Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to get your Representative and Senators' attention

I'm hearing a lot of frustration coming from my fellow liberals and Democrats - currently about the health care reform bill but the song pretty much goes the same no matter what the issue. The tune goes along the line of how futile it all is - there's no way we can overcome the lobbyist and corporate dollars that's bought Congress.

Buck up, little camper - sure there is. Here's why:

The first and most important thing to remember when dealing with your Representative and two Senators is one cardinal rule: they like being where they're at and want to stay there. Sure, corporations and such contribute tons of money to their campaigns but that just buys TV time - not a seat in Congress or anywhere else. Go ahead, ask President Forbes about that and while you're at it ask Governor Corzine how that worked in getting him a second term.

Nope, the awful truth is that even corporate CEOs who give candidates lots of moola only get one vote on election day. Just one. Money in politics serves one purpose and one purpose only: it helps candidates and incumbents get their message out to voters. The message boils down to simply presenting the argument why they should be elected or re-elected over their opponent. Money just sees to it that more voters see their arguments and hopefully agree with it enough to get them in. That message may be printed in slick mailers and broadcast in smooth TV ads but if the voters ain't buyin' they lose.

Of course, the problem arises on the flip side of that coin. Contributors rarely give the money they give just because they believe in good government - they see it as an investment and they expect their investment to pay off. Like that member of Congress voting their way on a bill when one comes up.

Even that can be overcome through that pesky voting thing.

Here's how to make that work for you when dealing with them.

This may be a little difficult - you are going to have to get off the computer and go out to do this. It plain doesn't work with a phone call or an email - even though both help in preparation.

First, find out where your Representative or Senators' local office is located. Make an appointment to see someone there in person - a staffer will do but this works best if you can get in to see the actual Congressperson.

Once you've done that, get three or four friends who agree with what you want to say to the member to go with you to the meeting.

Once you're all there, state your case. Be polite but firm - no one likes to be yelled at and when they are they tend to shut you out. Now, they'll nod and make affirmative noises but remember, they are just making nice and may or may not agree with a word you're saying.

Once the case is made, now go in for the close. Remind them about that thing with the corporate CEOs - you know, that one vote they get thing. Then have them look at the 3 or four of you and ask if there was an election with the Congress member getting that CEO vote and somebody else getting the three or four of your votes who they think would win.

The member of Congress will get the point.

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