Tag Archives: senator

To the Voter, with Love.

I’m being manipulated via franking privileges. And I like it.

A letter came in the mail today from a New Mexico senator – a politically worded piece on a political bill. Over the summer I had sent this senator a request for him to oppose a certain bill regarding internet use… you know the one I’m talking about. It was a new idea for me: You mean, I can TALK to my representatives? I can send them emails or letters, and call them on the phone? Sure, maybe it will go to a member of his staff at first, but at least it’s something.

Until that revelation, politicians to me seemed about as accessible as Jon Bon Jovi. You don’t just call up Jon Bon Jovi and say, “hey, buddy, wanna go out for a beer?” Granted, I wouldn’t ask a senator out for a beer if he or she was from certain states, either.

So around the same time as this revelation, I heard about the bill to restrict internet use based on cost… and decided to use my new-found POWER to speak up about it. It was pretty empowering, I’ll admit. I almost wanted to safety pin an anarchy symbol to my backpack.

Now, two months later, I’m getting a letter from said senator, thanking me for communicating my interests and giving me information about how the bill is progressing. I don’t remember much of it, as no caffeine had reached my brain yet. But here’s my dilemma:

1) I know that politicians are concerned first and foremost with getting reelected. I also know that politicians in office have full franking privileges – free use of the postal service… unlimited free stamps, if you will. So, if said politician wants to gain a supporter, all he/she has to do is put together some kind of personalized letter, and send it to the voter at no cost to either of them. Perhaps the letter will make the voter feel like she is being heard, make her feel special, make her feel flattered to be contacted by someone who is part of making big decisions in this country (or, contacted by someone who WORKS FOR the guy who is part of making big decisions in this country). It seems cheap when you look at it from that way. The politicians want to get reelected, so they manipulate your opinions of them by sending you shit that doesn’t cost them a penny. Seems cheap. I will not give in. I will not vote for you just because you sent me free mail!

2) I am flattered. I might vote for you just because you sent me free mail.

I’m faced with a political moral dilemma. To be persuaded, or not to be persuaded? I’ve heard tell of the rules of the game. Now, do I let myself be manipulated by them?

I know! I’ll just not vote. Apathy is always the answer.


Courtesy Down and Dirty: A Love Affair with Congress

Today it came to my attention just how much back scratching (otherwise termed something much dirtier) goes on between the President and Congress.

Take, for example, presidential appointment of federal justices. Not only do presidents get to stack the courts in your little home-state in their party’s favor, but they have something called a “senatorial courtesy.” In my understanding this is basically a game of Mother-May-I before the official nomination is made. It goes something like this.

Three Business Men

President X wants to appoint Judge Y from state Q for chief justice of the Supreme Court. President X performs a “senatorial courtesy” by asking the permission – no, really, don’t laugh – of a senator from state Q. Let’s call him Senator M, just to make this really fun and confusing. If Senator M from Judge Y’s state says, “nope, that dude’s one bad apple,” then President X will almost surely not continue with the nomination. You follow me so far?

Here’s the thing. President X already knows what Senator M is thinking. It’s like some weird combination of a Jedi use of the force, having political analysts at his disposal than fleas on a dog, and party lines. (I’m sure I’ll get to this later… for other idiots or recent idiots, party lines basically beg the question: Are you Democrat or Republican? We’re all like irrational baseball fans when it comes to political parties, and somehow the psychological attachment to either the color red or blue wins out over policy proposals of the individual. I didn’t make the rules.)

Back to senatorial courtesy. The president already basically knows what Senator M is going to say. There are only two choices, after all, and he’s got some savvy people working for him in the White House who are borderline crystal ball readers about these sorts of things.

So if President X already knows how Senator M is going to answer…. WHY BOTHER ASKING? And whyohwhy give it such a silly name?

I posit that this is another infuriating and entertaining fuddydism (technical term) that the U.S. government has allowed to persist merely to infuriate recent inductees into the realm of political learning, such as myself. What else could it be for? Other than perhaps a cool phrase to work into your everyday vernacular.

“Aw man, whadja do that for? You can’t ask the dude how he’s gonna feel when you pants him!”

“Hey, you know, I was just giving the brother a little senatorial courtesy…”