Saturday, February 27, 2010

Call to Arms: Be a Minuteman Lobbyist

Minutemen contributed to the colonists’ victory in the American Revolution. These men were the early response team of the local militia. Minutemen were trained to react quickly. The success at Lexington and Concord was due in part to the rapid mobilization of minutemen, citizens who cared about their rights and opposed the dictatorial degrees of the king.

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!


  1. I like how clear this is, and the fact that it isn't promoting any specific agenda. It's getting me to think maybe I CAN do something.

  2. David, thank you! You made my day.

    Good luck with being a Minuteman Lobbyist.

  3. This is great Henry.

    Let me think about how I can be of help!

    Whitney (signed in as Miranda)

  4. There's nothing wrong with the plans above, but the idea that sending emails equates you with a revolutionary hero fits right in with the posturing we've come to expect from the partier types.

    Another thing we've come to expect is that they can't figure out how to do things that are effective but spend their time doing things that will have little impact (like sending emails). Feinstein even said she doesn't pay attention to something unless she gets tens of thousands of emails.

    The much more effective way to do things is to find smarter people to "cross-examine" politicians on video about the flaws in what they promote, how they don't have contingency plans, and so on. Those vids would be extremely powerful, but first you need to find really smart and experienced people who are familiar with various specific topics. Suggestion: look outside the teaparty movement.

  5. Good post: after a bit of experience on Capitol Hill let me add: "Each call, each email, each letter should only cover ONE subject."

  6. Dude! Turn down the flag graphics! It hurts my eyes.

  7. >Dude! Turn down the flag graphics! It hurts my eyes.

    Is the new graphic (softer and less bright) easier to read?

  8. Look how much change has been accomplished by vocal minorities in this country since the 1960's. That change has been either good or bad depending upon your political views. But the point is that small vocal groups CAN have a huge influence in the direction this country takes. I think your effort to inspire greater involvement by political couch-potatoes like me is very timely and useful.

    For LonewackoDotCom, hey, man, if you're one of the "smart" people with a video camera, then go for it! Nail the bums. Some few will have the wits and political determination to try your suggestion. But don't slam this effort to show the rest of us how easily we can become a vocal minority and directly influence the policy-makers. We may ultimately swing more influence than you think.

  9. I just blogged about Minuteman Lobbyist on Know Your Neighbor:

    Also tweeted about your website -- to a fellows that's involved politically.

    This idea may be nicely promulgated on Twitter actually.

    Love that you are doing this.

    Whitney Johnson (signed in as Miranda)

  10. Henry, I do a Citizen's blog myself. I started it last year with a couple of friends. It's here: