Write to Your Congressman

On How to Write Your Congressman, The Art of Manliness, Harry R. Burger writes:

“Why should my Congressman care what I think?” you may ask. Well, you are one of their constituents–that makes it their job to represent you in government. They work for you, and if they don’t do their job and satisfy the people they represent, they can get voted out of office in the next election.

This concept that we vote people in, then post-election leave them alone is silly. In a republic, our elected officials are mandated with the task of representing us.

All of us. (Yes, even those who didn’t vote.)

I did vote. And at the same time, there are many ways to participate in a republic…

Events, political discussion, financial contributions, meetings, campaigns, lobbying, marches boycotts, contacting representatives – both as part of a group or as individual.

We all work with people we didn’t hire and wouldn’t have hired everyday. It happens.

Fully I support everyone on all sides having discourse. Better to notice and speak about the downsides.

I know you all love to write about this stuff. You’re writing on behalf of yourself, family, and/or a group/organization you’re a part of.

If you’re part of a group – small or large, even a couple – you can have your letter or a page that’s signed by members.

Consider gathering all of these thoughts, ideas, and conversations that you’ve shared online. Repurpose them as messages sent directly to those who represent you. I think you should. No matter which view you’re supporting.

While each letter can’t be handled fully, they’re another “vote”. If enough arrive with enough weight, that’s what gets dealt with.

At the link there are many comments from those who work in the offices of officials. Letters are read. A few key takeaways:

  • Contact local offices most often. Mayor, Governor, County Exec, State Senate/House of Delegates. They’re the ones that your federal representatives talk to when figuring this all out.
  • Be personal. Show that you know about the person you’re writing to. An intern who is associated with that person feels it’s more important if it’s clearly directly at the person their associated with.
  • Send messages about low hanging fruit. If there is a personal problem they can solve by emailing another government department, they’ll probably do it. An easy way for the office – and that intern who sends the email – to look good.
  • Personal stories about your experience with verifiable data, accomplishments, and facts have more weight. Your line of work, organizations you’re involved with, places your shop and otherwise participate in the economy and community help them to care.
  • Send thank you emails. When you like something they did, say so. Not worth a letter unless it’s a super important topic to you.
  • Introduce yourself. Mention your previous letters and topics. (“I wrote you last on [Date] about [Topic]. This time I’m talking about [new topic]”) They take you more seriously if you’re not a one-and-done writer.
  • Have a thesis. Get to a single point quickly. You can add further detail after that. Be brief.
  • Don’t be crazy. No one listens to crazy people because they’re crazy.
  • You’ll probably end up getting Holiday cards. Once they start reaching out to you, it becomes a lot less work. They’ll remind you to keep being involved because it’s in their best interest.
  • Include your full address. The first thing they check is if they actually represent you.
  • Find the office address that is local. Not in DC (unless you live in DC)
  • Phone calls matter, often more. Especially if it’s a timely issue. Attending local in person meetings also matter more. (Parks and Rec never had an episode about letters.)
  • Many people don’t understand that you’re contacting an office. Not a person. That customer service person at Amazon is not Jeff Bezos.

Yes I do write to the offices of officials on all levels. Not just in election years. Even if it’s just for yourself, I personally find letter writing cathartic. Even if it’s a placebo, it’s more likely to be effective than Facebook.

Write to Your Congressman

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