Eight Basic Tips for Getting Your Members of Congress to Pay Attention

The election of Donald J. Trump and the Women’s March motivated thousands of us to take to the streets. Now comes the hard work of making sure members of Congress hear our opinions and take us seriously. How do we do that? Here are eight tips from a high-level Senate staff member.

Republican callers generally outnumber Democrat callers 4-1, and when it’s a particular issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, or planned parenthood funding, etc…), it is often closer to 11-1, and that’s recently pushed Democrats on the fence to vote with the Republicans. In the last eight years, Republicans have called, and Democrats haven’t.

  1. Do your homework. Haunt the website of your members of Congress. Get on their mailing lists. Check their voting records. Know your issue you. You don’t want to sound as though you are reading from a script.
  2. Call, do not spend time with online petitions, or emails, or even letters. Any sort of online contact gets immediately ignored. Letters are thrown in the trash; unless you have a  particularly strong emotional story or you can drop a name that lights up the staffer’s eyes. Call.
  3. Get face time with your Representative or Senator. If they have town halls, go to them. Go to their local office or offices. If you are in Washington, try to go to an event they are attending. Or, try to schedule a brief meeting with either the member of Congress or a staffer.
  4. Get to know the staff member who is responsible for your issue. Staffers do the work; members of Congress get the glory. Be nice to them.
  5. Ask questions. Be present. Be engaged. Be passionate without being obnoxious.
  6. Call, every working day, even when Congress is out of session.
  7. Be prepared when you make your daily call.
  8. Make six (yes, SIX) calls every day: Call the Washington and local office of both Senators and your one Representative.
  9. Calls are key.  Every single day, the Senior Staff and member of Congress get a report of the three most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics. They are also sorted by zip code and area code.

Next up: What to say when you make that daily call.

Marching is Just the Beginning

We all knew on Saturday afternoon even with the euphoria of being part of something bigger than ourselves that the march was just the beginning. And here’s the proof. In today’s edition of The New York Times, Zeynep Tupecki, author of  the forthcoming “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest,” says it has become far easier to organize protests than translate them into policy changes.

She cites the Tea Party (gulp) as an example of one that successfully answered the “what’s next?” question.

“….the Tea Party protesters then got to work on a ferociously focused agenda: identifying and supporting primary candidates to challenge Republicans who did not agree with their demands, keeping close tabs on legislation and pressuring politicians who deviated from a Tea Party platform.”

What is your agenda? Which groups/causes are you going to support with your time, your talent and your treasure? What will be your focus?

Does a Protest’s Size Matter?