What do I tell the (flunkies of) representatives that I call?
January 12, 2017 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I've been calling my state and national representatives to let my stance be known on various bills coming up for votes and such. But what do i say that will be most effective?

So, the idiotic "Bathroom Bill" SB6 is swirling around the legislative toilet bowl of Texas. When I call Ken Paxton and my state house representative, should I be as short as, "I'm against it?" Or should I go into detail about how his stance is odious and uninformed, his cited statistics are purely made up, and hypocritical next to his "core value" of preventing government overreach?

My current middle-way is just, "This bill runs contradictory to the Republican and Texan core ideals of self-determination and local government." But I wonder if and how I should let it be known that I am a Texan and constituent that is for the complete equality of LGBT people in all aspects of life. If I should go into some detail, should I worry about how long I go on?

Further complication: Ken Paxton is a fucking idiot without any ideology beyond political and financial expediency. How should this inform my tactics in talking to his office versus someone like Kay Granger who, while I disagree with her often, at least gives a shit about the job and has thoughts in her head?

I've seen that Emily Ellsworth tweet series, and a few previous questions, but I feel like I'm asking a question that's a little more specific than I've seen.
posted by cmoj to Law & Government (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This has come up a few times recently here. Here's one. I'll keep looking.
posted by janell at 11:10 AM on January 12, 2017

I'm new to this kind of activism, but the thing I would go into detail on is what action you will take as a consequence of their vote. Obviously, you won't vote for them in their reelection bid. If you can also truthfully say that you will tell your friends and family not to vote for them, or that your COMMUNITY will turn against them (I've been working this angle as a Japanese American wrt Muslim registries), or that you will actively support their opponent, or that you will go to the media, or anything like that, then add that as well. Basically, make it less about why you're against the bill (because a lot of them are craven bastards who won't care) and more about the firestorm of shit that will come down upon them if they continue to support it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:14 AM on January 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Also this very specific spreadsheet, which I found in this comment. The whole thread How to call your rep when you have social anxiety is pretty helpful, actually.
posted by janell at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd never called an elected official before December. And now I've called a lot of them. Some of them multiple times. One thing that seems to be effective is that I'm unfailingly polite -- and a little charming, if I can muster it -- on the phone. Oftentimes the staffer seems pleasantly surprised when I thank them for taking my message.

The couple of times I've anxiously babbled or had to repeat a few words, I've said something like "oh gosh, I'm so sorry. I'm nervous!" and the staffer has reassured me that it was OK and encouraged me to say what I'd called to say -- and this was when I was calling Republicans who seriously disagree with me. (I'd guess that this might be gendered. I'm a woman. A man might get a different response to saying he's nervous on the phone?)

I don't have any way of knowing for sure, but I figure that getting the staffer emotionally pulling for me has to increase the chances that my opinion gets registered on whatever tally sheet they have.

I'm also much more likely to continue to make calls (for the next four years, for fuck's sake) if I make the experience pleasant for myself.
posted by mcduff at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2017

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I don't think it really matters what you say. Politics is mostly a numbers game, so it matters more that you make your view known (politely of course) but not really the logic or reasoning behind it. You'll be more successful as the straw that breaks the camel's back, not the clever orator who frames the argument just so and changes someone's mind. (Save that for motivating others to call their representatives!)
posted by so fucking future at 11:53 AM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

First, be polite. That probably requires not thinking of these staffers as "flunkies"...

Second, be brief and straightforward. "I'm against SB6 because it contradicts the core Republican and Texan ideals of self-determination and local government."
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2017 [13 favorites]

Chapter 4 of the Indivisible Guide, written by former congressional staffers, has some good information about how to make effective calls to your representatives, including a sample call dialogue.
posted by zebra at 12:40 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

For stuff like bathroom bills, I like to say I'm against it because it's impractical to enforce without being terribly invasive. Like is there going to be an assigned genital checker posted outside every restroom?
posted by WeekendJen at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2017

Just last night, I went to citizen lobbyist training put on by some environmental organizations in my area. They were emphatic NOT to threaten with what could happen if the lawmaker doesn't act the way we'd like.
posted by maurreen at 5:52 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

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