In the age of auto responders, and the emergence of e-mail as a primary means of communication, I often wonder whether writing your representative -- be it legislator, congressperson or senator -- does any good anymore. I wonder if they read it at all or, if they do, whether they just dismiss an opposing opinion the same way most political discourse considers opposing opinions now -- if it doesn't agree with mine, rather than consider it, demonize the opinion-holder and ignore the message as the work of Satan.
I don't think I've written my representative since I wrote Sen. Ed Brooke (another Republican who represented Massachusetts back when it was possible... and that reflected on Republicans, not Massachusetts, by the way) when I was a kid asking him to do something about cleaning up the environment. I got a nice letter back -- in the mail -- and it at least sounded like the senator, or something that exhaled carbon dioxide, tailored the message to the one received; maybe even, you know, considered it.
It would be the cheap shot to say he paid no attention to it in the era of global warming here, but thinking back to the '60s, we thought nothing of going to McDonald's (they didn't have lobbies then), sitting in our car, eating the food, and then pitching all the trash out the window and driving off. Or maybe pitching it out the window after we drove off. We don't do that anymore. So maybe I made a difference with my letter to Ed Brooke. Who knows?
My wife occasionally writes to our state representative, with whom she rarely agrees, and usually gets back some garbagey e-mail that basically says "I'm really a great legislator, look at all the work I'm doing for you..." and then lists all of her accomplishments, but always leaves my wife asking, "um, great, you singlehandedly widened I-94 to three lanes, what about the points of the message I wrote you?"
Of course, the lawmaker apparently never read it or didn't care enough to be the next Ed Brooke, which is too bad because if you don't have time to listen and talk to your constituents, what are you doing in the job in the first place?
I was going to do a survey of some sort to ask currently sitting politicians when the last time was they had their mind changed by a conversation with a constituent? Now I'm thinking of doing one on when the last time is they actually read the message from and responded to one?
I'm sure as we get into the debate season, we'll hear all the usual questions about all the usual subjects and all the usual non-answers coming back disguised as answers and everyone will leave being no more informed than they were before.
But it would be great to have a debate in which one questions was: name the last time you changed your mind after talking to a constituent?
Until then, I assume all the e-mail can be found in the parking lot at McDonald's.
Posted at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2006
by Bob Collins
It's been an issue at the Capitol this session, certainly. The Senate killed a bill a couple of weeks ago that would've required certain documents to be shown (photo ID) by people who intend to vote -- "providing proof of United States citizenship in the form of a passport, birth certificate, or naturalization document, making an oath in the form prescribed by the secretary of state and providing proof of residence."
Today, the Senate took another crack at clarifying what documents are required for same-day registration -- a photo ID and a utility bill. (SF 2976). That pretty much codifies the current system. It passed the Senate although, with committee deadlines coming, looks like it's been sent to a House committee to die. We'll see.
Sen. Warren Limmer, as the last speaker, said he found it interesting that there was so much discussion on the Senate floor when yesterday a Senate committee "denied people the right to vote" (the marriage amendment). Maybe this question should be added to November too.
By the way if you would like to learn how to vote illegally in Minnesota, watch the debate. I don't know if any of them will work, but let me know.
Oh, speaking of Votetracker, we've made one change. We've added category headings to make it easier to find individual issues. Also, and this isn't new, did you know you can sort votes by party, district, and vote? So you can find quickly who jumped ship on particular issues (or who didn't).
Posted at 7:08 PM on April 5, 2006
by Bob Collins
Even ignoring a few ramblings by people who seem to think I'm always writing about them and focusing on their party...
Ah, but the strawberries! That's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with geometric logic, that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist! And I'd have produced that key if they hadn't pulled Caine out of action! I-I-I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer and......
But I digress...
... there's been nothing so far to indicate that there's anybody in Minnesota -- Democrat or Republican -- in the Minnesota blogosphere, who is getting paid by a campaign or a party to write a blog (OK, so we haven't heard from everybody yet). There is nothing so far to indicate that any political blog in Minnesota would fit the concerns of FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith, who suggested last year that blogs may be treated differently "in the next election" (meaning this one). So while I penned the questions that were asked, Bradley Smith authored the concerns.
E.J. Dionne wrote about this today, "FEC decides to regulate ads and `soft money' but to exempt blogs"
It would be wonderful if the Internet proved to be as brilliantly self-correcting as its enthusiasts claim it will be. Let's hope partisan bloggers on the one side help expose abuses by partisan bloggers on the other.
And let's hope they can figure out how to do it without making it up.
I take that back, the good ones have learned how to do it without making it up. It is the one area where the blogosphere mirrors MSM. The good ones rise to the top, the questionable ones end up preaching predictable sermons to a unexpectant choir.
Same as it always was.
Lost in the hubbub of same-sex marriage on Tuesday was this little nugget tucked faily deep in Art Hughes' story about crime in Minneapolis
"From my vantage point, when you've got people shooting each other in the streets and you've got all that money sitting in Neighborhood Revitalization Program and some of the other things they do that aren't as high a priority, those resources should be redeployed in my view, in the near and intermediate term, on cracking down on this violence in Minneapolis," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty says he's considering further state intervention to quell the violence.
State intervention? Does that mean what I think it means? In an Arne Carlson - Sharon Sayles Belton sort of way? (He threatened to send state troopers into her city, you'll recall).
Alright! Big showdown between the two big political dudes. They've dropped their gloves to the ice and here we go!
Rybak says he looks forward to talking to Pawlenty about the city's efforts to fight crime.
What? You're going to... talk?.
A Pawlenty spokesman says the governor wants to meet with Rybak, interim police chief Tim Dolan and other law enforcement officials to see if there are ways the state and city can work together to lower crime.
Go back to your homes, there's nothing to see here. C'mon, break it up! Go home. The show's over.