Members of Congress are hearing from their constituents in record numbers as controversial cabinet members and executive orders blast through Washington and out into Oregon and the world at large.
Some voters want their representatives to resist President Donald Trump at every turn, while others want the president to be given an opportunity to enact his vision.
Either way, federal representatives should hear from their constituents. And Eastern Oregon is lucky in that each of its federal representatives make themselves available to the public and welcome comment on a range of issues.
And those comments are coming in droves.
Sen. Ron Wyden said his recent Oregon town halls drew his largest crowds, and noted recently that “in just a few weeks I received more than 14,000 emails from Oregonians expressing their concerns about Betsy DeVos ... that is the quantity of mail I would normally receive over four months on all subjects.” He tweeted Jan. 26 that his office phones were “jammed” because of a high volume of callers.
It can be hard for a constituent to break through that jam, and have your voice resonate amid 13,999 other messages. Yet it can be done.
Hank Stern, communications director for Wyden, said email — which has increased “1,000 percent” over year prior — is the easiest way for the office to convey constituent information to the senator.
Martina McLennan, communications director for Sen. Jeff Merkley, has also seen an uptick in constituent contact.
“Since the beginning of this year, our office has seen an unprecedented outpouring of Oregonians contacting Senator Merkley to express their views about what is happening in D.C.,” she said. “Typically, our office receives fewer than 100 calls per day, so it sends a huge message when we see thousands upon thousands of Oregonians reaching out to our office to express their views about the cabinet nominations and policy positions that are being considered by the new administration.”
McLennan offered some tips about how to contribute to the conversation.
She said the office does track emails and physical mail, the opinions in which are tallied and shared with the senator. McLennan said if you do telephone the office, callers should give their location then note the issue and their opinion — the more concise the better — and you’ll be added to the tally.
If you are visiting the office in person, she recommends making an appointment and giving notice so staff can have an appropriate person at the office to speak with an individual or group.
The calls and letters headed toward Republican representatives are just as numerous.
Andrew Malcolm, communications director for Rep. Greg Walden, said the representative’s office has responded to more than 1,400 messages in the last month while receiving many more. Last year, Malcolm said the office responded to 26,000 messages.
Constituents can visit walden.house.gov, like Walden’s Facebook account and follow his Twitter. Malcolm said those are good ways to pass along information to Walden and get information directly from him as well.
Modern electronic communication, along with old fashioned letters and telephone calls, is efficient and useful. But some of the most honest and fruitful interaction is done face to face. And while a trip to the nation’s capital is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many Oregonians, all three of our congressmen travel home often.
On Friday, Rep. Walden will be in Weston at 11:30 a.m. and Boardman at 2:15 p.m. for town halls. They offer the best opportunities for local people to have a conversation with a congressman.