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IS THERE SOMETHING YOUR GOVERNMENT IS DOING THAT HAS YOU TOTALLY OUTRAGED?

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Is it inertia about healthcare reform?  Funding for endless needless war?  Letting criminals go unprosecuted?  Torture?  Corporate welfare?  Washington money-and-business-as-usual?

There's nothing wrong with sending email, paper mail, and faxes to your Congress Critters.  Nothing wrong with calling and calling again.  IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE THESE THINGS, THEN DO THEM TODAY.

And after you've done these, are you getting the results you want?  Or are you getting boilerplate reply letters that don't even address your questions and concerns, or, "Thank you for calling Senator Heavybotham's office, and have a nice day"?

Frustrating, isn't it, when you get the sense you're JUST NOT GETTING THROUGH to these people?

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It's so easy for Congress Critters to basically ignore your mail and phone calls.  When you call, your position gets tallied up in a book, and the same thing happens when you write.

And marching around the Capitol can't hurt anything either, but how much good does it end up doing, when the marches are on weekends when The Highest In The Land aren't even there?  If there aren't five to ten million pissed off citizens marching around the building and carrying pitchforks, beating on drums, and blowing rams' horns, ya know, I just don't think Senator Sternwheeler cares or EVEN KNOWS who marched around the Capitol while he was back home.....or why they did it.

I'm seeing more diaries here which advocate, and rightly so, for citizens to write and call the Congress Critters on a range of issues, and for marches, too.  But, to get anywhere, I think more is needed.

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That's why, a couple years back, when I wasn't getting replies from my senators, I decided one day to drive to one of the local offices and do some in-person assertion.

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I knocked on the door, said I had mail for Senator Porquebarule, went in, handed over a copy of a letter for which I'd never gotten a reply, and sat down.

First, a fresh-out-of-college junior staff member told me the senator gets lots of mail, and it takes time to get a reply.

I said, "Fine, I'll sit here and wait".

Another staff member came out in awhile, basically told me the same thing, and acted as if I was supposed to leave now......but I didn't.

Then the senator's office director came down, had a nice chat with me, and said he'd see what he could do to get me a reply to my questions.  He came back a little while later, said he called back to the Hart Senate Office Building, that they have my letter, and will bump it up in the queue for reply.  I said thanks, and by the way, what time does the office close?  And, I eventually left, before closing time.

And, the office director got me two face-to-face appointments with Senator Porquebarule, himself, over the next year or so.  And, the senator directed his top policy poohbah to start personally replying to my mail, pronto.  And it happened.

So my FIRST RECOMMENDATION is this:  Don't just leave it at calling and writing; go to their local offices and demand answers and action.  You don't have to be an "important person", 'cause I sure as hell am not.

A few tips for this:

-   Go prepared, with a laser-like focus on your issue.

-   Don't hand over reams of rectangular pieces of paper with writing on them.  Instead, hand over an index card that succinctly identifies your talking points.  Hand over two or three excellent, brief articles or documents which back up your key points.

-   Express your passion/outrage/desires clearly, but don't raise your voice.  YELL LOUDER! is a metaphor.  Conduct yourself in a manner that will put your name on the "Door Is Always Open" list, and NOT on the "Nutcase" list.

-   Always send a follow-up note which thanks the person with whom you spoke, and which reiterates your main points.  This will help convince them that you are NOT going to go away.  And keep writing and calling the person with whom you spoke.

 

I still haven't gotten the action I seek, but at least I'm on the radar screen with my issues and concerns, and nothin's going to change unless enough people get off their duffs and onto the radar screens with their issues and concerns.

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And, I decided, more needs to be done than that.  I decided to take a week, drive to Washington, and spend the week as a citizen-lobbyist.

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I decided that instead of marching around the Capitol (which I did once) it made more sense to go into the congressional office buildings, where all the problems are, and do a bit of table-pounding in person.

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I called both senators' policy poohbahs, told them I was coming to town for the week, and requested appointments.  Both replied, lickety-split, and gave me appointment dates and times.

So, I spent my week on Capitol Hill, wore my charcoal gray business suit (I call it "Capitol Hill camouflage", Har! ; - ), and did a bit of live table-pounding with my senators' staff. I fanagled some more appointments, one with a senator's legislative aide from a state where I do not reside, but the senator and I are graduates of the same alma mater, and the guy keeps up close ties with the place. I got an appointment with the chief of staff of a representative from a district that borders my own.  All just by calling and dropping by the offices, and asking.

I walked the halls of the office buildings.  One thing I noticed was that some Congress Critters had photo display tributes outside their offices of troops killed in the foreign occupations, and some didn't.  I started tallying up whether the ones with displays were Dems or Repubs, and found that Dems did this over Repubs by two to one.

I stopped by the offices of some very progressive members of congress, and left handwritten thank you notes for them with their receptionists.  I ate lunch in the congressional cafeterias.  I met up with a colleague from an organization to which we both belong, who went with me to my appointments with our senators' staff.  I also met up with some other like-minded folks, and participated in some actions they were taking.

So, MY SECOND RECOMMENDATION is: if you can do it, go to Washington, and march around the Capitol if you think it's the right thing to do, and also GO IN THE OFFICE BUILDINGS, with appointments or without, during weekday hours and demand action, in person, from your Congress Critters.  You'll also be surprised with how much you'll learn.

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Think of it.  If you could get ten citizen-lobbyists in these buildings for every paid lobbyist, the Congress critters might get the idea that WE ARE THEIR BOSSES.

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Buhdy's right, folks.  YELL LOUDER!  is a great methphor. And yell louder, not just by mail and phone, but  IN PERSON!  at your Congress Critters' local offices and on Capitol Hill.

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UPDATE:  Have you gone to your Congress Critters' offices?  Did you talk with their top staff, or with the Critter her-himself?  What was it like?  Did you go back and do it again?  Weigh in, however you like!

Originally posted to Hound Dog on Mon Jun 22, 2009 at 03:32 PM PDT.

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