President Donald Trump can win by forcing an unwilling Congress to fund a wall along our borders to defend the United States of America and our nation’s sovereignty. But to do it, Trump’s inner circle, key outside supporters, and the Republican Party must consider the lessons of past political successes and the warnings of past failures.
There is a telephone number that every conservative citizen who cares about our country should have memorized and share with his and her contacts: (202) 225-3121. That is the main switchboard for the U.S. Capitol. Any Member of Congress, Senator or Representative, can be reached by calling (202) 225-3121 and asking to be connected. (Actually that’s the House switchboard. The Senate is (202) 224-3121. But they function inter-changeably.) Any citizen can look-up his or her Representative at www.House.gov and their State’s Senators at www.Senate.gov.
Consider President Ronald Reagan’s public remarks at a White House briefing on March 6, 1985, which began:
“I learned early on that if an issue was important enough, the best thing is to go directly to the people and enlist their help. And once the people are mobilized, they don’t have to make politicians see the light, they just make them feel the heat.”
This was a sentence that Reagan repeated often in many speeches in many venues: “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” He always said that as explicitly meaning that if every citizen called their Congressmen and Senators, the people could pressure an unwilling Congress to implement Reagan’s agenda. It was one of Reagan’s signature sayings.
Reagan famously went over the heads of the news media and spoke directly to the people. Reagan repeatedly, persistently, and relentlessly — though in very genteel style — asked the American people to call Congress and let their preferences be known.
And they did. Citizens called Congress. The main switchboards were jammed. The phones in the individual offices of Congress were ringing off the hook. News stories at the time — I read and watched as it was happening — reported that shock to the system. Congressional offices could do little else, being under siege with barrages of phone calls, letters, telegrams, personal visits, etc.
Simply put, Congress passed most of Reagan’s agenda because they had no choice. They did not dare ignore or defy the tidal wave of citizen demands. But this did not happen spontaneously.
On November 4, 1980, running on the most conservative presidential agenda of our history, Governor Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. Almost exactly the same as the Congress now facing Donald Trump starting in January, Republicans took the U.S. Senate by 53 to 47 (independent Harry Byrd caucusing with the democrats) but Democrats dominated the U.S. House of Representatives 243 to 192.
Trump will face almost precisely the same situation in Congress after the 2018 mid-term election that Ronald Reagan had in the 1980s. Yet Reagan triumphed over the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Reagan’s Congress was actually worse because the House had been in Democrat hands since 1952, elected Republicans were even more timid and house-trained political defeatists than today, and all of Washington assumed Democrat party dominance of the nation as a given set in stone.
Ronald Reagan mastered the art of the “address to the nation” from the Oval Office in prime time on a regular and persistent basis. Only a few of them can be found on the internet. For years, all three networks covered Reagan’s speeches in their entirety, unedited and unfiltered as news and their obligatory public service. They hated it. They were accustomed to controlling the narrative. Reagan had them by the tail.
For example, view: President Reagan’s Address to the Nation on Federal Tax Reduction Legislation, July 27, 1981, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfq_1tJ3K18 Starting at time stamp 3:10, the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan explains:
“All the lobbying, the organized demonstrations, and the cries of protests by those whose way of life depends on maintaining government’s wasteful ways were no match for your voices which were heard loud and clear within these marbled halls of government.”
“And you made history with your telegrams, your letters, your phone calls, and yes personal visits to talk to your elected representatives. You reaffirmed the mandate you delivered in the election last November.”
And at time stamp 22:20:
“One road timid and fearful. The other is bold and hopeful. In these six months we have done so much and come so far. It has been the power of millions of you who have determined that we will make America great again. You will make the difference up to now. You will make the difference again. Let us not stop now.”
And at time stamp 3:45:
“Because of what you did, Republicans and Democrats in the Congress came together and passed the most sweeping cut-backs in the history of the federal budget.”
And at time stamp 7:10
“Now, the day after tomorrow, Wednesday, the House of Representatives will begin debate on two tax bills and — once again — they need to hear from you. That doesn’t give you much time. But a great deal is at stake.”
Reagan faced a hostile left-wing media monopoly. This author remembers well. There were only ABC, CBS, NBC, and the very small upstart CNN. There were no non-leftist newspapers except the very new and still small Washington Times. Every newspaper across the nation and Newsweek and Time slavishly followed the lead of The Washington Post and The New York Times. There was no internet news. The Rush Limbaugh show would not be launched until August 1988. Like news smuggled into the Soviet Union, citizens could only get the truth from conservative direct-mail, newsletters, small but crucial publications like Human Events and scattered, local radio programs.
But the conservative movement actually did real things back then. A once-vibrant, well-organized, aggressive, muscular Reagan Revolution carried the fight for the President, instead of just wandering from green room to green room at television studios. A well-oiled machine of conservative organizations helped to swamp Congress with millions of telegrams, leaders, and phone calls. Instead of just sitting back and watching Trump, the Reagan coalition fought like hell to get Reagan’s agenda through Congress.
It was obvious on November 9, 2016, that conservative organizations would need to spool up immediately and fight hard for the Trump agenda. Many paper-tiger groups were created. Now, organizations still need to rent through arms’ length transactions the lists of Trump rally attendees and donors, and activate them to call Congress and demand the passage of Trump’s legislative policies, budgets, and appointees.
Trump makes extensive use of Twitter. But Trump rarely if ever urges his supporters to pick up the phone to call Congress. And it is hard to make the persuasive appeals like Reagan did without speaking from the Oval Office for a more extended speech.
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