Why call or visit your Representatives?

Can’t I just email?  Or post about it on Facebook? Or sign a petition?

            There are two things that all people who give a shit about our country should be doing all the time right now, and they're by far the most important things.  You should NOT be bothering with online petitions (they’re usually being used by organizations to build their mailing lists and not much more) or emailing. Anyone who has worked in a Congressional office will tell you that any sort of online contact basically gets immediately ignored, and letters pretty much get thrown in the trash (unless you have a particularly strong emotional story, but even then it's not worth the time it took you to craft that letter).

1.     The best thing you can do to be heard and get your congressperson to pay attention is to have face-to-face time.  If they have townhalls, go to them. Go to their local offices. If you're in DC, try to find a way to go to an event of theirs. Go to the "mobile offices" that their staff hold periodically (all these times are located on each congressperson's website). When you go, ask questions. A lot of them. And push for answers. The louder and more vocal and present you can be at those the better.

2.     But, those in-person events don't happen every day. So, the absolute most important thing that people should be doing every day is calling. Calls are what all the congresspeople pay attention to. Every single day, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report of the 3 most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics. They're also sorted by zip code and area code.  When you call:

·      When calling the DC office, ask for the Staff member in charge of whatever you're calling about ("Hi, I'd like to speak with the staffer in charge of Healthcare, please”). If you get transferred to that person, awesome. If you don't, that's ok - ask for their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don't leave a message -- it's better to talk to the staffer who first answered than leave a message for the specific staffer in charge of your topic),

·      Give them your zip code. They won't always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them, so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them, since they'll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.

·      If you can make it personal, make it personal. "I voted for you in the last election and I'm worried/happy/whatever" or "I'm a teacher, and I am appalled by Betsy DeVos," or "as a single mother" or "as a white, middle class woman," or whatever.

·      Pick 1 specific thing to focus on. Don't go down a whole list - they're figuring out what topic to mark you down for on their lists. So, focus on 1 topic per call, ideally something that will be voted on/taken up in the next few days.

·      Be clear on what you want: “I'm disappointed that the Senator..." or "I want to thank the Senator for their vote on..." or "I want the Senator to know that voting in _____ way is the wrong decision for our state because..." Don't leave any ambiguity.

·      They may get to know your voice/get sick of you - it doesn't matter. The people answering the phones generally turn over every 6 weeks anyway, so even if they're really sick of you, they'll be gone in 6 weeks.

 

3.   Download the fabulous new app Mobilize (https://www.mobilizeapp.org/), available in the Apple store.  Mobilize provides you with actions with scripts and directly connects you to the offices of your reps based on our zip code.  You don’t even have to dial their number!

Jim Augustine