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Time to Act

30 January 2017

Over the past several months, I have been feeling everything from sad to angry, due to all the nastiness of the recent US Presidential election, its outcome, the people Trump has nominated for his cabinet and his advisors, the things Trump says and Tweets, and in the past few days since he actually took office, the executive orders he has already started issuing. I've also been feeling rather helpless, not knowing what I could possibly do that would have any effect on the nasty racist and sexist feelings that surfaced around the election, or the policies that Trump is trying to put in place, which I feel will be extremely detrimental to the country and the world.

So... I decided that it is time to at least try to do something, hopefully to counteract some of the badness, but at least to alleviate my feeling of helplessness. There are several things I could have decided to do, such as joining a protest march or signing an on-line petition... but in my lifetime, I haven't seen a lot of evidence that such actions have led to much change (the civil rights movement of the 60's, and Viet Nam protests of the 60s and 70s, undoubtedly did -- but both were just before I was aware of what was going on). And especially now, I think that Trump is more interested in denigrating protesters than actually paying attention to what they are saying.

Instead, I've been thinking about Congress: a body of people who supposedly represent us, who will need to pass laws in order for some of Trump's policies to take effect, and who can also pass laws to make sure that some of them don't take effect. Each citizen of the US has three representatives in Congress -- two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives -- and all three of them can be influenced by the constituents that they are supposed to represent -- at least, in theory.

How to Influence Congress

I researched how best to influence a member of Congress, and here is what I found out:

  • Members of congress care what their constituents think, because those constituents will either elect them or replace them, at least once in the next six years at a minimum. They are not interested in what people outside their districts think about the issues.
  • The most effective way to contact your elected representative is to call their regional or state office, or attend a local town meeting. Writing a letter can take up to six weeks to get through, due to postal security screenings. Incoming email is such a large volume, it is handled by software that responds with a form letter. Facebook and Twitter are similarly deluged. But if you call, especially to the regional office, or attend a town meeting in your area, you will talk to an aide or staffer, and they will listen to you.
  • You can find phone numbers for your representatives' regional offices by starting at http://votesmart.org/officials . Choose "Congressional" office type and your state. Find your representative, and click through to their page, which shows you their numbers and also their voting record and ratings by advocacy groups (it's a great resource!). Find town meeting schedules by signing up for your representative's newsletter.
  • Only call your own representatives, and tell them you are their constituent.
  • When you call or speak at a town meeting, keep your message to one issue only, and if possible, have it be something that is currently being considered by Congress. Ask to speak to the aide in charge of your particular issue.
  • Keep it short.
  • Have the facts in front of you before you call, so you can describe the topic.
  • Make sure you state a concrete action step you want your representative to take, such as voting in a certain way or sponsoring a bill.
  • You will have the most impact if you can coordinate with other people. If a lot of people call within a short amount of time on the same issue, or several people speak at a town meeting on the same issue, this gets noticed and gets to the attention of your representative. If it's just one person calling or speaking, it doesn't get noticed as much.

As a note, I put together the above list using the following resources:

My Plan -- and How You Can Join In

Given the above, here is my plan:

  • I am currently represented, in the US Congress, by two Senators that usually vote the way I would want them to, and one Representative who hardly ever does. So, I plan to concentrate on calling the Representative (Cathy McMorris-Rogers).
  • About once a month, I plan write up some talking points on an issue that Congress is currently thinking about (or one that I think they should be thinking about). The first one (coming soon!) will be about the planned repeal or changes to the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") that the Republicans are currently working on.
  • I will post the talking points for that month's issue here on my blog.
  • I will email a link to the talking points to anyone who wants to receive them. Initially, I will send out a message to people I know, and ask them to forward it to other people. But I'll only be doing that once -- after that, I'll ask anyone who wants to continue to receive the messages to sign up on an email list.
  • Then, each time I send out talking points for an issue, I (and hopefully others) will make calls to our Representatives or Senators, who will at least come to know that there are people in their district or state who care about how they vote on these issues, and at best, perhaps change their minds and vote the way we would want them to.

What do you think? If you'd like to join my campaign, and be notified when it's time to call your representative, you can do one of the following:

And if you have suggestions about what we should call our representatives about, see the Home page of this web site for contact information.

Sample Conversation

I think it will be most effective if everyone calls their representatives and uses their own words. However, I'm providing a sample conversation outline, to help you get started.. See also: Shy Person's Guide to Calling Representatives . Here's my suggested conversational outline:

Hello! I'd like to speak to someone in your office about _________________.
(once you are speaking to the right person) My name is _____________ and I am a registered voter in _____(Name of rep)_______________'s district [or ___________________ State, for a Senator]. I'm very concerned about the issue of ____________________. Here are some thoughts:
[Talking points and facts go here]
I'd like to ask ____________(Name of rep) _________________ to .... [Call to Action goes here -- what you want the representative to do]
Thank you very much for your time!