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BECOMING AN ENGAGED CITIZEN: By Writing to Your Rep in Congress

Independent Commentary, Opinion & Political Analysis by local activist & community organizer, Michael McCue

One of the most satisfying actions one can take to become more engaged as a citizen is to write your representative in Congress and let them know how you really feel about the job they've been doing,or in the case of our current Congress, the job they've NOT been doing.

As a resident of Studio City, the 28th Congressional District's Rep. Howard Berman knew, I'm sure, what I thought of his performance in Congress when I campaigned so diligently for Green Party candidate, Byron DeLear, back in 2006. 

Berman's record as a Pro-Premptive War Democrat was shameful to my value system and I felt he needed to go.  I was turned off by Berman's haughty arrogance based on his knowledge that, short of a revolution, he knew that he was virtually immovable from office, much in thanks, surely, to his own manipulations in concert with his brother, to always make sure, through re-districting and the worst gerrymandering, that he was guaranteed re-election, in election after election. 

There are members of Congress who are invisible and seem to never hold town halls for their constituents because they are so secure in their job that they really do not care to know what their constituents want.  Why bother when you are guaranteed your seat through your own foul play?

No one it seemed could get him out, even though his wrong-headed decisions by supporting the Invasion of Iraq, subsidizing Big Oil, illegal eavesdropping on our citizens, etc...had caused such great harm to our economy, our moral standing in the world, and our human resources.

But thanks to a new Citizen's Panel on Re-Districting, one that was approved by California voters in 2008, and one that We, the People, fought very hard to achieve (and which Berman fought tooth and nail), it seems that Berman is now not quite as secure as he once was, and the result is that he is actually forced to meet with his voters, and at least pretend to be interested in what they have to say.

Now that his old 28th district has been merged with Rep. Brad Sherman's district, there is a new fight brewing in the new 30th District, and the voters will actually have a real choice in the race.  Hallelujah!  Democracy returns to the Valley!

There are at least two incumbent democrats (Berman and Sherman), a Republican (Mark Reed), and even a Green Party candidate (Michael Powelson), who are all in the race for the 30th District.

At last, different voices, different choices!

This situation has forced Berman out of his Congressional closet and forced him to hold his first open town hall in what seems to be decades. 

Because he had kept so completely out of sight for so many years, many of those attending were actually shocked to see him in person.  And I don't mean shocked by his first public town hall in years...but shocked by how much Berman himself  had physically changed since we last saw him in public.

I was not the only person who agreed that Berman appeared to be, how shall we say it nicely?...a bit long-in-the-tooth to be representing such a vibrant district...or even serving in Congress at all. 

His frail, physically-feeble demeanor caused many to think (including me) that the more proper place for him would be in an assisted-living situation, rather than the halls of Congress.  He had a "Methusala vibe" about him...and not one of wisdom.

I lost count of how many people mentioned the word "retirement" when commenting on Berman's appearance.

Berman has never been a "man of the people" and never will be, it seems.  He's fighting for his political life in this Congressional race and it's high time.  So he had to endure a few hours of comments from We, the People, and they weren't all that flattering, as you can imagine.

These rare opportunities to actually engage and speak directly with your rep in Congress must be taken advantage of whenever we can.  Of course, in a healthy democracy, these engagements wouldn't be rare at all. 

That's why we must stay on top of these corporate-owned, congressional clowns.  It's the power of Big Money that makes them feel impervious to the needs of We, the People, and that must be changed.

In 2010, when I moved out of the Studio City area, I almost immediately looked up all of my new districts and representatives, which is a practice highly recommended for becoming an engaged citizen.  Whenever you move, (or change your name) you must re-register to vote...and it's also a good idea to look up your new reps at every level of government and make note of them.

When I moved, I re-registered my voter registration so that I wouldn't miss the city election last year.

During my research, I discovered, much to my dismay, that I was then living in California's 25th district, being represented in Congress by Republican, Buck McKeon, one of the biggest do-nothings Congress has ever seen. 

I had called his office about several pieces of pending legislation and how I wanted him to vote, but his staff was always dismissive of me and my scoldings of his record, and seemed disconnected from reality.  He is certainly the worst Congressman I've ever had the displeasure of havng as my rep in Congress.

After two years of absolute silence on his part, (so similar to Berman), suddenly, McKeon contacted me by email recently saying how concerned he was about the economy, but apparently not being concerned enough to actually introduce any legislation to remedy the problem, since he has not done so in the last two years.

McKeon's accomplishments are almost nil, and he brags about voting in support of wrong-headed legislation that would actually make things worse for our nation instead of better, like the Paul Ryan budget!

In his email to me, perhaps sensing his imminent doom at the polls in November, he asked in desperation for ideas about creating jobs and making the situation better in his district, especially after getting an earful from business leaders at one of his own extremely rare town halls.  Like Berman, McKeon doesn't get out much, to hear from We, the People.

He even offered a special email address to submit these ideas...mckeonjobideas@mail.house.gov

So, in the tradition of the most highly engaged citizen I can be...I responded.

And I let him have it full blast.

This is what I recommend every voter to do and do now.  Contact your representative, whether they've asked for your input or not, and let them know what you really think.

And do this as often as possible.  Establish a relationship with your congressional office and keep the lines of communication open and busy with your thoughts and desires.

It's important to be in contact with your Congressperson, and you can really vent (but don't be rude or vulgar, as tempting though it may be for such dolts) which really gives you the feeling of having cleared the air.  It's therapeutic! 

And, besides...that is what they they are there for...to hear from YOU! 

If you don't have a lot of nice things to say about their job perfomrance, well, that is what they have to expect from We, the People, especially in a time of crisis and a do-nothing congress.

They actually do take notice, especially during the run up to an election, so it's a golden moment for all those who wish to become more highly engaged citizens.  It's a standard practice and part and parcel of living in a democracy.  Write yor rep...call your rep...email your rep...especially if they ask you to!

Perhaps this hard-hitting response to Mr. McKeon will inspire our "Engaged Citizen" readers to also get in the game and let your own Congressperson know what you're thinking. 

Understand that after revieiwng his do-nothing record, I was so fed up with this McKeon character that I had reached my limit and I let him have it full blast! 

He may regret having asked for my thoughts, but, here's my letter to Rep. Buck McKeon, 25th District...I hope it inspires you....

Dear Rep. McKeon,

After years of not hearing from you whatsoever, (no town halls, etc...) in your recent e-news mailing to me, you stressed how deplorable the job situation is in the 25th district and how concerned you are about this issue.

It appears that during your last term in office, you weren't concerned enough about jobs for your constituents to actually DO anything about it, were you? But an election is coming up, and with so many of your 25th district voters out of work, NOW you are concerned about jobs.  Thanks for your concern, however late it may be.

For over two years now, while your Republican pals have held control of our Congressional agenda, neither you, as our representative in Congress, nor anyone else in your party, has introduced one single, solid piece of legislation that would really create jobs, or re-build our crumbling infra-structure, or a bill that evens mentions any sort of meaningful jobs-creation plan, instead preferring to introduce literally dozens of bills regarding abortion, reproductive rights, a national motto, and other unnecessary nonsense which wastes the precious time of Congress during this national crisis.

Nero comes to mind as you've fiddled and fiddled.

Then in your e-news communication to me, you have the nerve to
ask for ideas from your constituents about how to create jobs, when that's
the job we sent you to Congress to get done in the first place! 
Now you inform me that you haven't done your job and want me to help you figure it out!

You've had your chance to get the job done and now you come to me
desperate for ideas on how to create jobs? After you have ignored several Jobs
Bills that have already been submitted during your term, but that you refused
to pick up or even consider for a vote because they were submitted by someone
from outside your party?

How dare you ask for my help so that you can continue "fiddling."

What sort of American (or Christian?) are you...to not care about your fellow man while we're all hurting so much and suffering so terribly, thanks to your Corporate Wall Street masters and their massive mortgage fraud, for which you have sought no accountability whatsoever.

I do not approve of President Obama by any means, but your lack of
action in time of crisis, and your failure to work with our other elected
leaders to get the job done, and put the welfare of your nation first, before
your political party, has made the economic crisis even worse, and you must be
held accountable for your political selfishness.

Your complete lack of focus regarding your constituents' most urgent problems and your do-nothing political friends with whom you conspire to actually make our nation's economic situation even worse...all so that you can score petty political points...doesn't verge on treason...it IS treason...and you are one of the worst offenders I have seen, to ever have been trusted with a seat in Congress.

Shame on you and your outright hypocrisy!

I was raised in a military family known for service and sacrifice.  I was raised to get the job done when your nation needs you, or is in a state of crisis, regardless of politics.  That's how we roll in America.

You have done absolutely nothing to respond to our nation's crisis, except try to score cheap political points by allowing and even encouraging matters to get even worse, and causing us to suffer even more, all for your own political advantage.

Your behavior is sickening to any red-blooded American seeking true remedies to our current crisis.

And then, all of a sudden, just before an election, you have the nerve to ask us for job-creating ideas and tell us that you have suddenly become concerned about your constituents' desperate situation.

Too little...too late.

You, sir, are a phony, a liar, and a misleading devil who needs to
be thrown out on his ear for lack of leadership, and dereliction of duty in
time of crisis...in short...for being an un-American, non-Christian, moral coward.

Do you think your constituents are so stupid that we haven't been paying attention to what a do-nothing, phony liar you are?

I am deeply offended by your e-news mailing because of the insult you have offered me.

You have done everythng in your power to protect the super-rich, uber-wealthy 1%'ers, and nothing to protect the 99%...we, the people.

You are exactly the type of representative that we need to be free
of forever if we are to restore America's greatness.

You have done absolutely nothing during your term in office to help your suffering constituents, and now you turn to them for ideas as though you actually cared, when you've already had more than enough opportunity to get the job done yourself.

This disqualifies you from being seated in Congress again this election year.

You are a disgrace who does not deserve re-election.

In your service,

Michael McCue

Green Party voter

PS - Thanks to redistricting, I am no longer in your district, but don't think for a minute that will stop me from campaigning to prevent you from getting re-elected and spreading the word of what a moral coward you are!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marcus Shapiro February 28, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Time for a change! Vote Green Party 2012!
Esther Levy February 29, 2012 at 02:32 AM
I have to pick between Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in the next election. I knew nothing about Berman before so Brad Sherman looks very good by comparison. (Funny how many other politicians are endorsing Berman.) I would like to vote for a Green party candidate, but am afraid it's a wasted vote. Esther
Michael McCue February 29, 2012 at 03:23 AM
You actually DO have choices in this race, Esther. As 1912 presidential candidate, Eugene Debs, famously said, "It's better to vote for something that you want and NOT get it, than to vote for something that you DON'T WANT and GET IT!" Any vote is NEVER a waste...especially when you vote for a Green Party candidate. That's because voting for Green candidates sends a BIG message to the Two-Party Tyranny that you, as a voter, have wised up to the game and simply refuse to play along with their madeness anymore. Making independent parties stronger with your vote is NEVER wasting it...you are supporting wider choices and different voices that we need to hear from, rather than the same do-nothings whose records we already know to be a dismal failure.
Jennifer March 08, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Yeah, I can't back my super hawkish congressperson anymore, sad to say. He co-sponsonsered SOPA (both Berman and Sherman did). You can't have women's rights and animal rights in a vacuum (and it's just as difficult to exercise those rights in war-time), I need to be in synch with my congressperson on more issues than just those. And Reed...Reed said at the recent debate that he wants to invade Iran and skip sanctions. No thanks. I'm voting Green, never have before but Powelson looks good.
AG March 12, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Although I don't agree with your political stance on many issues things here, I agree this was a great article to get people involved in THEIR Govt. Too many people are clueless until too late to do much about encumbants. Vote the rascals out.

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