A woman in a green dress shaking hands with a man in a diner

Laura Moser ’99

Major: English

She founded Daily
Action in 2016.

“It’s very useful if you can tell your own story,” Laura Moser ’99 said during a Reunion panel in Stirn Auditorium in May. She was describing how she was able to connect with voters during her 2018 run for Congress.

As a book author and journalist, Moser is skilled at telling stories. The story of her own foray into politics started around 2015, when she began writing articles about education for Slate. Reporting on issues like teachers’ pay and racial bias in schools, she says, drove home to her “how unequal the world is” and set her on “a more activist path.”

After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, Moser, like many of her progressive peers, was distraught about the country’s trajectory. “I come from a background of people who didn’t do enough, and their lives were threatened,” she says: she thought of her Jewish grandfather, who stayed in Berlin until 1938 and then fled to Houston just in time to escape the Nazis. It occurred to her that “if somehow people’s political angst could be streamlined into one thing a day, then we could have more of a collective impact.”

With help from the media agency where her husband, former White House videographer Arun Chaudhary, is a partner, Moser launched Daily Action, a service that texts subscribers each day with a simple, strategic political action they can take, such as calling their senator or sharing an informative video. Moser wrote an article for Vogue about Daily Action in December 2016, expecting maybe “three or four thousand people” to sign up. The actual number of subscribers when the service reached peak popularity? More than a quarter of a million.

Daily Action’s success prompted Moser to ponder a path she had never considered before: running for Congress. Texas’ 7th district, in which she was born and raised, had gone to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, so there appeared an opportunity to flip its seat in the House from red to blue in the midterms.

Moser withdrew from involvement with Daily Action, and she, Chaudhary and their two children moved from Washington, D.C., to Texas in 2017. She threw her hat in the ring against six other Democratic hopefuls. She quickly had to “become an expert on everything,” she says, from Pell grants to the Federal Reserve, and because politics is “not designed for mothers,” her husband and nearby parents took on more childcare duties.

A woman in a green dress handing a card to a woman in a orange jacket
Moser campaigns in 2017 in Texas’ 7th district. She’s now brought politics back with her into the world of writing.

Alumni in the House

 Almost 40 Amherst alumni have served in the U.S. House of Representatives. They include two Speakers of the House—Galusha A. Grow, class of 1844, and Henry T. Rainey, class of 1883—and one minority leader, Bertrand Snell, class of 1894. Rainey, an Illinois Democrat, was Speaker from 1933 until his death in 1934. He shepherded key portions of the New Deal—as his fellow alumnus, Minority Leader Snell, vigorously opposed it. Snell, a New York Republican, was minority leader from 1931 to 1939. Grow presided over the House as a Pennsylvania Republican during the first two years of the Civil War. Amherst’s most recent member of the House is Virginia Republican Thomas M. Davis III ’71, who served from 1995 to 2008.

Houston resident Keith Millner ’92 met Moser during her campaign and became a supporter, moved by her concern for his family, which includes his severely disabled stepdaughter, and by her comments about “how the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston was the result of many years of obviously bad choices by Houston leaders,” he says. “I was struck by her intelligence, her passion, her candor, her breadth of knowledge, her specificity and what I guess I will call her fierceness”—her willingness to say “the thing that she knows to be true, whether or not that truth is palatable or polite or accepted by some particular demographic or audience.”

Moser says she had “a ton of grassroots support,” raising small amounts of money from many different people, but her biggest challenge came from her own political party, as she campaigned on such left-leaning positions as health care as a human right and background checks for all gun sales. Doubting her electability, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee favored a more moderate candidate, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. During the primary race, the DCCC drew attention to controversial statements Moser had made in the past, particularly a disparaging comment about her grandparents’ hometown of Paris, Texas. Fletcher went on to win the primary and the congressional seat.

Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, wrote a Guardian article criticizing the party’s treatment of his former student. “I continue to be dismayed but not surprised by how the DCCC turned against Laura,” he says today. “Certainly the party has a legitimate interest in supporting candidates with the best chance of winning, but that doesn’t warrant maligning a fellow Democrat who breaks from the safe mold.”

“I’m not going to run for anything again, based on the experiences I’ve had,” Moser said at the Reunion panel, which Douglas moderated. But she has brought politics back with her into the world of writing. She edited Daniel Blue Tyx’s book Angry Tías: Cruelty and Compassion on the U.S.-Mexico Border (Strong Arm Press). And she is at work on a novel that draws from her experiences running for office.

Photos by Michael Stravato for the Washington Post/via Getty Images