Observations from a Congressional staffer on phone calls

At least somebody is paying attention:

It’s not even noon, and I’ve already answered dozens of phone calls from angry constituents. A single mother demanded answers as to where her family could turn for health-care services if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act. An older gentleman had to take a breath as he used some choice words to describe House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s proposals to cut Medicare benefits. The resentment and anger are palpable. Seconds after I hang up, the phone rings again. And again. And again.

Democratic and Republican congressional offices have been inundated with calls, letters, tweets, posts and visits from impassioned people upset and outraged by the president’s actions, Cabinet nominations and executive orders. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s office reported an average of 1.5 million daily calls to the Senate in the first week of February alone. Phone lines are so gridlocked that lawmakers are nervously taking to social media to apologize that constituents can’t get through and reassure them that we hear them on Capitol Hill.

Before you start punching in numbers to say your piece, keep in mind the author works for a House Democrat. It's a good bet many Republicans have been seriously filtering their incoming correspondence, and then just making shit up to show evidence of support. But here are some examples of the effectiveness of issue-based advocacy:

Just before the start of the 115th Congress, House Republicans tried weakening the power of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate corruption and misconduct, only to reverse course 24 hours later after being pummeled by phone calls from infuriated constituents. Last month, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced that he’d withdrawn a controversial bill that would have privatized 3.3 million acres of federally owned land after conservationists, environmentalists, hunters and fishermen lashed out at him. Betsy DeVos was just barely confirmed as secretary of education after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) opposed her nomination. Days before the vote, Murkowski took to the Senate floor and said, “I have heard from thousands — truly thousands — of Alaskans who shared their concerns about Mrs. DeVos as secretary of education.”

The response by lawmakers to this spontaneous grass-roots uprising — women and men calling our offices, attending town halls and adding their voices on social media — demonstrates that civic participation works. And those concerned citizens appreciate that consistent engagement with their elected officials gets results. They understand that their representatives must hear and see their opposition to the path on which this country finds itself. While others saw Election Day as the last phase of their civic duty, those who continue to pepper congressional offices with their messages of opposition recognize that Nov. 8, 2016, was just the beginning.

Some of the bad stuff they do (or try to) is overt; an effort to energize their base, such as attacking Obamacare or the EPA. But a lot of other stuff they are hoping will fly under the public's radar, and that is where the phone calls and e-mails and protests can really make a difference. It's proof their plots have been uncovered, and will not be ignored or lost in the shuffle when they do their nasty deeds. While a watched pot may actually boil when the water temperature and air pressure allow it to, a watched politician is a different set of factors.

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