The first entry in a Series, where we debunk the most prevalent myths that are convenient excuses for not advocating or supporting a cause or proposal.
Myth #1: Elected officials don’t pay attention to their constituents.
Americans often complain that their elected representatives are not listening to them. They also have little confidence in how Congress is doing its job.
Despite these prevailing attitudes, I would argue that your representatives are eager to hear from you. Here’s why: Members of Congress have to stay on top of so many issues; oftentimes, they don’t have time to focus on the details of a particular matter. Your representatives need and want to know your opinions on issues that matter to you.
Also, if your representative helps you with an issue, he or she will likely get your vote in the next election. And, you’ll probably tell other people to do the same. Congressional members are also eager to help you because there’s a good chance that you represent a larger group within their constituencies.
Want an example? Years ago, I interned in a district office for Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5th). One day, a couple came into the office with a concern about their son. For five minutes, the angry father complained about how he knew he “wasn’t going to get any help, because he’d never voted for Hoyer.”
When the staffer finally got a word in, she said, “We really don’t care if you voted for our boss or not; tell us what the issue is and let’s see what we can do for you.”
The couple’s son needed a background check to receive his Merchant Marine license re-certified because of a requirement in the newly passed Department of Homeland Security Authorization bill. The problem: He was supposed to ship out in a few days, and background checks typically take months. The staffer went into overdrive, contacting Hoyer’s Washington Office for information and looking up the bill for more details. After an hour, the district staffer told the couple that she would call them with an answer to help them. The couple left happier and with a better view of Rep. Hoyer. And this wasn’t an isolated case of listening to constituents; why do you think Hoyer has been reelected easily for 30 years?