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 assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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