Sometimes procrastination pays off! This is a post that I actually started weeks ago and didn’t get around to publishing. Then, I saw a new and related article, as well as witnessing what is going on around me….and decided to change the topic a bit.
I was feeling very frustrated about my visits and calls to Senator Toomey’s office.
I will never forget the first time I visited Senator Pat Toomey’s DC office. I was sitting in the lobby, and it was just a mere few weeks after the Sandy Hook tragedy. I was there waiting for an appointment, and there was a desk with several people with computers and phones. The phones were absolutely ringing off the hook for the entire time I sat there.
And it was very clear what they were talking about–they didn’t want their guns taken away.
Call after call, the staffers took names, zip codes and said “thank you and I will pass along your concerns to the Senator.”
When it was time for our turn, we went in and talked about global health and vaccines. I distinctly remember the staffer saying, “Well, the Senator would love to get behind every great cause, his concerns are, ‘Where is the money going to come from?’ ” We pointed out the very, very small percentage of funding required to fund global vaccines, and left.
Since then, I have visited several more times, and called even more times than that. Last week, I had an epiphany about him.
Pat Toomey has no interest in listening to constituents who disagree with him.
That was actually going to be the whole topic of the blog post. I hadn’t even gotten around to it, and then I saw this online:
I realized that I am NEVER going to change his mind. I think we’re all aware of how I feel about school choice. I think we are now aware of exactly how Senator Toomey feels about school choice, right? For the record, I knew this, seeing it in writing though, rather than hearing it from a staffer, felt different. Also for the record, I still feel like his office does not listen to constituents, for the most part. I’ve been to several workshops on listening and speaking, and you know that “just listening to what the person says so that you can plan what you’re going to say next?” Yeah, that. That is what they do. They hear you, but they are not listening. They are merely planning what they are going to say next–which usually is something along the lines of “Well you know, Senator Toomey thinks….”
So what do I do? Do I still keep going, visiting, calling, writing?
I just am changing my message as time and situations evolve.
When I visit his office next week, I will tell them that I am against Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. I will also add the phrase, “I realize that I am not going to change the Senator’s mind on this.”
But there are a few things I will tell/ask during my visit:
- that he only won by 1.5%, or 100k votes in a state of 12 million people, hardly a mandate
- while he may have won PA, 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary (thus against school choice)
- that he still represents me and my family, even if we disagree
- that he promised PA that he would be an “independent voice” and not just go along with the GOP
- ask him what school choice looks like to him
- ask him how he is going to ensure that all of Pennsylvania’s kids get school choice, not just the disabled ones
- ask him how he feels that school choice, or taking more money from the public schools, is going to affect special education
These are the types of issues and conversations that evolve as you do this more and more, and get to know more about your people. Five or size years ago, I would have just marched in there, said I can’t stand DeVos and Sessions, listed my reasons why, listened as they told me that he would vote for them anyway….and that would be it. I also probably would have been alone.
This time, I am bringing at least two other advocates with me, probably more. And it’s a more sophisticated and in-depth conversation about the issue of their nominations.
It’s also not as deflating to have this type of conversation. What I mean by that is, sometimes these visits are almost like taking $50 and going to a poker game and you know ahead of time you’re going to lose. And for some reason, I still go, and I lose, and it’s a bit deflating because a teeny, tiny part of me hoped that I would win (change his mind).
I don’t have that expectation. But, I do have the expectation that my son and all others like him will still get the education that they are entitled to. And I still want that to be heard. That argument I still am entitled to win.
Interestingly, there was an article online about this group called Tuesdays with Toomey. It sounds as if the Toomey office isn’t listening to them either, literally and figuratively. I admire their passion and their persistence, but I would re-strategize. By continuing to go there and demand to be heard, the conversation has changed from their issues to whether or not the Toomey office has to entertain everyone, all the time.
Then again, maybe this is their strategy–for Senator Toomey to get some unfavorable press and look out of touch with the average Pennsylvanian.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope you stick with it. Yes, there are times we’ll feel deflated and unheard. If that is happening, take a look at your overall strategy and decide what you can change. Sticking with the same thing all the time doesn’t work….as the saying goes…..