Read What Calling Congress Achieves, a New Yorker piece that explores that question and gives a history of Americans calling their Congressional representatives.
It’s a long read, but a good one. The author not only explores what works and what doesn’t and why, and what a Congressional office would consider a “flood” of phone calls, she goes back to the late 19th-century beginnings of calling Congress.
The story is festooned with tasty little anecdotes and wonderful bits of evidence that calling and emailing Congress actually does something.
This paragraph, for example:
For political watchers, the most striking thing about this outpouring of political activism is its spontaneity. “If Planned Parenthood sends out an e-mail and asks all their donors to contact their Congress members—that’s honest, it’s real, it’s citizen action,” Fitch said. “But this thing was organic: people saw something in the news, it made them angry, and they called their member of Congress.” At this point, he paused and informed me that he was “not one for hyperbolic statements.” But what was happening was, he said, “amazing,” “unprecedented,” “a level of citizen engagement going on out there outside the Beltway that Congress has never experienced before.”
And this one:
Perhaps the most striking shift so far, though, has happened on the Democratic side of the aisle, in the form of a swift and dramatic stiffening of the spine. In the past month, at the insistence of constituents, the party line has changed from a cautious willingness to work with the White House to staunch and nearly unified opposition. “If you ask me, before the calls started coming in, someone like Neil Gorsuch”—Trump’s pick for the vacant Supreme Court seat—“would have passed with seventy-one votes,” said one Democratic senator’s chief of staff, who has worked on the Hill for close to twenty years. “Now I’d be surprised if he gets to sixty.” More generally, that staffer noted, the newly galvanized left is suddenly helping to set the Party’s agenda. In thinking about Cabinet nominations, Democratic members of Congress had planned to make their stand over Tom Price, then the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services—until their constituents chose Betsy DeVos. “That was not a strategic decision made in Washington,” the staffer said. “That was a very personal decision made by all these people outside the Beltway worrying about their kids. We’re not managing this resistance. We can participate in it, but there’s no chance of us managing it.”
Oh, and this one:
Republicans, of course, can’t manage the resistance, either—and, so far, they are struggling to figure out how to respond. Some have merely expressed frustration that so many calls are apparently coming from out of their district or state. But others, including Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Cory Gardner, and President Trump, have tried to discredit concerned citizens by claiming that they are “paid protesters,” an allegation supported by precisely zero evidence. Still others have expressed disingenuous outrage over political organizing, as when Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for Representative Lou Barletta, of Pennsylvania, criticized “the significant percentage who are encouraged to call us by some group.” And other legislators simply turned out not to like their job description. “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up,” Representative Dave Brat, of Virginia, said last month, “the women are in my grill no matter where I go.” In an apparent effort to dodge such interactions, a number of Republican legislators, including Representative Mike Coffman, of Colorado, and Representative Peter Roskam, of Illinois, have cancelled or curtailed town-hall meetings. Other G.O.P. legislators have allegedly been locking their office doors, turning off their phones, and, in general, doing what they can to limit contact with their constituents.
…but enough quoting. Go enjoy it for yourself.
Read What Calling Congress Achieves:
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