OK, so my senator and my representative are both awful. This is Texas. Still, periodically I send them emails and/or call their offices, because, I guess, I believe in some level in representative democracy. Thank you, High School (and/or PBS's Electric Company). So yesterday I finally received an email from Cornyn's office in "response" to an email I sent in on the debt ceiling. Unsurprisingly, like the one I received from my other senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the email I received back from Cornyn's office was entirely unresponsive. Here is a quote from the email:
And, like you, I am concerned about the effects of excessive government spending, often on wasteful, ineffective government programs, and its impact on future generations.
Yesterday was a hard day, and for some reason, I became unreasonably angry when I read this. I mean, it's one thing to be entirely unrepresented by one's theoretical representative, but another thing to have one's actual comments so obviously unread. So I picked up the phone and called Cornyn's Washington office. I'm writing this diary because I was surprised that what I said seemed to make a small impact.
Here is what I said:
"Hello, I am a constituent of Senator Cornyn's, and I wrote an email to the Senator on my views on the subject of the debt ceiling. Now I understand that the Senator has a large constituency, and inevitably many of the people he represents will not agree with his every vote, it is impolitic for the Senator to reply to an email sent by a constituent with an email which makes it obvious from the boilerplate reply that no one on his staff even bothers to read the email."
Staffer: I apologize for that. The staffer responsible for that has received many, many complaints about this, because he was overwhelmed by the responses on this issue.
"So you're saying, as an explanation as to why I was treated so rudely by my representative, that this is because a number of people like me were also treated rudely? Do you see how this would not make me feel better about how I am represented by Senator Cornyn?"
"So I called to reiterate what I wrote in my email, which is that Senator Cornyn and his caucus are damaging the country, they are damaging the ordinary, real people who are his constituents, they are doing this from base political motives, and that this was unpatriotic."
Strangely, this seemed to take this staffer aback. I have gone in person to my Representative's office and had about as much effect as a pea shot by a five year old at a Sherman Tank; the lack of interest was almost palpable in that instance. So I was very surprised that what I had said had made any impact at all.
Then I saw this article in the NY Times:
Disapproval Rate for Congress at Record 82% After Debt Talks
The debate over raising the debt ceiling, which brought the nation to the brink of default, has sent disapproval of Congress to its highest level on record and left most Americans saying that creating jobs should now take priority over cutting spending, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
A record 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job — the most since The Times first began asking the question in 1977, and even more than after another political stalemate led to a shutdown of the federal government in 1995.
More than four out of five people surveyed said that the recent debt-ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than about doing what is best for the country. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate had harmed the image of the United States in the world.
Republicans in Congress shoulder more of the blame for the difficulties in reaching a debt-ceiling agreement than President Obama and the Democrats, the poll found.
The Republicans compromised too little, a majority of those polled said. All told, 72 percent disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress handled the negotiations, while 66 percent disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress handled negotiations
I've quoted it at length because I think it's very interesting. I think Republicans are vulnerable on this. I think "unpatriotic" -- a term the Bush team was not hesitant to use on anybody who got in their way -- resonates. It's true, it's pithy, it's easy to comprehend, and, from my brief conversation yesterday, the Republicans seem a little afraid of it.