Friday, February 9, 2007

Tom Paine or a pain?

Since I've been chomping on newspapers lately, I guess I should mention the letter writers. Our country has a proud history of griping in print, but Tom Paine had a specific point when he wrote and he proposed solutions.

Politicians and government, why they're Really Bad, and well, you know, like they should Stop Being That Way. That felt good.

It feels even better when I meet an elected official in a store, in a business or at a party and, gasp, say what's on my mind. I'm not shy about this. The Senators and Congressmen I've met are always polite, receptive and willing to discuss issues. They may not agree with me, or do what I want them to do. Hey, I can always talk to one of their colleagues. Why, I could even write a letter.

I just called one of my Representatives this week. I had a question for him, and the question brought up a problem, one that could be solved with a simple amendment. First he was at a speaking engagement, then there was a House session. Now I know he's not spending his time at the farm. The woman offered to take my number, but I wasn't sure where I'd be when he returned my call.

On the third try a woman answered, identified herself cheerfully and politely, and put my call through. Better service than I could get from most businesses on Saipan. A brief chat with his employee, and I was speaking with the congressman in thirty seconds or so.

He seemed interested and curious about the issue, and promised to get back to me. What more could I ask?

There is no point in saying that politicians aren't listening, or that they don't represent you, if you've never bothered to tell them what you want.

Dirty little secret They have to listen. Anyone who runs for office has a pretty good idea of his or her base vote: family, friends, whichever party they are in this week. Independent voters are the wildcard, as they are throughout the country, unless the candidate is hugely popular.

Increasing numbers of Carolinians and Chamorros are voting for people and ideas instead of for familia. Other Micronesians, Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese are getting the vote. There is a large group of statesiders of different hyphenations. Those are swing votes, which makes them more important than you'd think by looking at the numbers.

If you tell them and they don't listen, vote for someone else. Write your letter while you're waiting for the next election.

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