November 18, 2009

November 18, 2009
Writing to Congress

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and I hope you are having a great and safe week so far.

I am still going through some health problems while busy working and getting donations for my Teddy Bear Touchdowns for children with HIV and AIDS. But I am keeping my chin up as this is just one of those times that all of us go through regardless of HIV status. I am a little depressed because I currently can not work out due to severe tendonitis in both arms and working out is a big stress reliever for me. This is one of the most stressful times of year for me so it is just complicating the issue. But I will be fine so do not worry. There are many much worse of than I so I feel a little guilty even complaining.

I would like to talk today about writing your elected officials in Washington, DC.

When you write Congress, you speak for hundreds of other people.

That is the lesson from Grover Norquist, a longtime anti-tax advocate and founder of the group Americans for Tax Reform.

In a recent interview with, he said that businesses have a rule of thumb that each letter they receive represents another 200 people who had a similar concern.

"Two hundred people thought about it, were mad, went home mad, said I'm going to write a letter, and then forgot to write the letter because they got busy," he said.

Still, there is more to it than just sending a letter, he said.

Here are a few other tips from Norquist:

* Tell don't show your anger. Writing in all capital letters or using foul language just makes you sound unhinged. "You can say how unhappy you are without swearing or calling anybody stupid," he said. "You can say, 'I'm very angry.' You don't have to sound angry. You can just say it. 'I'm very angry. This really irritates me. This is very bad.'"

* Do not be unreasonable. If the tone of your letter makes you sound as though you will not be happy no matter what politicians do, they will ignore you. "They think, 'How can we please this person? They are crazy," Norquist said. "I have a very nice crazy file in my office, but I tend not to write back to those people."

* Tell them if it is your first letter. Norquist said it is very effective to let members know this is the first time you have written or that you have not written in a long time. It helps them understand how strongly you feel about the subject of your letter, he said. He compared it to the joke about the boy who ends years of silence to complain about the broccoli at dinner. "Until now, everything's been fine," he said.

* Narrow your focus. Norquist said too many advocacy groups focus on a laundry list of issues. It is more effective to focus your energy on a single issue, he argued, pointing to advocates for home-schooling who have done well in fights against teacher's unions. "That is like marijuana growers went up against (pharmaceutical companies) and beat them," he said.

* Act locally. If you want to meet your Member of Congress in person, track them down when they are in town not when they are in Washington. "I was a quiet critic of the idea of bringing people to D.C. for a rally," he said. "Why would you do that? If you have 1,000 people in North Dakota, have them talk to their guy in North Dakota."

Just a few words of thought for the next time an issue comes up where you feel compelled to contact your elected officials.

Those are my thoughts. What about yours? Drop me a line and let me know.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab