We emailed Congress but lost on the TPP (again). Let’s try something different.

Summary: Each year we send 200+ million letters to Congress. What does Congress do with them? What’s the result? Is there a better way to help guide the Republic? Repeated failures show the answers, and point the way to a better future.  (1st of 2 posts today}

“Man is by nature a political animal.”
— From Aristotle’s Politics.

Politics of Change

Contents

  1. We’re weak because we’re lone rangers
  2. What happens to your letters, calls,
    …..and emails to Congress?
  3. A path to real power
  4. For More Information.

(1)  We’re weak because we’re lone wolves

The Obama/GOP victory — passing the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership — marked yet another defeat for the New Left model of information overload plus individual action. Websites such as Naked Capitalism (imo best of the breed; I read it daily) provided a flood of information about the TPP and urged their now-informed readers to call or write their representatives. This model of political activism is defective, making yet another defeat for the Left almost guaranteed.

Left and Right share the American model of empowered individualism which has taken a deep hold in the minds of the outer party (the managers and professions of America). We become informed, then like John Galt or Bruce Wayne, take decisive action. We feel involved and engaged, although disappointed by the inevitable defeats.

It’s a daft model. Even the 1% understand the need for collective action. They’ve spent decades building organizations to convert their money into political influence, while they recruited, trained, and employed talented people (as shown by the bios in the SHAME Project, creating the equivalent of Jesuits for the 1%).

The people of America lack the wealth of the 1%; our greater numbers make organizational structure even more important than for the 1%. Yet increasingly we see ourselves as lone rangers, increasingly hostile to leadership — as shown by the Occupy and Tea Party movements). This makes us weak.

This post looks at what the pros say about influencing Congress. Its goal: to convince you to adopt a new vision of what can work and what should be done.

Side note: how much support did the TPP have among the public? Trick question! I cannot find any polls on it during recent months, when the public learned about it. The polls asked irrelevant questions about free trade, the equivalent of polling about our wars by asking “should the military defend America?” See these by PEW Research, Gallup Polls, and NYT – CBS.

Congress
Foundation of the Republic. We elect & hate them.

(2)  What happens to your letters, calls, and emails?

Congress runs one of the most sophisticated political engineering shops ever. After all, they can vote whatever funding they need. State of the art computers and printing, supplemented by the year-round fundraising necessary for the parts they cannot pay for with tax dollars.

Political action handbooks usually recommend campaigns for mass mailings and calls to Congress. Everybody has mastered this game, creating an arms race so that your campaign cuts through the din of the daily barrage of constituent pressure.

Representatives pay attention to our opinions, but not necessarily like we think they do. As the saying goes, “letters are weighed, not read.” Requests for constituent services and from VIPs are sifted out. When you send emails and letters (hand-written or printed) about issues you are participating in a real-time poll — supplementing the professionally run polls by which politicians steer their PR campaigns.

Part of the fun of writing letters comes from the fantasy that Congress values our input. They respect the flows of public opinion, but (like everybody in America) already overflow with expert information and analysis. Imagine sending those letters to your friends and relatives. How many would change their opinions? Your representative is far less likely to be affected by your reasoning. You’re sending an unusually long poll form.

… the usual reaction of the low-level staffer is to say “Give this guy a 44-B response.” The “44-B response” is code for a form letter prepared by the member’s staff for a particular type of letter. More sophisticated offices will even have individual paragraphs coded and the staffer might say, “Give these characters a 43-C first paragraph, 16-D second, and sign off with a 26-F.”

… In sum, it is a waste of money to engage in a war of computers. Your form letters will be answered by form letters and you can be sure that the Hill’s computers are better than yours. Any suggestion that your organization engage in a form letter or postcard blizzard should almost automatically be dismissed as a waste of time and money.  {The Citizen’s Guide to Lobbying Congress by Donald E. DeKieffer}

It doesn’t work. But we try, ever harder. Constituent mail to Senators has increased 548% from 2002 to 2010, while their staff has remains almost unchanged (source: CMF). Congress now gets over 200 million letters and emails every year. Of those that contacted Congress, 84% had been asked to do so, 62% felt that their representatives were not interested in what they said {learning!}, and only 39% found information from their representatives to be trustworthy (source: CMF).

It’s right and proper that sending letters to Congress has little effect. It’s like complaining to the waiter about one’s meal, the attitude of a consumer to the staff. I doubt the elected officials ruling a nation of 320 million people see themselves as our staff (they’re the staff to the 1%, whose tips are the source of their prosperity).

American Power

(3)  A path to real power

American history provides models for successful political organizations (i.e., capable of broad political effect, not just empowering special interests), such as unions, the civil rights organizations, political parties (the Anti-Masonic Party, the Whigs, the Republicans, and the Progressive Party). The common factors are people willing to work together, and to develop leaders.

We have these things on a small scale today, but too small for broad effect (as Christians say, “there’s always a remnant”). Rather we have special interest groups, part of the problem.

See the next section for links to past posts about this. Future posts will discuss specifics. Tune in again.

(4)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these…

  1. Why the 1% is winning, and we are not.
  2. Why don’t we see the New America being built around us?
  3. The 1% won a counter-revolution while we played. We forgot that we are the crew of America, not passengers.
  4. What if Samuel Adams tried to start the Revolution by blogging?
  5. Recommended: Becoming better informed won’t help. Here’s a small easy step towards political change.
  6. The 1% are changing America. It’s our move.

 

 

3 thoughts on “We emailed Congress but lost on the TPP (again). Let’s try something different.

  1. The Occupy movement was a textbook example of how not to run an organization as FM has pointed out: 1) Consensus! 2) No elected leadership, 3) No agreed on program, 4) No independent media. In addition to these I think that other goals for an organization should be: 5) protecting it’s supporters including court costs or jobs, 6) targeting specific opponents e.g.. AIPAC targets C. Percy and C McKinney.

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