Nearly 75% of Americans have internet access, according to the latest surveys, and demand for rapid broadband service is increasing faster than demand for dial up access. Americans use thier computer-based connection to the world wide web for entertainment, information, communications and commercial transactions. Yet Congress prefers constituent snail mail to email.
But wait! The retrograde factor gets worse.
Are you planning to get in touch with your Congressperson or Senator? Read on, after taking a look at the scribble to the left. How long did the deciphering take? I’m the one who dashed it off and I can hardly read it. But ghastly calligraphy isn’t the only problem. I wrote this “letter” as quickly as I could, without thinking—or trying not to, since not thinking isn’t my default mode. I was trying to write from the gut or the heart or whatever the inner organ of authenticity is. You see, I've discovered that our representatives in Washington take notice mostly when you give them guts gushing out on paper. The cruder the letter the more it's presumed to come from the heart—and the heartland. And should you take your education seriously, get a job, buy a computer, hook up to the net and try to think straight as you present your concerns, don't bother to write. Your thoughts won't impress the Congressional mind.
I learned alll this at a seminar held last month by the World Affairs Forum in Santa Fe. The guest speakers were a veteran lobbyist and a veteran Congressional staffer, whose identities I think I'd better protect. These two informants know how Washington works and how our representatives like their offices run. Our reps have their idiosyncracies, naturally, but both speakers reported a convergence in some areas, like how to treat mail flowing in from constituents.
So here’s the word from the experts: if you want staffers to read what you have to say and pass your message on to the boss, write in longhand and forget logic or reason. Be passionate. Spill your guts. Be warned that emailed messages won’t get much attention, even when you’ve composed every word yourself. And if you’re signing on to a mass lobbying effort from a favorite organization, however it’s sent, you might as well not bother.
I sympathize with a staffer’s impulse to delete thousands of identical messages from his/her Congressperson’s email in-box. (Though noting the number of such incoming items might be worthwhile.) However, considering the effort scrawl-reading requires, how can anyone justify a preference for scribbled letters sent by an ever decreasing minority of the population? Those figures I referred to earlier, the ones indicating that nearly 3/4 of us are wired, are already three years out of date. By now an even larger percentage of Americans are using the internet to transmit and receive information.