Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Calling Congress

In the March 6 New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz writes about what happens when people call or e-mail or write to Congress. In “normal times” (not these), she says, writing is better than calling. In some circumstances, calling is better. Mass e-mails and online petitions count for little. Does any of it make a difference?

When I asked past and present Congress members and high-level staffers if constituent input mattered, all of them emphasized that it absolutely does. But when I asked them to name a time that a legislator had changed his or her vote on the basis of such input, I got, in every instance, a laugh, and then a very long pause.
Schulz adds though that “For all that, constituents are not voiceless in a democracy, and every once in a while they do score major legislative wins.” And she has examples.

comments: 7

Diane Schirf said...

If people can't get past one-issue voting and start focusing on their interests, nothing will change.

Frex said...

Thanks for posting this--just recently I've gotten more interested in how political mail works--having sent some for the first time in years.
I like to think of the young staffers/interns reading my paper mail, what the New Yorker article calls the "customer-service workforce of democracy."

Maybe you saw the recent moving and fascinating article about the people who read and sorted Obama's mail--I was surprised people still send so many paper letters:
www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/magazine/what-americans-wrote-to-obama.html

Obama wanted to see ten representative letters a day---I can't find info on Trump's letter-reading habits, but somehow I expect they are zero.

Frex said...

P.S. That article also described me: people who haven't paid much attention to politic are now writing and getting something like an "adult-education seminar in American government". I love that: it sometimes has seemed that people are politically apathetic--and now this! --Fresca

Michael Leddy said...

I should have linked to that Times article. 99% Invisible had an episode about Obama’s letters: “Ten Letters for the President.”

I know that Trump likes one-page policy papers with graphics and maps. If you write to the White House, include graphics and maps in your letter!

Fresca said...

Thanks for that link about policy papers--I added it to my post on mail.

I don't usually worry too much about threats from outside the U.S., but reading about the state of our national security, I wonder if I should start.

Michael Leddy said...

Steve Bannon, I’m sure, has our backs. No worries. :)

Fresca said...

Oh, whew. Thanks, I feel so much better now. ;)