Pressure Forces Choices

“American politics has become detached from reality because it has become detached from consequences.” ~Steve Schmidt

“Pressure forces choices.” ~Timothy Snyder

Sometimes the simplest sentences are the most profound.

Like “Pressure forces choices.”

I read that sentence in an essay by Timothy Snyder, Yale professor, Ukraine/Russia expert and author of On Tyranny.

And I sat there for a moment, thinking of the various choices I’ve made in life. I couldn’t think of a single one that wasn’t forced by some sort of pressure. Internal pressures – like drive, or personal expectations. And external pressures, like time, money, opportunity (and fear of losing it).

The problem in our politics right now is that the American people – you and me – haven’t exerted as much pressure as we’d like (and need to) on Republican members of Congress.

In part that’s because the Republican party has found ways to insulate itself and its members from pressure. RedMap in 2000 was the beginning of the grand gerrymandering experiment that would protect and eventually radicalize its members.

In the aftermath of 2016 I remember looking at the data from MO-02 – a suburban St. Louis district. I concluded it was flippable because the Republican party was becoming more extreme, and the votes the mousy Congresswoman Ann Wagner would be forced to take would be unpalatable to the electorate.

“Someone will primary her, she’ll be forced to take positions too far to the right, and she’ll be vulnerable. They’ll get too extreme…” was my assessment.

I was right about 1/2 of that – they did become too extreme and Ann did have to take positions that make her unpalatable. But because the districts were redrawn by our extremist state legislature, Ann’s district now includes more MAGA territory.

With a sweep of the pen, the Missouri state legislature released the pressure valve, and let out some steam.

But that’s not to say there isn’t still plenty of benefit to bringing pressure. It just requires energy and time. Unfortunately, the last time I remember us really bringing pressure was in 2017 with the ACA fight. The lesson we should have taken from that win is that we have the power to influence so long as we present a united front and bring focused and intense pressure.

Instead, it seems as though the lesson learned was that cooler heads will prevail, so we can carry on as usual.

That’s a fallacy. Cooler heads will not always prevail, and we can’t carry on as usual.

We’re seeing it now with the debt ceiling debacle.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the debt ceiling. (This AP report has a good breakdown of the worldwide chaos it would cause.) It’s an unforced error and it causing us to lose standing on the world stage. The GOP is again proving that they care more about damaging the country while a Democrat is in the White House than governing and acting in the country’s best interests.

Broadly speaking, they are not there to make laws that will help the country. They are there to sow chaos until the next presidential election.

But here’s the thing. Pressure does work, and there are people to which pressure can be applied.

Congresscritters, generally speaking, have what I would call “healthy” egos. They’re used to winning things. They were the kids who got the awards, got invited to the honor ceremony, get thanked for their existence, that sort of thing. Criticism and firm political pressure can work on these people and on their staff (who are likely similar personalities) when they are in close districts – especially those that were won by Biden in ’20.

In fact, I’d argue that they may really want political pressure to give them cover.

Listen, when Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO and “Manhood” author (groan)) says that if he were president (shudder) he’s be tempted to use the 14th Amendment of the constitution to declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional, you know there are at least 10 House Republicans who understand the fiscal implications of default who would like to be able to vote for the Discharge Petition that would force a vote to increase the debt ceiling (more on that below).

But we need to give them the excuse they need: unrelenting pressure from their constituents.

And that’s where you hold the reins. You get to decide whether this issue is important enough to you that you’re going to pick up the phone and take 2 minutes out of your day to exert pressure on elected officials to get this thing finished.

Default is economic catastrophe – worldwide. Your job, friends’ jobs, kids’ jobs, home value, grocery bills, interest rates – all could change pretty quick because of this stupid game of GOP chicken.

Is staving that off worth 2 minutes of your time, every day between now and when they get their act together?

I can’t answer that for you. I hope the answer is yes. Because if all of us call, like we all did when the ACA was at risk, I think we’ll start to see some movement.

Because – again – pressure forces choices.

You have the power to get them off the fence.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of May 23, 2022

What Democrats have signed the Discharge Petition?

If 218 Congresscritters sign the discharge petition, it forces a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill. Here’s the official record of folks who have signed the Discharge Petition. At this point it’s all Democrats.

Dem. Mary Peltola (AK) hasn’t yet signed. If you’re in Alaska, give her office a call. Two other Democrats have declined, which is stupid and we need to call them out. Ed Case of Hawaii and Jared Golden of Maine. If you’re in either of those districts, give them a call every day and tell them they’re tanking the economy and their political future.

Again, we need 218 to sign on to the discharge petition to force a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill. That means we need some Republicans.

The 18 “Unrepresentatives” are the Republicans who won in districts Joe Biden also won. Here they are:

David Schweikert (AZ-01)
Michelle Steel (CA-45)
Mike Lawler (NY-17)
Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06)
Don Bacon (NE-02)
Marc Molinaro (NY-19)
John Duarte (CA-13)
Tom Kean Jr. (NJ-07)
Brandon Williams (NY-22)
David Valadao (CA-22)
Nick LaLota (NY-01)
Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05)
Mike Garcia (CA-27)
George Santos (NY-03)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01)
Young Kim (CA-40)
Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04)
Jen Kiggans (VA-02)

If you are in one of these folks’ districts give them a call every day this week. If you’re in their state, but not their district, who do you know that lives in their district? Now is the time to scour your phone to see who you can tap who is a constituent.

If you’re in Missouri and you’re in Ann Wagner’s district, call her office every day this week. She needs to know you will hold her personally responsible for this. You can modify this script for any Republican.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m in zip code ___. I’m calling to demand that Rep Wagner sign the Discharge Petition for a clean debt ceiling bill. The debt ceiling was raised three times under Trump with not one word from the congresswoman. She is personally putting the health of the economy and our standing around the world at risk for dumb political points. Mark my words – I will make sure everyone on my block understands what she is doing – that she is personally at fault for not showing leadership here – and why if she does not sign the Discharge Petition she should never serve in congress again. Thanks.

Missouri Folks, Call Hawley’s Office

As I noted above, Hawley endorsed Biden using the 14h Amendment, which (paraphrasing) says that the US debt shall not be called into question. (He said: “I think if I were president, I would be tempted to do that,” Hawley said. “Because I would just be like, ‘Listen, I’m not gonna let us default. So end of story. Y’all will do whatever you want to do.’ But I’m not necessarily giving him that advice. It’s against my interest.”

Give his office a call today, and every day this week. What is he doing to show leadership on this issue besides running his mouth? He knows the implications of the default. So hop to it Senator and show us what you’ve got.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because Senator Hawley’s shown that he understands the implications of defaulting but besides saying he’d use the 14th Amendment if he were president hasn’t shown any leadership on fixing the situation. The debt ceiling was raised three times while Trump was president. That Republicans are holding the nation hostage and wrecking our world standing for political points is absolutely disgusting, and I’ll make sure everyone that I know understands that’s what’s happening. What is he doing – right now – to fix this Republican-manufactured crisis?

Default Events: Check for One Near You

There are Default events going on nationwide, and you can check to see if there’s one near you here:

TONIGHT: Moms of Trans/Non-Binary Kids AMA Panel

This is going to be such a great event – from Red Wine & Blue: “Confused about legislation and policies targeting LGBTQ+ youth? Are you hearing worrisome information about bathrooms, athletics, and health care? You are not alone! Disinformation is rampant and is intended to cause chaos and uncertainty. But we can protect kids in our community by getting the facts. And who better to talk to than moms! Join us for our first “Ask Me Anything” session, in which we talk to moms of trans and non-binary kids. Learn about their families’ journeys, what issues they have faced, how they are handling the current attacks on LGBTQ+ kids, and what you need to know to ensure each and every child is welcomed and accepted where they live.”

Tuesday, May 23 at 7:30 EST. Sign up here:


P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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