Representative Donna Edwards’ chief of staff, Adrienne Christian, told us this week that we could be a lot more effective with Congress! Gracious, charming and funny, she nevertheless laid it on the line when she met with us. It’s clear that we Progressives need to get our act together.
Here are some pointers from Adrienne:
Letters, Letters, Letters—Personalized!
Adrian assured us that letters have a big impact, particularly if you include something personal in the letter, such as why you care about an issue. “Such a letter,” Adrienne said, “will get to a Member’s desk.”
Rep. Edwards receives only about six letters each day and she reads them all! Not all members of Congress will do that, we are sure, but likely a staffer will read a letter more carefully than an e-mail and report on its contents to the member. Please consider using this powerful approach to Congress.
Here’s an important piece of information: all letters mailed to D.C. Congressional offices are screened for anthrax, delaying receipt for several weeks. In addition, a liquid is applied to the letters which sometimes makes the ink run or the pages stick together. So, either fax your letter or mail it to a district office. Mail from district offices is hand carried or Fed Exed to D.C. offices, so mailing to a district office is a reliably quick method to get your letter to the member of Congress.
Adrienne said that phone calls from constituents are always counted and that a senator or representative monitors the issues that are important in the district by the number of calls received. A lot of phone calls will counteract even opinion polls.
These are effective only if they are personalized. Signing onto a pre-written, mass e-mail letter won’t have much impact.
BE A NUDGE!
Maybe you’ve already contacted your senators and representative on an issue and feel like it’s a waste of time to do it again. Adrienne assured us that this is not the case, that in fact, weekly contacts with a Congressional office are important. So, don’t worry about being a nudge! Congress needs to keep hearing from you.
It is at least as important to contact a member of Congress who is on our side about an issue as it is to contact someone who is not, Adrienne says. If the member of Congress is opposing the party leadership or the Administration, he or she will take heat—sometimes a lot of heat–but if the member can say that constituents are demanding a particular position, then it is easier to hold out against the pressure. Thus, hearing from constituents strengthens the resolve and the power of members of Congress on an issue.
THE 90-POUND WEAKLING
Last spring, every peace group in the country—including Peace Action Montgomery—begged people to call Congress to ask that members vote against the supplemental funding bill that would continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Every group urged us all to call! This was probably the most important vote of the year on the wars and occupations. Adrienne told us that their office got one call. One!
If Congress doesn’t hear from us, they won’t know we care about an issue—and the translation is that we are weak and ineffective.
So, write a letter, make a call, or send an e-mail—every week!
Let’s put some muscle on those bones and get strong! Popeye chugalugged canned spinach—surely calling or writing Congress is easier!
[Contact information for Montgomery County’s Congressional delegation]