We are always looking for great letters and emails. So when we discovered L.Sue Baugh’s “Handbook for Practical Letter Writing,” we were delighted. It’s a great resource.
Baugh includes a letter to a Senator to illustrate the kind of letter that you should Not write. Here’s the letter:
Dear Senator Howells:
I thought I had heard it all, but when I caught your speech on Medicare, I could see I was wrong.I’ve never heard such clap-trap in my life.
You obviously don’t have any idea of the financial state of most senior citizens. I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my monthly budget so you can get familiar with the real world out here. If you don’t vote against cuts in Medicare, I’m voting against you.”
If you are writing to politicians with whom you disagree about everything, go ahead and send this kind of message. What a message like this does is warn these individuals that they have reached the limits of how far they can safely go.
My Congressman happens to be a right-wing ideologue who has a fervent base of ideologues, so I don’t expect much from him. But he just might not want to stir up and antagonize constituents who are not a part of his base. So I do fire warning shots across his bow. And that is what this letter is–a shot across the bow.
Here’s what astute politicians ask. One. How do constituents feel about a particular topic? Two. How strongly do they feel about it?
Politicians do not worry very much about constituents who don’t have strong feelings. They do worry about constituents who feel so intensely about a topic that they will vote against them because of it, or, horrors, if their constituents begin to organize a campaign over it.
The sample letter above makes it clear that the writer does have intense feelings. Further, she warns that there will be consequences. She will vote against the Senator if he votes to cut Medicare.
There’s something else that politicians want to know. How smart is the writer?
In this case, the writer is clever, and witty, and obviously smart. A shrewd politician does not want this kind of enemy. Not in today’s world of tweets and blogs. An enemy who’s a skilful communicator is dangerous.
I agree with Baugh that you should send a thoughtful, non-confrontational message to a politician who can be persuaded by logic and facts. You want to come across to that kind of individual as an ally.
However, even with this kind of politician, your message needs to show that you feel strongly about the matter. And it really helps your cause to do more than just express emotion. Offer to send your budget to show how a cut in Medicare will affect you. Conscientious politicians–yes, whatyousay.com believes there are conscientious politicians–do want to stay in touch with what’s happening to those they represent.
Here’s one other recommendation. Let the politician know that you are willing to help them if they vote the way you want them to. Politicians need “cover.” If politicians take a courageous stand, they need constituents who will openly support them and come to their defense.
“This is a book to cherish and share.”—Bill Marriott, CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
“Not only does Griessman give us Lincoln quotes, but he also weaves each one into a little jewel of an essay on that particular subject.” Wayne C. Temple, renowned Lincoln scholar, Illinois State Archives
A stirring, inspirational treasury of quotations from our greatest and most admired president, the book offers rich material for interpretation, reflection, and spiritual guidance.
You will also enjoy Lincoln Speaks To Leaders by Gene Griessman and Pat Williams.
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