The complaints came in emails, phone calls, Facebook messages. The details varied a bit, but they boiled down to this:
I’m trying to reach Sen. John McCain or Sen. Jeff Flake to tell them my views, and I can’t get through.
Voice mailboxes were full, day after day, for weeks. No one answered or callers were disconnected when calling district and Washington office numbers. Emails didn’t merit a response, or bounced back. Visitors to the local McCain office one afternoon found a “closed” sign on the door.
I, too, called the numbers and found the same busy signals, endless ringing, hang-ups and full voicemailbox messages.
The people I heard from were frustrated. They wanted to tell their senators to save the Affordable Care Act, or at least not repeal it without a good, detailed replacement; to not approve Betsy DeVos as secretary of education; to fight Donald Trump on building the border wall, using torture or defunding the National Endowment for the Arts; to better protect Medicare and Social Security.
Some constituents chalked it up to politicians not wanting to hear from them, the people they’re supposed to serve.
How can we let our representatives know what we think if they won’t even let us leave a message?
People who have been appalled by Trump’s moves in his nascent presidency want to make darn sure their electeds know it — that when Trump claims to speak for the “American people,” he’s certainly not speaking for them.
Maybe they’re upset by something the Republicans have done, or not done, and they need to make their voices heard.
This is how democracy is supposed to work, right? If you’re concerned about something, call your congressmen and senators.
Well, there’s some good news. It looks as if technology and message-taking hasn’t been able to keep up with the direct democracy being exercised by people with a strong opinion and a phone.
I called McCain’s office — it helps to have the contact info for his press office — to ask about the problems constituents have been experiencing.
Messages have been coming in so quickly, with so many pouring in at once, that the system was overwhelmed. The space on the voicemail was filled up more quickly than they could retrieve the messages to create more space.
It’s happening across Capitol Hill.
According to McCain’s office, they’ve been receiving an average of 2,500 calls per day.
His spokeswoman, Julie Tarallo, responded with this statement:
“Senator McCain’s office is working around-the-clock to listen, catalogue and respond to constituents in Arizona and across the country who contact our office. Because of the high volume of calls our office receives each day, including a large portion from citizens outside of Arizona, there are times when our staff members are not able to speak to every person who calls. We urge all those who are not able to reach our office by phone to leave a message, or contact Senator McCain in writing (via the contact form on his website, mccain.senate.gov).”
I find this situation encouraging. This traffic jam of public comment can’t be ignored. Hearing individual messages from constituents can directly affect elected officials’ positions.
Not everyone is saying the same thing, of course, but the numbers speak to a deep need to be involved, to be heard. The drive to participate has been ignited, because Americans are seeing what’s at stake in Trump’s version of America: our health, economic security, the environment, quality education, reasoned policy discussions, foreign relations, even the truth itself.
McCain is in a position to stand up to Trump. So should fellow Republicans Sen. Flake, and Rep. Martha McSally.
Keep calling and emailing your senators and representatives. Heck, send some snail mail, too.
Full contact info can be found on their individual websites.
Sen. McCain’s Tucson office is (520) 670-6334.
Sen. Flake’s Tucson office is (520) 575-8633.
Rep. McSally’s Tucson office is (520) 881-3588.
If you can’t get through, try again. And when you do, share your opinion — and let them know that democracy needs a larger mailbox.