There is No Wrong Way to Engage
Back in January, I wrote a post about the merits of in-person meetings and phone calls over other methods of communication with your representatives. Things sure have changed in only ten weeks! While it is probable that in-person meetings and phone calls are still among the most effective methods of influencing your representatives, a wealth of other options have popped up. The most important thing is that you take action in a way that is easy, meaningful, and, yes, even fun for you!
Let's start with Resistbot. Whether you're resisting or supporting political measures, Resistbot automatically turns your text messages into paper faxes in your US representatives' offices. All you have to do is text "Resist" to 50409 and follow the prompts. At its launch, it only faxed US senators. Now, it can also send faxes to your representative in the US House and - get this - submit a letter to the editor at your local newspaper. This is savvy civic engagement that doesn't even require an internet connection! Better yet, it frequently works when phone lines are jammed or voice mailboxes are full.
If Resistbot isn't your style, perhaps you'd like to take matters into your own hands. Some Coloradans decided not to wait for Senator Gardner to host a town hall meeting. They scheduled their own town hall, invited the Senator, and ultimately posed their questions to a cardboard cutout. While Cory Gardner still has not held any free and public in-person town halls, he did schedule a couple of telephone town halls which drew thousands of participants. Senator Bennet hosted five town halls around Colorado, his first in years.
If you have no time but plenty of money, perhaps you'd like to let your money do the talking. Many Americans are upset about gutting of internet privacy rules implemented in October by the FCC and decided to turn the tables by raising money to buy the browsing histories of members of congress. While it is unclear whether this method can deliver on its promise (and you should be wary of donating), it gained national press coverage and theoretically could persuade the president to veto the bill.
Want to be more of a locavore with your engagement? Our podcast guest Nancy Leong recently cleaned out her closet, staged a second-hand clothing sale, and donated the proceeds to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
Of course, there are still all of the tried-and-true methods of civic engagement, such as participating in town halls, calling, testifying at the capitol, scheduling in-office meetings with staffers or making appointments with your representatives. Civic Syrup follower Kevin Williams testified for the first time before the Colorado House regarding multi-modal transportation after waiting through six hours of testimony from other constituents and advocates. He hopes to testify again in the Senate chamber. If the bill passes the Colorado Senate, it still won't become law unless approved by voters in November.
So be creative, get inspired, have fun, and stay engaged! As long as you're doing something, you're doing it right.