Over the course of 2017, Indivisible St. Louis sponsored dozens of constituent meetings, rallies, protests, and marches. We even dabbled in writing postcards to our elected officials on various topics (our “Trump Tweets” postcards were particularly popular!)
Initially, people were very fired up about participating in these events. Sometimes it was just inadvertently good timing, like the time we scheduled a rally & meeting at Senator Blunt’s office on the topic of immigration just before his issued the first Muslim Ban; our small meeting turned into 1500 people rallying in the street in opposition to the ban. Other times, people were motivated by personal life-and-death issues, like our rallies and meetings in opposition to TrumpCare.
But as time wore on, people realized that these elected officials simply did not care what we had to say. They did not appear to feel any political pressure whatsoever.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)’s office staff was initially very accommodating and kind, inviting us to have weekly meetings. But Senator Blunt himself never acknowledged that he was hearing the stories our constituents brought to the table week after week; stories that were often intensely personal and compelling, and that deserved acknowledgement. This led to frustration on both sides, especially because each side held widely different views of Senator Blunt’s responsiveness to constituents. The meetings dwindled in numbers, then in frequency, and will probably disappear completely.
Congresswoman Ann Wagner’s office was just plain terrible. Neither Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R, MO-2) nor her staff would meet with constituents at all, even when Senator Blunt’s office assured them that the meetings would be cordial. Her office scheduled, then cancelled, several small-group meetings—often with little notice, inconveniencing the constituents who had rearranged their own schedules to be there--and then stopped returning our calls altogether.
Our members, understandably (but unfortunately), had less interest in going to office meetings with “friendly” members of Congress, like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Congressman Lacy Clay (D, MO-1). Sen. McCaskill did hold over 50 town halls open to the general public in Missouri this year, so perhaps people felt satisfied by her willingness to speak to constituents in that venue.
We had a very successful March for Truth in June, and a few “This Is Not Okay” Rush Hour Rallies in the summer and fall, but as the weather grew colder and the days shorter, people were less interested in these events. Many of us also became more involved in the important ExpectUs movement protesting police brutality in St. Louis. But the bottom line is that Indivisible St. Louis was losing its mojo a little bit.
Our organizers spent a long time soul-searching about how to get people fired up again. We signed up to do a rapid response event if Robert Mueller’s investigation is threatened. We signed up for voter registration training. We were struggling to find our next direction...until we remembered the one thing that people ALWAYS turned out for.
We had held a number of postcard parties for people to write to their Members of Congress or to the President. These events were always well-attended even when the weather was nice outside and people could have been going on picnics or heading to the pool. So: Postcards to the rescue!
But wait! People loved postcards, but they were still sick of contacting members of Congress who clearly were not listening and who seemed to care a lot more about pleasing donors than serving constituents. Would we be back at square one if we tried to revive the “postcards to Congress” events?
Then we came across a couple of organizations that were writing fun, positive GOTV postcards to Democratic voters. Postcards to Voters was especially appealing, because their “Abby the Address Bot” feature made it possible to get addresses to write postcards whenever inspiration struck, whether at 2pm or 2am!
We got our group involved with Postcards to Voters by writing postcards for Doug Jones in Alabama. Within a couple of weeks, and with a lot of enthusiasm, our people wrote over four thousand five hundred GOTV postcards to Democrats in Alabama!
Now, we are scheduling regular Postcards to Voters events, and other organizations, such as local Democratic Clubs, are joining in the effort as well. People are excited! They’re enthusiastic! They’re clamoring for more addresses and more campaigns to write for! Plus, it’s a really awesome activity for the coming weeks of bitterly cold winter...people can gather in a warm coffee shop to write with friends, or they can put on a Snuggie (no judgment!), sit by the fire, and write postcards without having to leave the house.
And these efforts matter! At a time when people rarely pick up the phone for an unknown caller, and may not answer the door for a canvasser with a clipboard, they will always pick up their mail, and they will definitely read the rarest of rarities: handwritten mail.
Is your group in a similar funk? Was 2017 just too much to take? Do you need an action that will be rewarding, uplifting, and hopefully truly transformative?
Get in touch with Postcards to Voters and get started helping Democrats win! Just email JOIN@TONYTHEDEMOCRAT.ORG or text HELLO to 1-484-ASK-ABBY!