Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Talk to Your Congressmen About Their Response to Guantanamo

Members of Congress will soon (early 2010) have an opportunity to go to a special screening of the film about the Guantanamo tribunals, The Response. How can you use this screening as an opportunity to engage them in conversation about the important issues raised by this film?

In fact, virtually every member of Congress relishes the opportunity to have real contact with constituents -- especially on substantive issues that the constituent cares deeply about. With all but the very busiest of congressmen (e.g. Speaker of the House), you should expect that you can begin a dialog with the staff and schedule a meaningful meeting with the member when he/she is in the district -- which is every week for many, and at least during recesses for the rest.

Here's my 1-2-3 formula for getting into discussion with your congressman:

(1) Research their position. It's easy, right? Just Google some combination of the words Guantanamo and/or habeas and/or detainees plus the member's name. Most are on the record about Guantanamo.

(2) Research your position -- and spell it out! A very knowledgeable insider once clued me in about how to converse with members of Congress. "They are genuinely interested in the underlying thinking beneath your position. It's important that the logic makes sense. And they're also looking for any personal insight you have on the issue. How have you (or someone you know) been touched by the issue? Spell it out!"

(3) Ask for a meeting. In-person meetings tend to focus the mind - for you and the member. If you don't do this sort of thing very frequently, you may find that it turns out to be the most meaningful 15 minutes of your year! And think of what you've accomplished: in the mind of the member, when someone raises their voice, they reckon there's 10 more people out there who feel the same way (but aren't talking). Thoroughly written letters are even more rare - they figure there must be 100 more people out there with those feelings. And in-person meetings are 1 in a 1,000. Now . . . that's leverage!

Suggestion: get in contact now so that your member can plan to attend the screening of The Response in D.C. and be prepared to talk about it with you on their return.

AND . . . you can get a head start on your preparations by reading other posts in this blog to see how your congressman has responded to date to the issues raised by Guantanamo.

No comments:

Post a Comment