Talk to Congress: There’s An App for That

Community Organizing

New Orleans   Ok, so you want to have your voice heard in Washington, but your marching shoes have holes in the soles, and your budget is too busted to bus? Well, there’s an app for that, in fact lots of them.

You need to be in that number. A piece in Wired reported from the Congressional Management Foundation that with the explosion of email, the volume to Congress had risen by more than 500% from just 2002 to 2010. They also reported that Pennsylvania’s Senator Bob Casey had received 50,000 emails on the subject of confirming billionaire, private school advocate Betty DeVos as Education Secretary alone. For getting mass volumes of emails easily into your local Congressperson, they recommend Countable and Try them, see if you like them, or look up your rep, copy, paste, and let ‘er rip.

Does it work? Well, that’s a whole different problem, so don’t get your hopes up too high, because if you thought there was a numbers-game when it comes to crowd counts on the Washington Mall, the explosion of emails into Congress means that you need six-figures to get past the yawn in the back room and anywhere near any throat clearing response from your elected. Reports indicate that only about one-third get an answer, and the answers are often stock, simple, and stupid.

Once again, Wired reports the excuse for this disheartening response:

the software that staffers have to process those emails remains antiquated, says Seamus Kraft, the executive director of the OpenGov Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization he co-founded with US representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican.

Let’s not act surprised. Issa, as many would remember, is the San Diego area right-winger who for a while has been the richest member of Congress and more recently the head of the House Committee on Investigations. His money and his voice is on the car alarm system that says, “Back away from this car,” so the software seems to be in the same vein as “back away from your computer and your Congressional representative.” Little comfort that?

Congressional staffers report that they pretty much just hit the “delete” button on online petitions, so that may help you build your organization and you contact list, but don’t drink your own Kool-Aid and think it’s moving your folks. On the other hand, they also admit that the old fashion move to get on the blower and zing them a phone call ranks above petitions and emails.

There’s an old-fashion app for that. Put their numbers on speed dial and let your voice literally ring into their office. Don’t be shy either. If you’re humiliated while reading that we have stuck Syrian refugees, vetted for years, and fleeing civil war and strife at airports now, let them know about the sadness in your heart for the America they love. Ask them what they think it means for example that we claim that we will not discriminate against people for their religion or country of origin. Heck, tell them whatever is on your mind.

And, after you hang up and wonder if you were just wasting your breath with your elected representative, then think seriously about joining an organization, putting in some sweat equity, and building something that will create change. We’ll work on an app for that, but until then, it’s you, me, and everyone we know who have to get up and go.