Connect to your Legislators!
by Stefan Jones, Communications Committee Volunteer
One of the discouraging things about social media is seeing people dealing in “hashtag politics.” If you have ever spent time on Twitter you have probably seen some examples:
“Let’s get #TrumpEatsPoop trending! He hates that!”
“Raise your hand if you think #TraitorRudy should be indicted!”
“Like and Retweet to show much you want Stephen Bannon put in jail!!!”
It’s satisfying, on some level, to pile on some political figure we despise, or post some cutting “meme” to show how much you hate fill in the blank but unfortunately this online hobby activity rarely achieves anything. It doesn’t get bad people indicted, good people elected, bad policies reversed, or good laws made.
What does work is engagement. Learning about, and getting involved in, the actual process by which public policy is formed, hashed out, and turned into laws. The nitty-gritty of party politics. The hard work running for office, or supporting a political campaign.
And then there is subject of this article: Connecting with already-serving public officials.
Elected leaders (mayors, county commissioners, governors, the president), and legislators (state and federal representatives and senators) are public servants; they represent you, whether you voted for them or not, or whether they’re of your preferred political party or not. You have a right to call them, email them, and write them.
This handy tool is the first step toward connecting with your legislators:
Enter your address in the search bar and you’ll get local office addresses and phone numbers, email addresses, and a website for your Oregon senator and representative. Most websites have a form to sign up for a constituent newsletter, and news about upcoming “town halls” and other outreach activities.
Looking for a federal official? This look-up site is also handy:
When you call an official’s office, you’ll get an assistant whose job it is to write down your message and concerns. They’ll want to know the town or area where you live, and your zip code. Please don’t make their job hard by “venting,” or presenting a long list of issues. Voice one concern per call, and be polite and concise. If you generally agree with the job the elected is doing, ask the staffer to pass along thanks with your concern. If possible, suggest how the official might help. e.g., “I urge Senator Doe to work with others in Salem to oppose this bill.”
Sometimes it helps to compose an email about the subject before calling. It can help you organize your thoughts; the email becomes the basis of a script for your call.
Believe it or not, office staff do take notes on every call or email. They are genuinely concerned about what is “in the air.” As a result, a concerted campaign of calls and mails can sway an official. They don’t want to face what seems like organized opposition come the next time they are running in a primary! The success of the “Tea Party” in 2009 was the result of a deliberate campaign by right-wing activists to stir up the “base” and get them to call, write, and confront (in Town Halls) legislators.
Don’t let the hot-heads who spend their time watching right-wing TV shows be the only squeaky wheel! Call and write. Be heard!