A New Way to Contact Elected Officials; A Solution for Grassroots Apathy?

Efforts to organize constituent groups to contact and lobby their elected officials have grown more sophisticated in recent years. Many of us like the ease of the online petition that automatically directs messages to our representatives based on our input location data — though I frequently prefer to tailor the pre-fab messages with my own words.

I can’t be the only one who has subjected myself to an onslaught of email messages urging me to call my Congressman or state senator over the latest hideously outrageous or earth-saving piece of legislation. A result of the sheer volume of these messages, combined with limited resources and competing priorities, my eyes long since have glazed over most of them. Have I become too cynical? Perhaps.

But in an amusing development, one state teachers union has contracted with a service to help overcome member apathy:

Why was [Maryland Sen. David Brinkley] getting so many calls? The Maryland State Education Association hired a company to call teachers from throughout the state, and then connect them with their senators.

Unfortunately, there was just one small problem with the approach:

Brinkley, who said he planned to vote against all three tax proposals, said teachers seemed caught off guard and ill-prepared to speak to their senators.

As Mike Antonucci wrote in response, “If you hire a company to call teachers and then connect them to their representative’s office, you might want to make sure the teachers realize what you’re doing.”

Can you imagine any other advocacy group trying so desperately to hold its constituents’ hands like helping a toddler cross the street (do I know a thing or to about that)? Especially a group on the Right? Well, if someone were to follow the MSEA’s strategy, they at least might want to find a better way to prepare members or supporters for that all-important call with their elected representative.

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