How much stock do members of congress take in protests, emails and phone calls?

Do protests work?

(NEWS CENTER) — Donald Trump's presidency has inspired a lot of activism here in Maine and across the country.

While some see the protests and large turnouts at town hall meetings as signs that many people are concerned about the direction the country is taking, President Trump has tweeted his doubts that the protests are authentic.

On Feb. 21, for instance, he wrote, "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!"

So how are members of Congress to know what their constituents really think?

Cheryl Leeman, who served as the Regional Representative for former Sen. Olympia Snowe said, "Surprisingly, you don't look at it that way... When you get personalized phone calls, that means someone has taken the time to pick up the phone and call."

And Leeman says, that means the person cares, even if they are reading from a script.

Willy Ritch, who served eight years as a senior advisor and communications director for Rep. Chellie Pingree, said members of Congress always want to know which was the phone calls and emails are going on controversial issues.

He said congressional staff makes note of every call, email and letter that comes into the office. Members of congress don't read all of them, but they do ask about the numbers.

"When a lot of people pick up the phone or call or send an email or show up at the office, that definitely has a much bigger impact when a member of congress is considering which way to vote," Ritch said.

That's not to say all communication is created equal, though. Both Leeman and Ritch said that if you want to get through to a member of congress, you should tell them a story about how their decision affects you.

Leeman said Sen. Snowe always felt she got her best ideas from constituents. "I think you can glean more information from a policy standpoint when someone says to you, 'Gee this happened to me in my life.' And then it does become very personal, as opposed to a script that somebody is reading."

Ritch said, "If you're telling a compelling story, something about you and your life, there's a much greater chance that member of congress will actually read that or hear that phone call."

Ritch and Leeman also say it's not worth it to call members of Congress from outside their district. They only want to hear from their own constituents and will not give much weight to others who call.

Also, if you do reach out, remember that the person on the other end of the phone or reading your email is a person, too. If you treat them with kindness, you'll get a lot further.

Copyright 2017 WCSH


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