Recently, several dozen residents came together in front of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s office on Oracle Road in order to protest his vote against a scaled down bill that would have extended background checks to purchase firearms.
The Explorer’s Randy Metcalf posted a photo from the event on our Facebook page. It showed about a handful of people holding signs. We quickly received a comment from a gentleman making fun of the fact that only about five people could be seen in the photo.
That post, and this protest got me to thinking. First, it seems protests now are taken lightly, or made fun of. To say they are taken seriously especially by the elected official they are targeting, would be a stretch for me.
So, here’s my questions – What can the general public really do to get elected officials to listen?
At one time, a mass protest made a huge difference, look at the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
However, today’s are either not organized, or frankly, never have enough people to truly turn a politician’s head.
Then, there used to be the letter writing. I always think of the popular animated series “King of the Hill” where Hank would get angry and mutter the popular words, “I am going to write my congressman.”
It’s been a long time since I have even considered writing any politicians that are supposed to be keeping my, and the general population’s, best interests in mind.
Today, I think it’s safe to say that politicians aren’t reading these letters. I wouldn’t even be confident in saying their staff is really reading the letters. With my lack of faith in the system, I picture the pile of letters in the corner getting bigger until shredding day.
So, we have now excluded protests and letter writing as an effective form of reaching our elected officials. What’s left?
Calling their offices seems to be encouraged by some organizations. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization created by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, has many commercials urging citizens to get on the phone or text their elected representatives.
Does this method really work?
While these phone calls can’t pile up like letters, I have a hard time believing that a senator like Jeff Flake is urging his staff to take the calls, count them and advise him on switching his vote because of a high volume of calls.
So, now we’ve excluded phone calls. What’s next?
In posing this question to members of my staff, it became very clear that they too were stumped. What does it take for a politician to listen to the general public? And, by politician, I don’t mean just U.S. Senators or members of the state legislature. I also mean locally. Look at how often a council member will form alliances and refuse to even consider the viewpoints of their so-called opposition. Look at how often a council member will dismiss the complaint of a regular citizen purely based on who that citizen supports come election time.
As my staff continued to talk about it, one of our young graphic designers came right out and said what we all knew – it’s money.
Money is what drives politicians today, and frankly, the average citizen doesn’t have enough of it to make a difference. As sad as it makes me to say, I am starting to believe my interests are not being represented year in and year out because I am just one of those middle-class citizens whose voice just isn’t worth enough.