In 1995, something motivated me to contact the legislature for the first time. It might have been a mass shooting, although in checking the Mother Jones database I don’t see one that corresponds to the timeframe. However, something caused me to write to my two senators, the president, and my representative, asking them to support stricter gun control measures.
I was in my first year of high school, assuming I would eventually go to law school. I was still a year away from joining Youth & Government, and I couldn’t even drive myself around my hometown yet. I didn’t have fully formed opinions on things like abortion or the death penalty, but I knew that I did not see the reasoning behind allowing everyone to have access to these lethal weapons.
I wrote the letter, and got four responses. The three from Democrats (Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, and Bill Clinton) were supportive and kind. They happened to agree with my stance, and I am sure they were form letters, but they were encouraging. The one from the Republican (Bill Baker) was rude. I also realize that was a form letter, but I was a bit surprised that an elected official would be a jerk to a 15-year-old girl interested enough in politics to write a letter expressing her concerns.
I have grown up since then, and both become more educated on policy and more aware of why I hold the beliefs I hold. I understand my values better, and I’m better able to articulate them (on good days, at least). But I haven’t pursued contacting elected officials much over the years, at least on my own. I’ll respond to calls for action, but that’s about it.
Until this week.
Today I decided to contact my senators and representative. Yesterday I checked to see what they’d said since the GOP nominee received the necessary number of electoral votes. Patty Murray had issued an okay statement, Adam Smith issued a strong statement, and Maria Cantwell has been radio silent. I decided to call on my lunch break today to thank the ones who had said they would fight the GOP nominee every step of the way, and ask after the one who hadn’t. Here’s what happened.
Senator Murray’s Office: No one answered, so I left a voicemail thanking her for making a statement but asking her for more, asking what her constituents can do to support her in the fight, and expressed my concern about the white nationalist who was going to be part of the White House team. I didn’t leave a return number, so obviously, I won’t be getting a call back.
Senator Cantwell’s office: I spoke to someone, but she couldn’t share much of anything. She confirmed that many people where asking for some comment from the Senator, but the woman who answered the phone ‘hadn’t heard from the press office today.’ Say what? This is the most dangerous man we’ve seen elected in this country in decades, and she hasn’t figured out what she wants to say on the topic? I get needing to take a pause and be considered, but I’m skeptical at best. The woman who answered the phone did ask for my first name, and said she’d pass on the message, but didn’t ask for any contact information to follow back up with me. I was left wondering: is anyone is planning a primary challenge to her? Because based on this, I’m thinking we deserve better.
Congressman Adam Smith: I just voted for him for the first time, as I’m now in his district. He issued a terse statement on the election, and I called to thank him. I spoke with a staff member and said I appreciated his statement, but wanted to know what we as constituents can do to support him in his fight against the GOP nominee’s policies. The woman who I spoke with took down detailed information and said she’d follow up. Encouraging.
I plan to call back. Repeatedly. I should have been doing this all along, but I can’t get that time back, so I’m going to do it from now on. I hope you’ll join me.