I recently came to the conclusion that I am a Minuteman Lobbyist.
I was introduced to politics at a young age. My father helped with several campaigns. He encouraged my political education by paying me a penny a word to write letters to our congressman and senators.
In my early adult life, I ran for California State Assembly, 23rd district, but lost in the primary by about a hundred votes. Over the next ten to fifteen years, I was involved in several local campaigns. Lately, I’ve wanted to be more involved in politics, but haven’t made the time to join a major campaign or crusade.
I realized that sometimes we make getting involved in politics more difficult than it is. One goal of this blog is to help people to take part and be effective, but in a manner that fits in our busy lives.
Last fall, I started calling my representatives. During my lunch hour I could reach out while walking from my cube to the cafeteria. A few weeks later, I started sending emails. It was simple to craft a short letter and send it to my congressman, my senators, the President and Vice President. Now, I take a few minutes to contact my representatives several times a week.
Why be a Minuteman Lobbyist
You may think that your voice will be a drop in the bucket. While Congress as a whole may get as many as 80 million emails a year, the average congressmen gets in the neighborhood of a thousand emails and voice messages from his constituents each week. The messages are scattered across dozens of topics. A few extra constituents who push for one side of a position can wake up a congressman.
Congressmen are worried about getting re-elected. The main reason professional lobbyists have any influence is because they’ll give money to congressmen, which helps them get re-elected.
You have the inside track. Your congressman really, really wants your vote. Tell him what he needs to do to get your vote.
How to be a Minuteman Lobbyist
* Getting started
You can get the web pages for your congressman and your senators. These are the contact web pages for the President and Vice-President. (If you want to focus on the state level, do a search using legislators or governor, and the name of your state
* Making the phone calls
After you get the phone numbers, program the numbers into your phone. Now when you have free moments that otherwise would have been wasted (for example, while waiting at the doctor’s office), call and leave a message. Keep it short and pleasant. Get straight to the point. Many of my phone calls are less than a minute. (Here are a few more suggestions on how to contact your representatives.)
* Sending the emails
Most representatives only accept email via their websites, so find your congressman and senators’ email web pages. Add the pages to your favorites list. Also, save the email web page for the President and Vice President. Now when you have a couple minutes, write the body of a letter, paste it into each of the web pages, and add an appropriate greeting for each person.
* Other ways to contact your representatives
To make a big impact, arrange to meet your congressman and senators. It is also very effective to get to know their staff. Letters are not as effective as they used to be, largely because they don’t reach your Congressman for three and four weeks, due to the 2001 Anthrax scare. Some say faxes are very effective.
Invite others to be a Minuteman Lobbyist
The more people you involve in your effort, the more of an effect you’ll have. Invite your family, friends, neighbors and others to be a Minuteman Lobbyist. Encourage them to read this post. If your browser works with your mail client you can click here and simply add the email addresses of people you think may be interested. Here are a few more ways to encourage others to be a Minuteman Lobbyist.
The call to action!
Take two basic steps to be a Minuteman Lobbyist:
1) Start contacting your representatives!
Make a reasonable goal. For example commit to do ten minutes every day for three weeks. Or make at least one phone call or send one email every day. Then tell someone. Tell a spouse or a parent. Or tell a good friend. Ask them to call you in three weeks. Once you are accountable you are more likely to keep your commitment.
Every day call or send email. Make a note to yourself. Put it on the calendar. Mark it in your planner. As you read the newspaper or surf the internet, keep an eye out for issues which you consider important.
After three weeks step back and reevaluate. Ask yourself: what is a reasonable goal for the next couple weeks, or couple months? Maybe you just want to call three times a week. If you need the extra motivation, tell more friends about your plan. Now start over.
2) Invite your friends to join you.
Ponder who of your family and friends might be interested in giving feedback to politicians. Tell them how easy it is to contact your representatives. If they are local and have the same representatives, you could even send then the same URLs and phone numbers. Here is a sample.
The Founding Fathers risked their lives to help create this country. Many of the Minutemen gave their lives.
Please consider giving a few minutes a day of your time to lobby your representatives. It is the right thing to do.
Set of basic links:
Call to Arms: Be a Minuteman Lobbyist
Reasons to be a Minuteman Lobbyist
Ways to support the Minuteman Lobbyist movement
Spread the word by using the Minuteman Lobbyist icons
Sample emails to invite people to join the movement
Suggestions on contacting your representatives
Update I - 8 March 2010:
Thanks to Glenn for the Instalanche!