Trump speaking with Putin in oval office
Credit: Sean Spicer/Twitter

I think the election of Donald Trump proves that substance is overrated as a political tool, and I wonder whether the Democrats might get more mileage out of seizing on things that the Republicans do that are just plain unpopular than they typically get out of arguing over who gets a tax cut or what might happen to people with preexisting conditions. For example, why not make every Republican candidate for office defend this?

The Republican National Committee is backing a petition that would allow political campaigns and businesses to leave automated messages on your voicemail, without your phone having to ring. Under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission, which has been asked to review ringless voicemail, the proposal would free telemarketers from restrictions that prevent them from robo-calling people’s cellphones without first getting their permission.

For the RNC, which filed comments in support of the petition to the FCC last week, regulations designed to limit straight-to-voicemail messaging would hinder free speech, and raise constitutional questions about the rights of political organizations. Supporters of so-called ringless voicemail don’t see them as robocalls or “calls” at all. “[D]irect-to-voicemail technology permits a voice message to go directly to the intended recipient’s mobile voicemail via a server-to-server communication, without a call being made to the recipient’s telephone number and without a charge,” wrote the RNC.

And proponents argue that straight-to-voicemail messages don’t come with the same frustrating dinner-time disruptions that many associate with telemarketing calls.

I’m not saying there isn’t a substantive issue here, but it’s a minor one. You get robocalls on your land line (if you still have one) all the time. Should you get them on your cell phone, too? How about a bunch of crap filling up your voicemail box that you didn’t ask for and most definitely do not want?

Sometimes, the most effective politics is the kind that has no ideological flavor to it. There’s no “team” for annoying voicemail spam. When a party decides to fight for their right to give you annoying voicemail spam, they ought to pay a big price for it.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at