It can be frustrating when your members of Congress disagree with you on many or even most issues. But with persistence, organizing, and strategy, you can move your members of Congress toward peace and justice.
Have you ever thought “My representative never agrees with me, so why bother talking to her at all?” or “The candidate I supported lost, so I guess I’m stuck with someone terrible.”
Don’t give up yet! Here’s the secret: Most members of Congress have some wiggle room in their positions. They likely campaigned on a few key issues, but no member of Congress can spend 100 percent of their energy on every issue.
Your work after Election Day will help determine their stances in office. Just like people in many jobs, they have to set priorities. You can help shape those priorities by building momentum in your community and making clear asks for change. While you may not make them a champion, you can give them a fuller picture of the issue and reduce their leadership in the other direction.
First: Build Momentum on the Issue
Your representative and senators need to represent their entire district or state – not just you. Find a few friends in your area who agree with you, and work together. Most members of Congress are responsive to their constituents; it’s about building enough momentum that the members of Congress have to pay attention.
Speak out in the media
When your member of Congress takes a position you disagree with, write a letter to the editor expressing your disappointment. This isn’t just a way to share your opinion with your community; when members of Congress are mentioned by name in local newspapers, they pay attention. Several letters on the same issue – written by you and your friends – will definitely get noticed.
Tell your story
What leads you to care about this issue? Sharing a personal experience or a perspective from your faith can help change the mind of your member of Congress. There are a few ways to tell your story:
Have a meeting with the staff member working on the issue (lobby visit)
Send an email, letter, or postcard. Include a photo if the story is about you personally.
Include your story (briefly!) in your letter to the editor.
Tell your story at the beginning of a town hall question.
Demonstrate community support
For some members of Congress, it’s all about the numbers. First, save the phone numbers of your local congressional offices in your phone so you can call often. Then, get your community involved! Share action alerts (like FCNL’s) on social media. Encourage friends, neighbors, and members of your meeting to sign up for FCNL’s action alerts. Starting an FCNL Advocacy Team is a great way to build a network of activists in your area.
Next: Ask for Change
Schedule a meeting with your member of Congress or their staff working on the issue. A small group of four to six people may increase the likelihood of meeting directly with the member of Congress.
Bring with you letters to the editor, effects their position would have on your community, and other community support you know about. Tell your story of why the issue matters to you. Then make your ask.
This is the tricky part. It’s difficult to get a member of Congress to completely reverse their position overnight. Instead, ask them to move toward neutral action — not cosponsoring that dangerous legislation, voting present instead of yes, or asking their party leadership not to bring the legislation to a vote. Once they’re in a more neutral position, continue encouraging them to move toward positive action.
Changing a member of Congress’ position takes time. Build momentum in your community, then come back to your member of Congress and ask for change. Make sure to keep in touch with the congressional staff member working on the issue – flag any new letters to the editor or local media that they might not have seen. Treat the staffer like a human being, and work to build a relationship with them based on integrity and trust.