Has anyone else been depressed at current events lately? I’ve been falling into that a LOT lately. I find action really is the best remedy. But not every day can be a big public event – although those are amazing. Some days you need a little spark. So when I don’t know what else to do, I’ve started calling my Reps and Senators to leave them messages.
Privately, I call these “chewing gum campaigns” because they are small, simple actions that “seem” negligible. But they really aren’t.
Directly contacting elected officials is one of the best ways to make them hear you. While they may not hear *you* personally, they certainly will be “taking the temperature” of their constituents (that’d be you plus all the other people in your state).
Many times I have felt like this does nothing, but you have to remember the Grand Canyon was carved by “nothing more than” a collection of “drops”. Every “drop” counts. And, if you’re of a witchy bent, get the candles/roots/herbs/oils going at the same time. My personal praxis is *very* mundane and pragmatic, so what I’m about to discuss isn’t witchy feeling. But it is about getting one’s hands dirty, at least a little bit.
How do I start?
You can call, write, fax, email – the only thing you really can’t do is text the office directly. ResistBot does do that to a point, but turns the message into a fax. So that’s a good alternative to research.
This page will explain the process of calling the office of an elected official. If anyone has good resources/walkthroughs for other modes of contact, please let me know! I’d be happy to add them.
What should I say?
Before you pick up your phone, you want to figure out why you’re calling. What issue prompted you to take action? What is your opinion? What do you want your congressperson to do? Why do you want that action from them?
If you are unclear on any of these, I’d take to the internet first. It’s ok to not know about something, as long as you go and learn. Head to reputable sources (yes, .gov sites still count, for the most part) and see what the controversy is. Decide where you stand.
Then head to Congress.gov to see what your rep or senator’s voting record is like. This one is a little labor intensive, but it’s worth knowing how to navigate it. There is a handy “top 10” feature on top showing you what they’re working on right now. There are links to current activity, contacts, etc.
Sometimes I wing my message, other times I type or write it first to make sure it’s short. A couple of sentences short. This is a blurb, not a paragraph. If you still have no idea what to say, use a script!
There are places like wallofus.org or 5calls.org that will give you scripts to read. (ed note: you may want to investigate those first if you are new to this or rusty) I often work from these, because even though I talk for a living, I am horrible on the phone. So there – if you’re nervous, know that at least one other person uses the scripts too 😛
What happens when I call?
If you have never done this before, let me walk you through it. You use one of the above links to go to either the House (of Reps) or the Senate contact pages. I’ll start with the Reps, since they work the same way.
If you connect to a live person, they will probably ask for your name and zip code. Then they will ask you your message. Proceed to “Ok, I’m waiting for the machine/on hold – now what?” down below
If you get a machine, the message will also ask for your name and zip code.
You give the information you feel comfortable giving (at least say you are a resident of X state) and state your message.
Why do they need my name and ZIP?
To be honest, I don’t know. If someone does, please contact me! I am presuming it’s so they can keep track of how many people from what areas are contacting
I *aways* forget my zip code, so I usually say my first name and the town I live in. To try to affect voting, you have to contact your own rep/senator. They are priority one. There is nothing illegal about contacting congresspersons from other states, but you are very, very low on their priority list, so it’s not a good use of energy.
Ok, I’m waiting for the machine/on hold – now what?
In my case, both of my Senators I’m pretty satisfied with, so when I contact their offices, I pretty much just ask them to hold the course. I make sure I mention the specific issue. Today it was SCOTUS nominees. I want them to vote against whoever the administration picks, because I want to see the Democrats in Congress playing hardball. So I called my Senators and asked them to oppose as much as they could. This is literally what I said into the answering machine:
“Hi my name is NAME, and I’m from….well, damn I forgot my zip code so I’m from TOWN. I’d like to ask that whatever aide or intern gets this message to please communicate to the Senator (or Rep) to oppose whatever SCOTUS nominee this administration puts forward. Thank you and have a nice day.”
Then I hung up and went about my business. That is it!
Remember, if you get a live human or a machine – you are getting an intern or other manner of administrative staff. Even if you are appalled at your congressperson’s performance (and some of them ARE appalling!) the poor schmuck picking up the phone is just the messenger. We don’t bite messengers.
“Speaking with secretaries at several state offices, all of them recommended keeping the letters as short as possible. While you may feel a long winded letter is best to explain your reasoning, you have to remember that most representatives know all of facets of a bill, so concentrate on the ways it will affect you they may not have thought of. Include details like:
- The area you live in.
- Your personal experience and history with the issue. If you have credentials, include those as well.
- Studies and newspaper articles from local sources.
- Your fears if the bill does or does not get passed.
- Your recommended course of action.”
This is for me as much as you:
Remember, no action is too small. Be a stone in their shoe, a splinter in their hand, a pain in their tooth. Be small, be brave, and flourish!