Email #93, Subject: “as he always does”?

Every time I call one of your offices, the conversation ends with a staffer saying: “I cannot speak for the Congressman.” It’s frustrating, but I understand that a staffer doesn’t know why you support or don’t support a given piece of legislation. But I receive this response even when I ask for basic information. Sometimes I’m calling because I don’t know your position on an issue and I’m trying to find out.

Often your staffers, even experienced ones like your district scheduler in Roanoke and your district supervisor in Staunton, act as if they don’t know anything about you. It’s as if you employ only office temps and have handed out typed scripts for them to read back to callers. This is especially frustrating given your repeated statement: “I’ve always made it my priority to communicate with the people I represent.” Your offices are not demonstrating this priority.

Communication is a two-direction process, but the staffers who answer your phones only record questions and promise to pass them up to you. When I met with your communications director, I asked her what exactly that meant—did you, for instance, receive a tally each day for the number of calls and letters on given topics? She said, no, it was much more than that. She said you receive a typed summary of every single communication so that you can review them all yourself.

That would be impressive, especially given the rise in calls and letters to DC since the election. Senator Kaine, for instance, says his volume has risen 900%. I’ve only contacted his office twice myself, so I can only imagine what your volume is. Do you actually read all of the summaries? Have you ever seen one of mine?

I have written you an email every day since December 4th, and your office has sent me a total of nine form letters on your behalf. That’s roughly a 10% response rate. If you include all of the times I’ve phoned and not received responses, the percentage drops much lower. Your district supervisor went off script recently and added that Congressman Goodlatte would respond to my question “as he always does.” I also left messages after your two recent telephone town halls and, even though you personally said “We will respond to you,” no one did.

Anyone in the 6th district watching you over these past two months sees a Congressman retreating behind bureaucratic defenses. No town halls. Only unannounced photo-op appearances with cherry-picked supporters. No answers to difficult questions. Only staff-written form letters and newsletter fluff.

I realize these are complicated times for Republicans facing an unprecedented post-election backlash, but you are making them worse. Instead of countering the public impression that you are an out-of-touch politician who either doesn’t care about voters or is terrified of them, you are confirming it.



Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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