Email #110, Subject: “calls, letters, and emails”

In your February letter to me, you identified “ways Obamacare isn’t working for Virginians,” adding that the “calls, letters, and emails I’ve received about what families, seniors, and businesses have experienced only emphasize this fact.”

Since you consider calls, letters, and emails from your constituents to be important, would you please report what your recent calls, letters, and emails have emphasized? Your Republican colleague Rep. Daniel Donovan estimated that calls to his office ran “about 1,000-to-1 against” the American Health Care Act. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie gave an exact tally: 275 opposed the AHCA, and 4 supported it. The Washington Post collected statistics from House member tweets for a total of over 52,000 against and 1,1000 for — roughly a 49-to-1 ratio.

Your communications director told me that all of your offices not only keep tallies, but also carefully record comments which are then forwarded to you in summary documents. If so, you must have considerable documentation regarding your constituents’ calls, emails, and letters. Since several of your Republican colleagues released their statistics, you would not be breaking party lines by sharing yours too.

When speaking on the House floor in support of the AHCA on Friday, you cited three constituents who had contacted you: “Kay from Roanoke,” “Susan from Bedford,” and “a nurse from Warren county.” All three, you said, were unhappy with the ACA. Oddly, you said nothing about any of the three supporting the AHCA. I suspect Kay, Susan, and the unnamed nurse would be any happier had the ACHA passed.

You also said nothing about any of your constituents who spoke against the ACHA. If your office is anything like Virginia Senator Tim Kaine’s, you have experienced a 900% increase in calls, emails, and letters since the inauguration. Are we to understand that Kay, Susan, and the unnamed nurse are representative? Or did you cherrypick three to bolster your pre-existing opinions? And did you not have a single constituent contact you in support of the AHCA?

I know from attending three of your open door meetings and listening to two of your telephone conference calls that several of your constituents have expressed personal stories to you about how the ACA has been their lifeline. And that’s just in Lexington alone. Why didn’t you cite one of them on the House floor too? Or do you ignore calls, emails, and letters that don’t suit your political agenda?

Messages from your constituents either matter or they don’t. Alluding to them only when they support your political opinions is embarrassingly hypocritical. Either release your phone tallies or stop pretending that any of them mean anything to you at all.



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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