Get Your Elected Officials to Pay Attention — A Simple Daily Plan For Every Voter
I’m working on a list of 100 things you can do as a member of what I lovingly call “The Rebel Alliance” (because I’m a tiny bit of a Star Wars nerd).
But most people I know would find that overwhelming. So for now, here’s something simple and effective you can do, in four steps, and 15 minutes a day.
A simple plan for long term change
Step two: Educate yourself on the issues, legislation and bills that are coming up on the local, state and national level.
Step three: Call one of your representatives every day. Don’t email. Don’t tweet. Pick up the phone and spend 5 to 15 minutes talking to a staffer in your elected officials offices.
Let them know where you stand on impending legislation and other issues you know about.
Ask them what your representative’s priorities are, bills that could become law, policies they are supporting, or even things that you read about in step two that you don’t understand.
Step four: Keep a public record of what happened when you called.
Start small. Commit to one small but effective action a day.
If you never do more, being part of the masses of people doing this little bit can make a huge impact.
Especially if you talk about what happened — there’s noting an elected official hates more than looking bad, and nothing they love and need more than positive press, even in a personal blog.
This is your power, and you can use it to get the people who were elected to be your voice to actually do their job.
How do we know this works?
So we know what happens if we don’t respond in kind. Like anyone else, the people in Congress have their own interests and goals. Some of them ran for office for their own agendas more than they did to serve us.
But. They can’t stay in office without us. And unless the day comes where we lose the right to vote (and some of us have lost the ability) — they need us. That’s our leverage.
Here’s what happened when I called today
I tried to call my senator, Benjamin Cardin. I kept getting voicemail so I called my congressional representative, as my vow was to speak with someone from at least one elected official’s office every day.
A staffer in Anthony Brown’s office picked up. I expressed my dissatisfaction about Trump’s proposed cabinet members, Sessions in particular, knowing that representatives don’t actually vote on this. I wanted to see what she would say.
The staffer listened patiently, then let me know that my representative couldn’t vote against the appointment of the cabinet. But she said that my representative wanted to know my feelings, and asked me if there was a specific appointment I was concerned about.
We talked some more, and I asked her advice about the best way to express my views, and be sure that my elected officials were represented me. She assured me, that as I have read elsewhere, phone calls were among the smartest things to do.
She then looked up the district office number for my Senator, telling me that if I couldn’t reach him in DC, I should call there because both offices record and tally voter opinions and requests.
She asked for my city and zip code, but not my name even though I volunteered it.
She also found me the DC number to the direct office of my state’s other Senator.
In all it was a great experience. I don’t expect it always to be one, but for someone who hates making phone calls, this is encouraging.
Here are some tools that can help you.
The Indivisible Guide — some former congressional staffers reverse engineered the effective efforts of the Tea Party and adapted them into a guide for helping to protect democracy during the President-elect’s upcoming administration.
Here’s an article that clarifies why calling is important and has more impact than email. Here’s another featuring the tweets of the congressional staffer who initially gave this advice. These sentiments are echoed by many in the know.
Look them up on Twitter too — their tweets may tell you about events, or at the very least, link to their site.
When you see a website, check to see if there’s information on the local district office for when you can’t get through to them in Washington DC.
We’re the ones who have to do the work now
An argument could be made that if those of us who care about maintaining the advances that happened in the last 8 years had acted sooner, much of this could have been thwarted.
That view could be valid. It could also be that gerrymandering and voter suppression is to blame, that Russia successfully hacked our election or at least our election process, or the truth could be a combination of many factors.
We may never know the whole truth.
And whatever that truth is, it wouldn’t come with a time machine to undo what has transpired. If we can affect the future with some consistent grassroots action now, as others have done before us, I don’t see the downside of giving it our best shot.
At least until someone comes up with a better, more effective plan.
I hope you’ll join me. And I look forward to reading and sharing your account of what happens.