Calling your Congressperson: Why it matters

By Executive Director Ryan Thornton

People almost constantly tell you to call Congress, be it a UC Dems Facebook post, or President Trump telling people to call their representatives. But, the question most people (including myself) ask is why does it matter. But, after half of a summer interning with Senator Tammy Duckworth, I can explain both what happens when you call and why it matters. What happens: When you call a representative’s office, you will pretty much all the time be speaking to an intern. These interns will listen to your opinion, ask for some combination of address, zip code, and name, and then copy down your opinion or mark it down on a tally sheet (or sometimes both). What is important to remember is that they are interns, so they honestly won’t be able to answer any of your very narrow policy questions nor does it matter whether all you say is, “Oppose Trumpcare” versus a ten-minute spiel. The interns will duly take down your opinion (so long as you are a constituent) and add to the tally, so make their lives easier by keeping it short and sweet.

Why it matters: This may seem somewhat pointless; if all I am talking to is an intern where I am just a number on a sheet, why bother. The answer is that with every number, the representative knows that that person isn’t just one constituent, but someone who cares enough about politics to call (and therefore vote) and also someone who takes the time to call so their vote could possibly be won. This is the reason why so many senators have come out against many of the failed Trumpcare plans, and why Senator Duckworth starts out her week by looking at the previous weeks call numbers. So although you may be a tally on a sheet, the effects you have on policy and on representatives votes can be great.

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