The next time someone says, "There's no point in calling my members of Congress, it doesn't make any difference, I already know how they're going to vote," I'm going to scream.
If there ever was a case of a massively destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy, it's this. This doesn't just apply to electoral politics, either: I'll get to that in a bit. When people don't participate in the political process--when they don't vote, don't call or write their elected officials, don't organize, don't protest, don't volunteer, don't talk with friends or family about politics, don't stay informed--then yes, their representatives will absolutely ignore them. But the happy flip side is also true: when people do vote, call, write, organize, protest, volunteer, talk with friends or family, and stay informed, then our representatives listen. Not always, not all of them, and not as much as we'd like them to--but they listen.
Exhibit A: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (usually shortened to the Affordable Care Act or ACA).
Here's the thing to remember about the Affordable Care Act: it was doomed. Everyone with any expertise said it was doomed after the 2016 election, so progressives were scrambling to build a safety net for people the ACA would abandon and figuring out what else to prioritize. Conservatives had already moved on in their heads and were planning their next step.
But the ACA wasn't doomed. It was saved.
There are a lot of reasons the Affordable Care Act was saved and the craptastic "replacement," unimaginatively called the American Health Care Act, was defeated before it even came to a vote. Republican lawmakers thought they had more of a consensus than they did (they seriously underestimated the absurdity of the Freedom Caucus); they didn't have a real plan; and Donald Trump is utterly incompetent at governing. (As my wife Ingrid says, he has a five-year-olds idea of what it means to be president.)
But one of the biggest reasons the ACA was saved is that people spoke up for it. In droves. People called, wrote, faxed, lobbied, demonstrated, sent letters to the editor, showed up at town hall meetings, and used social media to get their friends and family to do all of the above--all to let their senators and representatives know that they wanted the ACA, needed the ACA, weren't going to let the ACA go without a fight, and would bloody well remember who did and didn't support it when the 2018 elections came around.
And it worked. The...