During my time on websites belonging to the “professional left,” and in particular the purists who follow them, one thing kept repeatedly striking me – their naivete when it came to politics. For a group of people who are supposedly “political nerds” and self-described activists, it became obvious that they weren’t paying attention to straightforward political realities and effective actions.
Why would I say that? A regular feature of the sites were a “call to action!!!!” on some burning issue that the particular person had their hair on fire about. The readers would be directed to call, e-mail, or write a certain Representative or Senator. Mostly, I ignored them, because they were a waste of effort at best, or counter-productive at worst. The reason I knew that was fairly simple – I used to live in D.C., and knew a few congressional staffers. They told me “how things work.” It’s not a big secret, it’s something that anyone who wants to call themselves a “political nerd” can find out in short order. Members of Congress pay attention to people based on the following criteria:
- Are you a constituent?
- Are you a registered voter?
- Do you vote?
- Do you vote regularly?
- Do you donate to and/or work on campaigns?
If the answer is “yes” to all of the above, you will get their attention. If you’re not a constituent, your phone call/e-mail/letter will get no attention, or very little. The only real exception to that is if the member is on the committee working on the bill you’re writing about. The amount of consideration your contact receives from them will be based on how many of the questions you answered “yes” to. Yes, they do know that – they get voter lists. They check them. No one knows how you voted, but they do know that you vote – and how often.
Which is why I used to shake my head about those “call to action” postings. Call congressman/congresswoman so-and-so and demand they do this! Why would I do that? They’re not going to pay attention to me! I’m not their constituent, they’re not on the committee considering the bill, it’s a waste of time. I’ll contact my congressional representative about it. You contact yours. That’s effective. Stating that simple fact of political action usually earned a lot of vituperation for the person who pointed it out to them.
These days, I see a lot of the same people stating that they are going to “stay home” during the upcoming elections. They’ll “show them” that they are “not to be taken for granted!” What they’ll really be showing the Party – and their elected officials – is something quite different. Look back at my list, at point #4. Regularly. If you’ve just shown yourself to be someone who doesn’t show up on a regular basis, they weren’t really counting on your vote in the first place. You’re not reliable. You’re one of those votes which are “nice to have,” but not a base voter. Which means that when it comes time to try to make an elected official pay attention to you after the election, you’ve moved yourself down the food chain quite a ways.
So yes, “show them” that you can’t be “taken for granted.” Just don’t expect me to pay attention to your screams about the hole you shot in your foot. You put it there yourself, no one else did.