Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Confronting Elected Officials

Today I tore myself away from the BBC production of Anna Karenina on YouTube and endless bowls of Three Sisters Graham Crackerz cereal (this is what life in “laid off land” has become) to visit my (former) representative Frank Wolf's office to protest with other Move On peeps about the debt deal that’s just made it through both sides of Congress. I took my housemate along with me. As I expected, the gathering was sparsely populated (maybe eight folks showed up) but we went into the office and aired our grievances with the senior staff member. We all sat around a table and talked in a way that reminded me of sitting in a heated college seminar.

I disagreed across the board with the rep’s rep (and she kicked the lone newspaperman out of the room – First Amendment anyone?) but she at least talked to us and let us shoot angry questions at her. Sure Wolf’s not going to do anything when we complain about tax increases not being a part of the deal – he tows the Republican line like they all do (and Democrats too, lately) – but it felt good to say our piece anyway. Housemate and I were the youngest folks in the room. We talked to the newspaperman afterward, about how we’re both smart, college educated ladies who can’t get decent work and surely if the government’s in such financial trouble then the people who can most afford to should put in their share. It was their tax cuts that largely got us in this mess to begin with. Austerity’s not working for Britain so why would it work for us? I tend to agree with Krugman on all this. And to connect this in an offhanded way to the blog’s theme, I can see this “compromise” eroding already fragile environmental protections.

The anthropology of the "protest" was interesting too - on whose terms/turf were we speaking? How should one behave? On the one hand, you want to express fury, on the other you want to be polite to the reps as people and get listened to. The group tipped from one approach to the other during the meeting, getting angry one moment and asking genially about an intern's university experience the next. On the whole, I think people are too deferential to our leaders. It makes them think we don't care.

Moral of the story: talk to your elected officials – it feels good! Besides, they’re supposed to work for you.

2 comments:

  1. Good post, congrats on giving your elected rep a heartfelt and mindful peace of your time.
    I would have loved to sit there with you and ask Mr. Wolf which govt services he thinks should be cut, and whether they could be replicated with private or charitable funds, or ought not be replicated at all.
    I also rather wish the "revenues" would be framed in the context that "we are in debt, our debt is reducing our ability to provide reasonable govt service, we can most efficiently reduce debt if we pay more in taxes, and the rich citizens are most able to help pay down that debt, so temporary debt-reducing taxes might be agreeable rather than raising taxes because those rich people can clearly afford it."
    Does that make any sense?

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  2. Does make sense! You should send a letter/visit the office saying just that too. - Erica

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