A strange call to a Senator today regarding telecom amnesty

This is weird, but I thought I’d pass it along.

I hadn’t gotten around to making calls until today due to the press of the upcoming primary.  Between 11 and 11:30 Pacific Time, I reached most of the targeted Senators in person, and left messages at most of the others.  It was the standard spiel: (1) you should require truth for reconciliation — the question of what punishment the telecoms had earned was separate from the question of whether they had committed crimes, but we’ll never find out what crimes they committed if we pass this amnesty; (2) it damages our system to let those with great lobbying resources get away with having committed crimes with impunity; (3) the grassroots are really, really upset about this issue and it isn’t going away.

In most cases, I spoke to a young man or woman, mostly polite, sometimes diffident.  Having suffered through my speech, without fail they all politely thanked me and promised “I’ll pass that along to the Senator.”  (Tim Johnson’s guy also accepted my good wishes and told me he’s doing well.)  I was at most a tick mark on one side of a ledger for them, if they followed through on that promise at all, but one call was a little different.

When I called the senior Senator from Maryland in her DC office, an elderly woman answered the phone.  I politely asked if Sen. Mikulski had made up her mind on the telecom amnesty bill.  She said no.  I asked if the Senator was open to hearing citizen comments, and she said yes.  So I launched into my minute-long speech, ending with how supporting amnesty was inconsistent with the support for justice than Sen. Mikulski had shown during her time in Congress.  (No, her voting record isn’t nearly perfect, but since my youth I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for her as a trailblazing woman in Congress.)

At the end, something strange happened.  Everywhere else, the cheery response was along the lines of “Thanks!  I’ll pass that along to the Senator.”  Instead, she hesitated for a moment, as if she were thinking it all over, and then said “thanks, you’ve made a good case.”  I was a little surprised to get my pitch evaluated by someone like that, but was pleased, thanked her and hung up.

And then it struck me: Congressional office phones are usually the province of driven young men and woman.  Since when do elderly women answer the phone — let alone pass judgment on what they hear?

Now maybe Senator Mikulski has an elderly female staffer, an issues director or someone, answering her phones in DC.  But I also know that Senators sometimes want to know what the public thinks about an issue, and sampling public opinion directly is one way to do it.  I don’t know if she was in her office at 2:15 p.m. EST, listening to the phone ring, but if she was I think that I directly lobbied Barbara Mikulski today on this bill.  An hour later, a DKos poster who had called her office first reported that she would oppose cloture.

Am I claiming that I convinced her?  No.  But I’m claiming that we did me, many of you, and countless others like us — and I would not have made that call without the notification and push of the netroots.  So if you ever wonder about making one of those calls, remember that sometimes a Senator or Representative will truly be on the fence at the last moment, and will want to hear what the people have to say.

And frankly, even if that wasn’t her on the phone, it really is so much more fun to watch a victory like this when you have made these sorts of calls.

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  1. And nice to feel like part of the process.  Next time, if you didn’t call this time — call.  It feels good.

  2. calling or emailing?

  3. Photobucket

    • plf515 on January 29, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Hand write your letter.

    Dear  (first name of official),

    Since we won, I haven’t bothered you.  It was great raising money for you, and I didn’t do it to get any favors.  But now, there’s something important…. (describe issue)….

    Your friend

    (sign your name illegibly)


    Not that I would advocate this…. it would be dishonest….and politicians value honesty above all, right?


    • kj on January 29, 2008 at 3:25 am

    to a staffer, or anyone who might answer the phones.  I have a list of points written down, but instead of launching into a spiel (and I’m sorry to say, a minute-long speech to anyone is a spiel), I engage with the person on the other end of the line.  Chat a bit, make a personal connection, engage the staffer, even if I’m calling the “other” side.  I’ve been known to call more than once on a single issue, and always make a follow-up call after the vote to express my sorrow or joy over the vote.

    Just an FYI for anyone who might think they need to sound especially smart on the issue, or an important person making an important phone call, that it really isn’t necessary to be all that smart or all that important.  Aware of the issue, aware of the consequences of the issue, and certainly aware of your own passion on the issue, will work just fine.


    old warrior

  4. get some poor young one on the line and blurt out my “Hey, I didn’t make no call to Africa” ( a Franklin Ajani line from the 70’s). I try to be civil but by the time I get worked up enough to call I’m spitting hot. Realize that civility is required but 8 years odf calling and being ignored and shined onb just takes the incentive right out of me.Your opinion has been noted doesn’t cut it. Sorry I just watched Nancy one I call and write regularly stand and applaud the boy emperor and chief psycho. Hard to believe a call will dent this solidarity of the powers that be, bipartisanly. Once they note they disregard.  

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