How (not) to persuade a US senator

Congratulations! You have been told to be outraged about the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and you’ve now taken the logical next step: you wish to lobby a US senator to get them to also be outraged, and vote against him.

Naturally, you have questions. Questions that I am only too happy to answer for you.

Your first question is pretty simple. “Whose opinion should I try to influence?” Well, let’s actually start with who you shouldn’t try to influence. Start by identifying all of those senators who seem to be strongly partisan, and are likely to have already made their mind up.

Have your names? Good. Cross off all them, because it isn’t even worth the effort. Yes, Angus King too. For all his bluster of independence, his mind was made up the moment Kavanaugh was announced.

Okay, now look to see who is left. Not very many people, is it?

Great, now look at who you have left, and make your judgment about who is realistically persuadable, who may have some qualities that would potentially put them on your side, and who has a history of voting independently.

Anyone left? Susan Collins again? Fabulous.

Now let’s talk turkey. You need her to vote the way you want her to vote, and you’re afraid she might be drifting in the other direction. Quick, what do you do?

Sen. Susan Collins meets with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at her office on Aug. 21 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, files)

Well this is where the magic happens folks, because I think that I know the answer. So pay attention, take notes, and do exactly what I tell you to do.

Let’s start with a general philosophy on how to do this. Some might say we should make good arguments. Some might say we might appeal to logic and reason.

Nonsense! The only thing that will work is if we engage in a little Shock and Awe, here. We need to wield our armies of persuasion as blunt force objects, intimidating and threatening at every turn.

Our first opportunity will be at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. We will start on day one, and we will disrupt, sabotage and act out at that hearing. We will act like petulant children, and we will show them just how serious we are by being as over the top as we possibly can be.

In fact, if you can find a way to get arrested, you should probably do that too.

But that is just setting the stage, really. Our real target here is Collins, and now that she knows we’re serious, we need to work on her.

Let’s start with a massive television ad blitz. We have several billionaires and plenty of left-wing non-profits standing by, ready to pour cash into this effort, and boy are we ever going to flood the airwaves.

Yes, yes, I know. Some people might tell you that Collins has never been particularly swayed by television ads in her home state before, but pay them no mind. This time will be different, because our ads are going to be over the top.

In fact, let’s get somebody to go on camera and say, “if you vote for Brett Kavanaugh, you’re voting to kill me.” That kind of sensible argument always works.

Let’s move on to a tried and true method that I just know will work: out-of-state phone calls from people who berate Collins’ staff.

I’m thinking we go all in on this one. Let’s get angry. Let’s get violent sounding. Maybe we should take it far beyond the line, and have somebody from outside Maine leave a voicemail that threatens to rape one of her female staff members.

Sure, it sounds extreme, but extreme times, am I right?

Now on to the final step.

We are going to threaten her, while demanding she do as we say. We are going to start a crowd sourced campaign that raises money from people. “Either Sen. Collins votes no on Kavanaugh,” we will say, “or we will fund her future opponent in 2020.”

Yes, yes, some might call that extortion. Some might doubt my advice here and say that intimidation and threats has never been a particularly reliable way to persuade anyone. Again, pay them no mind.

We don’t actually have to have a candidate, and that candidate doesn’t actually have to have a chance in hell at beating her. It is just the threat itself that will work.

And if it doesn’t, look at it this way, now we found a way to con people out of more than a million dollars for a phony campaign for a candidate that doesn’t exist.

We’ve also managed to get thousands of new email signups, registered volunteers, and have whipped up our voting base.

And that, not defeating Kavanaugh, is our real goal anyway.


Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.