Friday, January 02, 2009

How To Be A Part Time Political Activist

Do you live in the real world? You know the one I mean right?

That's the world where the amount of money in your bank account determines if you buy steak or hamburger. That's the world of the McUSA family. It's the world where most people's knowledge of politics comes from watching CBS, NBC, ABC , FOX, or CNN after putting in eight to twelve (or even more) hours on the clock. The real world for most of us means that we don't have the spare time to “get involved”. We are proud of ourselves if we manage to vote.

Well, Hope and Change is here! No, I don't mean President Elect Obama. What I mean is that this blog post is going to provide you with the means to get involved in your spare time for no money down and small monthly payments of only minutes. Just click the link to read more.

The first thing you need is a Computer. Hmmmmm, looks like you have one or access to one or you would not be reading this. So, with all of that, look at each of the headings and check out the online resources that lets you be involved.


Blogging takes time. But, if you have a passion for something you will make the time. So if you are a commentator at heart or a news reporter Blogging is for you. To create a blog you need a host and the ability to follow simple directions. A knowledge of HTML will help but is not required. To get started Blogging check out the following.

Where do you go?A little bit about it
Blogger.comEasy interfaces with lots of options. Hosting on Blogger is free and you can find a huge number of templates.
Wordpress.comNot as easy as Blogger IMO but very popular. I only have a limited experience with Wordpress. But don't let that stop you. Check it out and make your own call.


Message boards are a great place to go to discuss politics. A knowledge of BBCode (a subset of HTML) is handy but not required. Fair warning, most folks on the MB's are very well informed about their passion. This means you may attract opponents who will insult you. The best boards have a large member base that represents the entire political spectrum. It's not as effective as some other methods because you are in essence preaching to the choir. But, it is a great way to debate and refine your ideas. BTW, these boards are the ones I am involved in. There are literally thousands or more out there. A fast Google Search will help you immensely.

Where do you go?A little bit about it


A very small board with a few friendly posters. They know each other and are very willing to discuss opposing views.

US Message Board

A very large board. The posters range from smart to sarcastic to ignorant to abusive. Due to its large member base there are always topics under discussion.

Political Forum

See US Message Board except that the rules require civility. The Moderators will edit or ban posters who break the rules. This is a new board to me and shows promise.


This is the straight and to the point way to be a part time activist. You are sending communication directly to the people who work for you.


  1. Keep it short and directly to the point. Legislators are busy. Usually a staff member reads the mail. This means you are trying to sell the staffer into talking to the big guy about your issue.
  2. Be polite. A rude or obnoxious letter not only has no class, but is considered not credible. The staffer will note it and toss it.
  3. Be specific. Don't ramble (see #1) on the Constitution when your concern is the 5th Amendment.
  4. Be timely. Your issue is number one with you. But, the reality is that legislators pay more attention to the issues in the news. Scan the news and time your letters to coincide with the trends.

Where do you go?

A little bit about it


Official Web Sites

Every elected official has a web page. This page will have a “contact” option somewhere on it. Click that link and follow the instructions given.

USAY Foundation offers a directory of your elected officials

Third Party Web Sites

Third Party sites offer communications to the politicians and other options. Some will offer, for a fee, to hand deliver physical letters for example. Some third party sites are themed. The bottom two listed on the right allow you to create issues and questions and send them to the Obama transition team.

Yahoo News offers a service that will look up your elected officials and walk you through the process to contact them.

Whitehouse2 allows you to rank your issues against other members and send your “vision” to the Obama transition team. is the official Obama Transition Team site. Here you can ask questions of the team. Click on Open for Questions.


I saved the best for last in my opinion. A well informed constituent will eventually get on his or her legislators list of people to be paid attention to. IF you send enough mail that is on point, well informed, and constructive you will be heard. BTW, most elected folks accept letters from constituents only. An exception is if you are writing someone because of a specific position. For
example you may have an issue that requires the action of the Speaker of the House. So, send your letter to your Representative and to the Speaker. Clearly identify to the speaker that you are talking to her in her role as speaker and not as your personal representative.

In order to be well informed you need to be able to follow the legislation. This table will give you the online sources I personally have found to be useful.

Where do you go?A little bit about itAddresses

Open Congress

The site monitors the status of every bill in Congress. You can join for free and then track your representatives, bills, etc. You can also make friends and provide commentary.

Project Vote Smart

PVS is a nonprofit site that catalogs the politicians. You can research key votes, speeches, ratings, bios, etc.

Project Vote Smart


The official site of the library of Congress that holds all bills. This is the real deal when you want to see the source without anyones opinion. Warning, the interfaces are not the easiest. This site has a learning curve.

Thomas in the Library of Congress

Well there you have it. Everything you need to get online and become an effective and informed part-time activist.

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