I’m no expert and, chances are, neither are you. That’s why you should focus on a “perfectly adequate” letter to your representative instead of the “perfect” letter. In conversations I’ve had with Utahns about political activism, I have found that many do not communicate with their elected officials because they don’t want to sound stupid. They want to be fully armed going in and have all the rights words and have a polished message. This is why nothing gets done.
When you communicate with your elected representative, you are speaking to your servant. They aren’t celebrities answering fan mail. They are paid employees beholden to you and your neighbors. You should put as much time and effort into a letter to them as you would into a memo sent to some of your employees.
To that end, the perfectly adequate letter to your representative is brief, clear and actionable. Based on an effective public relations model employed by Utah Liberty Alliance, an effective letter to your representative should have the following structure:
- First paragraph: awareness. This is where you bring something to the representative’s attention. It is basically the first two paragraphs of a hard news story wrapped into one. It will tell your representative who is doing what and why. Example: “It has come to my attention that Rep. So-and-so is sponsoring a bill that requires residents to name their children using a state-approved list of names.”
- Second paragraph: attitude. This is where you persuade your representative to take your position on the matter. Example: “This is not acceptable because [insert your brief reasoning here].”
- Third paragraph: action. Advise your representative to take specific actions and, if necessary, provide instructions on how those actions can be taken. This is also the paragraph in which you demand — not ask politely, but demand — that your representative follow up with you in a timely manner. You don’t need to make threats or anything. Just make sure they know you will be expecting a reply to your message, and you won’t tolerate waiting around for weeks to get it. If the representative doesn’t heed your advice here, you will continue sending messages and make phone calls and even visit their office. Never let them off the hook. Example: “I urge you to vote no on this legislation. I expect a prompt reply to this message to let me know what action you intend to take. I look forward to your response.”
Your signature should be followed by as much contact information as you feel comfortable giving them. Your physical address (or at least the name of your town or your zip code) can go a long way towards influencing the representative because it tells them whether or not you are actually one of their constituents. Including your name and number lets the representative know that you stand behind your words.
Contacting your representatives to demand action is one of the least effective methods for bringing about a free society, but it is also one of the easiest. It can be done from the comfort of your computer at home. It lets them know we’re here and that we won’t be ignored. Their responses will provide us with fodder for demonstrating just how absurd the State is. And, if we’re lucky, it may occasionally result in an actual limit placed upon government.
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