How do I call my super-far-right congressperson?
December 1, 2016 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I feel so dumb asking this and now the whole internet will know about my civic ineptitude. How do I call my representatives about Standing Rock when they are already slated for Trump's cabinet?

I keep ending up in a "moral indignation and responsibility: act now!--lifelong phone aversion--what's the point anyway-- why is this so hard" spiral.

Civics for (really, really) dummies-- why call politicians to take a stand against policies if they have already made it very clear in public statements, their voting record, and cozying up to the president elect that they absolutely will never in a million years do so?

I guess my question is how to not feel hopeless as a red state voter living abroad.
posted by athirstforsalt to Law & Government (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Call them anyway. I call and write my congresspeople about my issues even when I know I'm on the losing end because I believe it builds up capital for other bills and deals.

I've visited my congresspeople in person, talked to their staff, and found it interesting to note that they often are comparatively uninformed about stuff that they're going to be voting on. So you've got to at least be present and show them what your side looks like and speak concisely to the issues to educate them. It may not sway them on the immediate issue, but at least now they know and that may pay dividends later on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:19 AM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

You'll be talking to staffers who are usually young, bright, more pragmatic and actually do most of the work. So start with the assumption you'll be talking to an overly educated and underpaid but wildly ambitious millennial and go from there. Give them something they can send up the chain that makes them look good: solid talking points, places to follow up with the community etc. And if you're part of a group they will meet with groups too, a friend of mine who's on maternity leave rounded up all the other moms on maternity leave she knows and they went to our local rep to talk about leave, early childhood programs, snap etc. I'm sure the staff were bowled over by them, it was a very impressive group plus they all brought infants to demonstrate their point that lots of women are back working when their kids are this small and need this much care.
posted by fshgrl at 9:26 AM on December 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

One thing I'd add to everything people have said above: most of the time, when you talk on the phone to a staffer, your call gets summarized in a spreadsheet as "[issue] - pro/con."

That's it. You're just adding your name to the list of people who called that day. You can do more than that, but on a basic level, that's what's happening.

Once I realized that, I stopped freaking out about calling Congress and started just thinking of it as an extension of voting. It's mostly about being counted. I can do that.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2016 [21 favorites]

You may find this helpful:

How To Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxiety

It's really not going to be a debate. They're usually just filling out a form or ticking a box.

We need red-staters to make calls even more than blue-staters, so please persist!
posted by praemunire at 9:33 AM on December 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

A lot of these issues you can couch in a way that is appealing even to someone you know to be adverse. So, assuming your rep is a generic small-government conservative: "I'm calling to ask Representative super-far-right to denounce the police actions at Standing Rock as inhibiting the protesters' constitutional rights to free speech and as an overreach of police power."

But also what roll truck roll says. On a practical level, it really is a means of expressing an up/down opinion. The conversation is very low stakes, no one will ever give you a hard time, and it only takes a minute, so it's worth doing.
posted by mchorn at 9:33 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I feel hopeless as a blue state voter because I figure my politician already agrees with me! It's hopelessness all the way down!

Here's the thing. Politicians are venal. They do what will get them re-elected. Before now, Republican representatives lived in a world where the only people who paid regular attention to what they were doing were retirees and Tea Party voters. Hardly anybody showed up to vote in midterm elections and hardly anyone voted against incumbents; that's why they could get away with so much loathsome obstructionist bullshit. Well, not anymore, motherfuckers.

You're not calling because calling will get your rep to speak out on Standing Rock; you're calling to let him know he doesn't live in his old, safe world anymore. You're not just some disengaged slacktivist voter; you're a person who cares about issues, is willing to call and give him hell about it, and who will not only vote on election day but will call and canvas and fundraise and do everything you can to unseat him if he doesn't do what you want. When none of the cranky old people can get through because you and all your loud-mouthed friends are tying up the phone to give him an earful about Standing Rock, he might get shaky. He might think, you know, I'm never going to speak out about Standing Rock, but I'm not going to actively work against those protesters because riling up my base isn't worth poking this hornet's nest. Maybe if I move a little bit back towards the center, avoid speaking out on the most controversial issues, these left-wing obsessives will find a new target to chase and leave me alone. Let them want to keep their heads down. Let it be easier to be a moderate Republican than a hard-right one. Let them run scared.

Also, who knows, maybe you'll connect with a young, bright-eyed aide and sound so reasonable and thoughtful and polite and compassionate that the young aide will take your words to heart and quit his job shilling for the Republicans to go work for the Democrats. That's a daydream I like to indulge in when I'm burnt out on making phone calls. :)
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2016 [27 favorites]

After every mass shooting I email my Republican representative and tell her I want stronger gun laws in the country. I get a canned response back stating why she doesn't agree. While I know it won't change her mind, I feel like at least I made my opinion known as one of the consituents she represents. So bottom line - it's spitting into the wind, but makes you feel better for a second.
posted by cecic at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I emailed instead of calling. My representative is Tom Emmer (who replaced Michele Bachmann), so my enthusiasm for expecting to be heard was minimal, to say the least. But, he did respond--thoughtfully, too, not just a canned answer. So I feel an iota more heard, I guess.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:20 AM on December 1, 2016

I have a Facebook group where I post one thing a day to do to push back against Trump (although right now we're focused on the water protestors). A lot of the people I know have social anxiety, so I write really specific scripts and on introvert Thursdays we send emails. It's focused on Virginia, but can be easily applied to any state and a lot of it is not state-specific. My group is based on the We're His Problem Now Calling Sheet. I try to take what's there an make it doable for the phone-averse. Phone calls suck, but I believe they are the way to go. Come join us and be awkward :)
posted by orsonet at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

1. Your congressfolk represent everyone who lives in their jurisdiction, regardless of political party membership or personal outlook on the world. I bold this because, having lived as a liberal in a red state, there is an idea that seeps around the culture that conservative values are the "real" outlook in these places, all others are illegitimate, and local leaders don't represent people who don't share that hegemonic political orientation.

2. When you call, you'll be talking to an aide. This is someone whose job it is to answer the phone and note down the concerns that you'll be calling to convey. If they are even vaguely professional at said job, they will speak to you in a neutral, helpful tone and not ridicule you. You won't be speaking to your far-right congress member personally, and you won't be engaged in any way on politics. I've never even been asked about my party affiliation when I've called.

3. Elected representatives respond to this kind of thing. Sure, if you're the lone voice asking for a shutdown of the DAPL, most likely your representative isn't going to do anything much to take up your position. However, if 200 people call, they'll notice. Maybe they won't change their vote, but it's still worth doing. You never know. Maybe those 200 calls plus their annoying liberal college kid at home plus a memo they got plus their friend at the BIA swings their personal opinion on the matter, and they become more aware of this as a real issue that constituents actually care about.

4. Bottom line, it's likely that the situation at Standing Rock is going to get worse and potentially result in more violence. Do you want to be someone who didn't speak out when you had the chance because you don't like making phone calls? There are a lot of positions in between "burn them out" and "#NoDAPL wins, no pipeline forever". I don't *want* to think that Republican officials will stand by and watch another Wounded Knee because like capitalism yay. Bothering to talk to them in the first place is the least we can do.
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on December 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just remember you're not calling to personally convince anyone to do anything; you're calling to register your opinion on a tally of calls being collected by staffers. There are hundreds of scripts available on every blog and social media platform right now; pick one about Standing Rock and read it to them.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:54 AM on December 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

From a philosophical perspective, make that one call that you know probably won't matter, but then find a call you can make that might. Check your local activism/Pantsuit Nation/Dem Party info sites and see if there's some other area Rs you can cage-rattle, some local offices you can support, someone you can signal boost who might turn out to be a critical player sooner rather than later.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:04 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Call and be very frank. Don't talk about your feelings, but be clear that you are a registered voter that votes in every election and that lack of representation of your side of this issue will lead to you voting against this person and donating money & time to their opponents.
posted by quince at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2016

Politicians want information about what stances are popular, and, even more than that, what stances get people riled up enough to pick up the phone. I'm sure your rep has lots of issues he could choose to focus on, and you'd probably hate his take on all of them, but why not help him focus on the view you hate least?

For what it's worth, I have called D and R reps and Senators alike and their staffers are invariably friendly.
posted by escabeche at 5:30 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for both the helpful information and scripts and the kick in the butt: especially Sara C's very real "are you really gonna sit this one out because you are afraid of being talked down to by an intern?" No I will not. Today's the day. Thank you, Metafilter!
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:56 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by Mental Wimp at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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