Form response letters from Congress...

TRACKSIDE © by John DíAloia Jr.

May 18, 2004

Is it just me, am I imagining, or does every letter written by a member of Congress in response to a constituentís letter, always follow this format: thank you for writing, here is a synopsis of the history of the topic you wrote about, I will keep your thoughts in mind if the matter comes to the floor, please write again. Whether drafted by a first-year intern, or a dumb computer, it appears that the modus operandi is to select some words from columns A, B, C, and D and then hit "print."

Maddening, absolutely maddening. The letter would never have been written in the first place if the writer did not know about the topic; sometimes the tone in the responses is downright condescending. What is absolutely, absolutely, maddening is the "keep your thoughts in mind" clause, especially when the initial letter specifically asked for the congressman to state his position. What is so hard about letting your constituents know your position, why you have that position, and how you intend to vote on an issue? Is there some secret rule of membership that ordains that a letter coming down off Capital Hill to the unwashed masses has to be bland, innocuous, and satisfying to all who read it? (I have not exchanged letters with Congressman Ron Paul, so maybe my experience does not equate to all congressmen - I may be painting with too broad a brush.) Is this a result of political correctness being so ingrained inside the beltway that letters must be warm and fuzzy, offending no one? Is this a result of the political gene activation? No matter why they occur, wishy-washy letters are evidence of a wishy-washy mind, an unwillingness to stand and be counted, and a lack of convictions. Then again, maybe that is what we should do, convict them all of dishonoring their oath of office and selling us and our country and our freedom down the river.

I went through all this recently. My initial letter was answered with one that fit the template. I fired off a reply that was somewhat incandescent, asking for a direct answer. Did I get a direct answer? Did I receive a letter that responded to the points I made? Would you believe that I received the exact same response as I had received the first time around? Yup! My system status went from "somewhat incandescent" to lifting safeties. Did this occur because the letters are generated automatically by a computer based on key word content of the incoming communication? Did this occur because the staff is incapable of evaluating the content of a communication and creating a tailored response to it for the bossís signature? I know not, but when I can pull alongside one of the congressmanís senior staff, I will let them know my thoughts on their treatment of constituents - and ask them point blank if it is even worth my time in front of this screen and keyboard to express my thoughts. >From the content of responses, I think I will also ask them if comprehension of the English language is among the qualifications of office.

Is it possible to write straight-forward, factual, here-is-where-I-stand letters to constituents? It sure is - I worked for an elected official for several years who did just that. He did not write wishy-washy, beat-around-the-bush letters so as not to offend anyone in fear of the next election. His constituents knew exactly where he stood - and he was able to do it using simple English, without ranting and raving or personal attacks. What was his secret? Very simple. He was faithful to his core political principles and his philosophy of governing, was not seduced by the perks of office, and had no political career aspirations that blinded him to his task or why his constituents elected him in the first place. A favorite aside of his, as he stood his ground when legislative battles were not going well, or when it appeared that a group of constituents was ready to consign him to the darkest corners of the capitol sub-basement, or when leadership wanted him to forget his principles for "just this one vote" was "What are they going to do, send me back to be a country lawyer?" He did know how to write letters. I use the past tense purposely. He also told his constituents that he would serve for "X" years and no more. This year he kept that promise, declining to file for reelection in spite of the pleas of many friends. Diogenes may just have found his man.

See you Trackside



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