Interlitq Featured Interview: Geraldine Maxwell interviews Laura Moser, founder of the anti-Trump resistance movement Daily Action and a candidate for the United States Congress in Texasís 7th congressional district for the Democratic Party.
Geraldine Maxwell writes:
Many years ago, I went to a gathering of graduating students from Amherst College. It was a sort of sunny early evening in June, and I hadnít really looked forward to it.
Yet there I was, within probably about half an hour offering my flat in London to house-sit to a tall and original young woman named Laura Moser.
I immediately trusted her infectious wit, and wished Iíd known her for the last three years, as it would have made everything more fun.
A few months later, at a dinner with Bill Pritchard, the well-respected English professor of long standing at Amherst, he said as an aside that she was one of the most brilliant students heíd ever had.
Laura moved into my flat in west London that fall, and a few years ago wrote a wonderful and witty article about her time in London. As well as getting to know writers such as V. S. Naipaul, whom she met through her equally brilliant brother, the writer Benjamin Moser, she worked at Harvill Press and, with her mix of curiosity and courage, ventured out and got to know all sorts of people from various walks of life.
So itís not that surprising to me that after Trump was elected, Laura, along with many other women in America, felt compelled to stand up for what they believe in, and that it is worth the fight.
After Trumpís election, Laura moved back to Houston from Washington, and founded Direct Action, a text messaging service that engaged 300,00 Americanís in the political process, many for the first time.
Then, Laura decided to stand for Congress in 2018 in the 7th congressional district in Houston, which hasnít had a Democrat in power since 1966, although in the last election Clinton held it despite the rest of Texas going red.
Out of the original seven candidates, and at first as a rank outsider, Laura is now one of the last two, the other being the Emilyís List backed candidate attorney, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.
The main difference between these two, as far as I can gather, is defined by one particular issue that really stands out; Fletcher is a partner in a law firm that, among other clients, largely represents employers, and has played a significant role in targeting unions in the state, and Laura has the backing of organized labor (and the AFL-CIO voted to unendorse Fletcher).
Laura has even made sure that her campaign workers have unionized, ensuring them health care and paid sick days, this representing only one in ten campaigns to have done so in the US.
In between her busy schedule and being with her two children, Laura Moser and I managed to conduct a short interview:
Q. As a child, did you ever entertain fantasies of saving the world from injustices or contemplate wrongs to be righted?
A. Actually I didnít have a single moment I remember growing up when I suddenly became aware of social issues, because they were always openly discussed, and debated around the dinner table, and as a granddaughter of a refugee from Nazi Germany, I was keenly aware early on not to take social and human rights, our freedoms, for granted.
From since being in a stroller, I was brought along on pro-choice marches with my parents who are both strong democrats, and the news was always on, everything was taken seriously that was deemed important.
Every presidential election was watched on the TV, and for one election we were in Colorado, and didnít have a TV for some reason, so we went and knocked on some random strangerís house and watched it there. It was when Michael Dukakis ran.
Q. What campaigns do you most remember?
A. When I was about 13 years old, I went to the inauguration of Ann Richards, the Democratic governor of Texas. In fact, I have modelled my campaign on hers, and her message. She was an amazing woman, look her up. Very inspiring, principled and a real doer.
As an adult in 2004, I volunteered for the John Kerry presidential campaign, knocking on doors, and doing whatever I was told to do to help out.
Then, in 2008, I went to Missouri, Kansas and Iowa, working for the first Obama campaign, and as you know back then he was pretty much an outsider. Then, in 2012, in Virginia I worked again as a volunteer for Obama, but as I was pregnant at the time, I made sure I was always working in a city so that, if necessary, I could get to a hospital.
Q. Tell me about Daily Action, and how you got it started. Was it due to being in Houston and caught up in the chaos of Hurricane Harvey?
A. No, it wasnít Harvey at all, but it was certainly a huge learning curve and experience, being so directly involved with helping people who were in so much immediate need and distress. I set up an ad hoc donation center in the parking lot of a shopping mall, and organized for volunteers to get donations of anything really, even dry mattresses and pet food. It brought in aid from many other states, as well as 15 countries.
So many people had lost their homes, everything, and there was no infrastructure in place to deal with immediate circumstances, none at all.
Daily Action I started because of Trump. People were so shocked and devastated, they felt powerless.
And they needed, were looking for leadership. So far 300,000 people have joined up and get texts daily with instructions on how to call Congress about what most concerns them, from Russia to Health care, and thus far there have been 1.1 million calls. Quite something.
Itís amazing the way in which a lot of people in Texas are managing to live in what are dark times; they still have hope. Most women in Texas are tired of their rights being eroded, and their hopes being squashed. Itís time to bring everyone together to support each other, and that is one of my main goals.
We have to fix our broken politics, and that starts by rejecting the system where Washington party bosses tell us who to choose.
Q. I have heard some justify Trumpís foreign policy (if one can call it policy) such as with regard to North Korea, Russia and China, insomuch as like recognizes like, and that Obama, Clinton and Bush were speaking from a different, more old school and civilized rule book that dictators emotionally and traditionally cannot relate to.
A. I donít know about that, and I would strongly disagree that it is a valid enough reason to have someone in power who appears to have no actual plan, and who is acting spontaneously off the bat, based on emotive and self- regarding motives. He is playing chicken with a nuclear arsenal, and that is not alright with me, because what if it goes the wrong way?
Q. On May 22nd, you are in the run-off with Lizzie Fletcher, and then after that with the incumbent Rep John Culberson, a nine term Republican in Novemberís general election. It is a David and Goliath scenario, but I feel you have a strong chance of winning.
A. As you know, the DCCC (The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) didnít want me to win. They believe a more centrist position has a better chance against the incumbent Culberson, which I guess is understandable, but we arenít living in particularly understandable times. Things have changed so much and game-changers are what are needed now.
The DCCC spoke out against my campaign, accusing me of being a Washington insider because Arun, my husband, worked for Obama as his official videographer, and that it was wrong that Revolution Messaging (where he is a partner), was employed by Direct Action, despite such a procedure being common practice even within the Democratic party. And, transcending the issue of whether or not my husband is a partner, itís obvious that Revolution Messaging was the ideal company to advise Direct Action.
People are looking for game-changers, or at least for candidates who have a strong position when it comes to their values, and that they have the will power to defend.
Q. Iím so impressed by what youíre doing, Laura, willing to put your head above the parapet. Not many of us would dare.
A. Itís not for everyone, but itís whatís happening. Itís good to feel such an active part of change, being able to doing something important. And Iím grateful for the opportunity. Itís quite a turn up for the books, in fact, as before my campaigning, my main involvement with politics was being in that much-disseminated photo of my daughter, Claudia, having a tantrum on the floor of the oval office, and right at Obamaís feet.
Q. On balance, would you say your experience in campaigning has strengthened or diminished your faith in human nature?
A. People are amazing. Let me say that it has all been exhausting but quite incredible. Negativity and cynicism inevitably rear their ugly heads, but on the whole Iím blown away by the courage of the people Iíve met, and how kind and civilized they are, no matter what they are going through. I am excited to be running and, of course, I hope I will win.
© Geraldine Harmsworth Maxwell