, if not auctioning them off, opening them up to natural resource obliteration?

      And women’s rights? Have you not been paying attention? There’s the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which serves the health care needs of millions of American women. There are Republicans at the state and national level blocking equal pay for equal work laws. Then there’s the p***y grabbing commander-in-chief. I’m just scratching the surface here.

      Finally, intolerance. Who’s proposing that we ban an entire religion (except folks from countries where Trump has business ties) from entering the U.S.?

      Anything else on your mind, Eric?

  • Pete – you are repeating the same election-year stuff we heard all last year. Trump is a boogeyman – Hillary is the Devil. So as I thought, there is no public land for sale. And as far as my wife, my 4 daughters, or my two grand-daughters, none of their rights are under attack either. This was settled last November.

    And my point on our education system can’t be disputed – we can do a better job of educating our kids, based on results.

    Trump will get his his cabinet confirmed, as well as his Supreme Court Justice. And Jon Tester will vote to confirm him. I saw Tester on TV last night, trying to be the next Max, and I started laughing.

    • Reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit, am I right, Eric?

      1) No where in my comments have I said, “Trump is a boogeyman – Hillary is the Devil,” ever.

      2) You’re correct, no public lands are for sale, YET, but with Zinke and Pruitt in cabinet positions, let the drilling, strip mining and clear cutting on public lands accelerate unabated.

      3) I’m glad to hear that the women in your life won’t need low-cost cancer screening or birth control or the same wages that a man receives for the same job and they don’t mind being sexually assaulted by the likes of our President. I mean, as a father and grandfather, weren’t you upset by Trump’s p***y comments? Or is it just “locker room banter?”

      4) And your point on our education system CAN be disputed. If you bothered to look at the report I linked to, above, you will see that funding for public education in the U.S. is declining compared to most other developed nations. Again, racing to the bottom, but at least they’ll be able to learn that the Earth is only 6000-years-old.

  • That was the Dems whole campaign – make The Donald a boogeyman – and I couldn’t care less what The President said many years ago on a party bus – I’ve said worse myself!

    • I’m sure you have. I expect somewhat higher standards from the President. Here’s where you bring up Bill Clinton — a man of dubious moral judgement, no doubt. You guys were all over his indiscretions, but Trump gets a pass? Can you spell hypocrisy?

      • Heck Pete – I never liked Bill until I found out what a stud he was !

        BTW – the topic was finding your voice – and I don’t think it will last for long. Right now the Dems are reeling, and have astroturf lined up to look like the nation opposes the President, but it’ll run out of money and steam soon enough. Maybe call it Outrage fatigue.

        I don’t think the Dems have anything to look forward to in Montana in the near future.

        With Zinke’s confirmation certain, the Montana Dems already have too many candidates, none of them with any money, and I’m thinking they are going to be stuck nominating their own ‘Hillary’

        I’m breaking out the Coke & Popcorn – should be a good show.

        • Enjoy the show, Eric. Trump has the lowest approval ratings after two weeks in office than any President since they started taking polls. He’s going down and taking the party, including Zinke and Daines, with him. I’d be ecstatic except for the damage he’s doing to our country in the meantime.

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