Support Your Local Representative ~ Where the Cat Claws Meet the Road
I want to take you through a scenario… In this scenario I want you to imagine that you are an elected legislator, a congressional representative. I know, I know, shudder the thought! Let’s discuss a bill so absurd that even our current class of elected officials wouldn’t think to put on the table. So, let’s get right to it.
You are Representative Wobblyboots.
Idealistic colleagues on your side of the aisle have submitted a bill to eliminate the regulation of feline claw length. After all, how could anyone be so cruel toward those cute little bundles of love? Meanwhile, those on the other side of the aisle are incensed at the bill. Those little razor blades attached to balls of fur are full of bacteria and they could leave a mark, unintentionally even!
You are apt to vote along with your colleagues and move the bill closer to passage. You know that it will diminish the doubt that some activists feel about your commitment to their “pet” issues. (See what I did there?) Your district is more or less evenly split between cat lovers and cat haters. So you’ll want to do your due diligence and hold some meet-and-greet events to listen to your constituents.
Representative Wobblyboots and Two Events
You decide to schedule two such events, one at a coffee house and the other at a centrally located middle school library within your district. You figure the
these forums give constituents a chance to have their voices heard. You believe you are being a good legislator for being open to constituent input on such an important piece of legislation.
You send out the information through usual channels, a press release, a social media event and a calendar entry on your public page. All those civically involved have the opportunity to attend. You feel satisfied though nervous about the tense situations that could be just ahead.
In preparation, you know that you should stake a position on the issue. You decide that since your party’s activists pushed for this bill, that you should express lukewarm support for the deregulation of cat claws. But you thought it was important to hold out a reservation on the issue to provide an olive branch to those that want the continued regulation of cats’ claws. What you found buried deep in the bill was that it called for a moratorium on any regulation of felines of any sort. Well, if anyone asked what the sticking points were, you could say that this could be it.
“Well, where were those voices at the coffee house?”
The date of the first event comes and there are about 10 people there. Three are in favor and six are opposed. One guy doesn’t seem care one way or other about cat claws. He seemed to be there for the spectacle, and a free coffee to boot. Overall the experience was friendly in tone. You come away with the same position you had when you entered. You are leaning toward voting, yes, on feline claw deregulation, simply because it will garner good will from your party’s faithful.
Still, you, Rep. Wobblyboots scratch your head. You don’t just interact with constituents through meet-and-greets and town halls, you see social media. Your social media feed is strewn with ardent supporters of freeing those little kitties’ precious little claws. Well, where were those voices at the coffee house?
Meanwhile, local media weighs in on the issue.
You see an exposé investigating the danger of cat claws during a local 10 o’ clock news program. You see that the local newspaper has issued an editorial in opposition to deregulation. Representative Wobblyboots, you’re starting to go a little, well, wobbly.
Nonetheless, you are getting calls from other representatives on your side of the aisle asking you to pledge your support. You are even more noncommittal with them than you are publicly. You say to them that you want to see how things play out and that you are 50/50 on the bill.
Event number two arrives and you’re still publicly favorable to the bill.
You receive a call from the school a half hour before your arrival time.
The conversation goes something like this:
School official: “We need to move your event into the gym or cafeteria, do you have a preference?”
Rep. Wobblyboots: “What? When we scheduled the town hall, you said the library was open.”
School Official: “Yes, it was, but there are already more people here than we can accommodate in the library. We will need to move it.”
Rep. Wobblyboots: “Uhhh, hmmm, oh gee, I didn’t expect this. Let’s use the cafeteria then. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be there shortly.”
You hang up the phone with an overall feeling of gratitude. Your supporters from social media had come to voice their support and steel your spine.You walk in expecting a warm reception for being with them on a controversial issue. However, that feeling of gratitude quickly succumbs to a heavy sense of anxiety.
“One woman calls cat claws ‘weapons of mass destruction’!”
It’s apparent by the crowd’s demeanor alone that the majority are in opposition to the bill in question. They want those claws regulated to the hilt. You gulp down hard on the lump in your throat, step to the microphone and state your public position of support. Immediately you are rebuffed. People are shouting questions, shouting demands. One woman calls cat claws “weapons of mass destruction”! You realize the whole event is tumbling out of control.
After two hours, time mostly spent receiving a pummeling, you make the political decision that you’re more like the guy with the free coffee in the coffee shop on this particular issue. Personally, you don’t care one way or another about feline claws. If the mobilization is on the side of regulation, then you can’t go wrong to maintain the status quo and vote no on the bill to deregulate feline claws.
You keep your own party guessing what your vote will be. But you discreetly call the opposing party’s leaders and tell them that they have your vote and ask that they call off the hounding by their activist organizations. When the day of the vote comes down, you are conspicuously quiet during your caucus meeting. As the roll call is ending, you quietly walk up and register your vote as “nay.”
Activism is more than social media
In this little fantasy, we can begin to understand that activism is more than social media.
Sometimes our representatives take tough stands on issues that are not high on their priority list. If we support that stand, we should endeavor to support them by attending their town halls. We as civically responsible citizens must not stand up only in opposition. We all know how to do that quite well. It is human nature. We must remember, that it is also our responsibility to help steel spines.
“We as civically responsible citizens must not stand up only in opposition.
We all know how to do that quite well. It is human nature.
We must remember, that it is also our responsibility to help steel spines.”