Namely, I attempted to get over this whole “AUGH PHONES” thing and actually freggin’ call my state Senators and Congresswoman. The goal here was to give them constituent feedback on certain current events, namely:
- My strident opposition to Stephen Bannon holding any position whatsoever in the White House; and
- My strident opposition to any kind of Muslim registry, since that idea is getting bandied around by Trump’s gathering staff, and I find it particularly reprehensible that the Japanese internment camps are getting cited in some news report as actual legitimate precedent for doing that kind of thing, to wit, no.
There has been a thread going around on Twitter the last several days, which was posted by someone named Emily Ellsworth. She says she has six years’ experience working as a Congressional staffer, and because of this, she wanted the Net to know that making actual phone calls is still the very best way to make your voice heard to your representatives. The number of emails as well as printed letters or faxes that any given member of Congress gets is huge, and so they just have to scan them for keywords and tick off items on topic counters. But if you actually call and interact with a human on the other end, they take more notice of that.
The full thread starts here:
I worked for Congress for 6 years, and here's what I learned about how they listen to constituents.
— Emily Coleman (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
So because of this I made a point of calling the offices of both Washington Senators, as well as my district’s Representative to let my input be known on those two issues. I kept it brief. I introduced myself, identified myself as a Washington state voter and gave them my zip code, and just basically said “I wanted to let the Senator/the Congresswoman know that I feel this way on X and on Y”. And I made a point of thanking the various staffers for their time. They were all quite polite and were happy to take my feedback.
Side notes on this experience:
- I had way less trouble reaching Maria Cantwell’s office and Suzan DelBene’s than I did Patty Murray’s. Senator Murray’s office in Seattle never picked up on the line, and the voicemail box was full, so I couldn’t leave a message. Likewise for her office number in Everett. I had to call her Tacoma office to actually reach a staffer. Apparently Senator Murray has been getting a LOT of calls.
- Since this came up in discussion on Facebook, I am aware that Congress doesn’t have any actual veto power over Mr. Bannon’s appointment, given the specific position he’s been tapped for. That said, there is still some leverage here that the Dems or sympathetic Republicans can take, e.g., refusal to deal with holding hearings on the positions that Congress does need to give their approval for.
- I was a little nervous making these calls, I’ll freely own up to that, but it did help to keep it short. And also in that I’ve had at least some practice doing pitches for novels, which helps one focus in on short sound-bite editions of something you want to talk about.
- Senator Murray’s staffer in Tacoma chuckled ruefully when I told him that these were my two main issues I wanted to speak up on for the moment, but that I expected there would be more as we move into the new administration.
- As a Great Big Sea fan, I keep wanting to read Senator Murray’s name as “Paddy Murphy” and yeah no. 😉
All in all: not too bad as an exercise in civic awareness. Cell phones, especially smartphones, are powerful little gadgets. I feel like for once I’m actually harnessing the power for mine for something meaningful.