Ice House

Houston Native Laura Moser Wants to Make Civic Engagement 'Easy and Logistically Painless'

Change, one phone call at a time.

By Adam Doster February 13, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock

For a large chunk of Election Day 2016, Laura Moser felt invigorated. The author and Houston native phone-banked on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Dupont Circle, a few miles from her Washington, D.C., home. In the evening, a college friend came over for dinner. Why not socialize on a historic night for women and the country? The prospect of a Donald Trump presidency seemed impossible.

Then the polls closed, and the mood in Moser's living room darkened. Her friend left at around 9:30 p.m. Moser tried to relax in bed, pretend the whole ordeal wasn’t happening, but her phone kept buzzing with New York Times notifications: North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, all for Trump. Moser’s stomach dropped. Her children’s future, she would later write, “had become terrifyingly unknowable overnight.”

Moser considers herself a high-information voter; she grew up in a West U household where CNN was always on, and her husband, now a political consultant, served as President Obama’s White House videographer. (That viral photo of a baby throwing a tantrum in the Oval Office, as Obama looks on with knitted brow? Her baby.) But activist, Moser was not—until recently.

When Moser woke up on November 9, she felt the urge to take a stand. The unusual political moment demanded action. She knew countless other Democrats and Trump opponents were similarly agitated—people with demanding jobs, busy parents who wanted to do something, but didn’t quite know what. While uprooting their lives to become full-time activists was out of the question, they were nonetheless energized.

What if Moser tapped into that energy, directed it, banded them all together? She realized she had the skill set to do so. “I can write, I know how to use Facebook, and I like communicating with people,” Moser says. “We all have to use the skills we have to counteract what’s happening in the larger world.”

One month later, with technical help from the digital agency Revolution Messaging, Moser unveiled Daily Action, a group that assigns members daily tasks that take 90 seconds, tops, each workday, with the goal of making “civic engagement easy and logistically painless.” The tagline? “Resisting extremism in America, one phone call at a time.”

Participants sign up at the group’s website or by texting the word DAILY to 228466 (which spells ACTION), and each morning receive a text message about a given issue in the news, curated by Moser, which might center on an upcoming vote, or a confirmation hearing, or a congressional investigation. There’s also a phone number in each message. Members who call hear Moser briefly explaining why the day’s topic is worth their attention. From there, they’re automatically routed to a relevant elected official based on their zip code, with whom they can voice their displeasure or gratitude.

In the first three weeks that Daily Action was active, some 30,000 signed up for SMS alerts. At press time, that number had grown to more than 183,000. On top of federal issues, Moser hopes to generate enough subscribers over the coming months to target local initiatives, too—contacting Texans about the fetal-burial law now tied up in court, say, or Senate Bill 6, the legislature’s attempt to control which bathrooms transgender residents use.

When we caught up with Moser soon after the launch, she admitted to feeling a little overwhelmed with the deluge of participants, but also encouraged. After all, a deluge of citizens, acting together, is the idea.

As we move forward, there’s no shortage of potential targets, either. “Unfortunately, it’s really easy to come up with topics,” Moser says, “Every day, it feels like there’s something terrible happening.”

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