If you were one of the progressives ready to "give Trump a chance," it's now worth wondering just how far that chance extends. That's because the Trump team has announced the president-elect's pick for attorney general, and it's not exactly encouraging news ― he's going with Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a far-right firebrand with decades-old allegations of racism. In short, here's how to call your senator to protest Jeff Sessions ― and remember, do phone rather than email, because it's the calls that most noticeably draw the attention of staffers and members of Congress.
If you're not familiar with the allegations against Sessions, which derailed his bid to become a federal judge three decades ago, here's the basic idea. In 1986, former colleagues of Sessions from his time as an Alabama attorney testified at his Senate committee hearing that he'd used racist language throughout his career, including calling a black commissioner "n****r," calling a black assistant attorney named Thomas Figures "boy," and joking he liked the Ku Klux Klan before he found out that some of them smoked marijuana. He's also alleged to have disparaged the NAACP and ACLU as "un-American."
Sessions denied the allegations at the time, as the Washington Post noted, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee (which he now sits on), "I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create. I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks."
In short, if you're concerned about the intersection of racial justice and criminal justice, and in particular the efforts of protest and activist movements like Black Lives Matter, then the Sessions appointment is worrying news indeed. So, here's how to contact your Senator to make your displeasure known:
- First, track down the phone numbers for your senator's national office, as well as their regional offices throughout your state. You can find a full list of contact info on the Senate's official website, and if you click through to your individual senator's website, you'll find the phone numbers for your senator's Washington, D.C. office and their in-state offices.
- Work out ahead of time precisely what to say, in a polite yet firm and concise manner, and write it down so that you don't lose your train of thought mid-call. If this kind of outreach to Congressional leaders is uncommon for you, you might find yourself feeling nervous or losing your train of thought when you're actually on the phone, so it's good to have things planned out ahead of time.
- Make those calls! And implore you friends, family, loved ones, or like-minded political comrades to follow suit. This kind of strategy only works if offices are flooded with calls, so convincing others to take part is an absolutely essential use of your time. It's as much about organizing as making your case to whoever's on the other side of the line.
- Again, just one more time, be polite! You're more likely to break through if you're respectful yet straightforward, rather than breathing fire at some staffer who doesn't actually control things.
In short, if you want to publicly oppose Sessions' appointment and give the Senate (its GOP membership in particular) a reason to think twice about approving him, this is the best way to do so in the short term. Make sure you don't drag your feet, either, because the best time to act is before things have settled in.