It’s no secret that I love John Oliver. He’s brilliant, he’s funny, he makes me laugh, he makes me cry. That is, he makes me laugh as he reveals awful truths about our nation and government that make me cry. I somehow missed this gem from last November in which he discusses state legislatures. Unlike the senate and congress, these folks are getting things done, a lot. But, we have no idea who they are or what they’re doing. Spoiler: lots of them are awful people doing awful things in our name. John appropriately labels it a shadow government. Watch the segment below.
Actual Spoiler: after he introduces a handful of terrible people, he lets you know that they’re running unopposed. Democracy in action, amirite!?
However, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I couldn’t rattle off all of my representation if I had to. The good news is, it took less than 5 minutes of internetting to find out who these folks were. It probably wouldn’t take you much time either.
- Openstates.org will identify your state legislators
- Whoismyrepresentative.com will take care of U.S. senate and congress
- Progressivemass.com has contact information–including Twitter!–for Massachusetts state legislators
- Malegislature.gov also has tool for finding your representation
It’s that simple. For other folks living in Massachusetts, Progressive Massachusetts even has Twitter lists you can subscribe to. This is the first step. Putting names and faces to the people who claim to represent us. Our taxes pay their salaries, they serve us, we should know who they are. At this stage, I couldn’t even tell you who the good ones and the bad ones are, but I want to get there.
The other reason for identifying our representative is so we can complain to the right people. It has gotten so easy to vent and kvetch about the state of affairs. Except we’re only complaining to our friends and the rest of the internet. This is important in that it might raise awareness around issues. It does not take the place of calling or writing a letter to your representative. I am absolutely the worst at this. I complain like hell and rarely ring up the folks in charge.
Let’s considered this a belated New Year’s resolution. Now that I’ve identified my representation, I’m going to engage with them. I’m writing about it here so I can be held accountable (it just tends to motivate me more when I’ve put my goals out there in a public way). I’ve created a note in Evernote that lists my representation and a twitter list for easy reference. I’ll admit, I’m still fuzzy on the who’s who even with these directories but I’m already more informed than I was 10 minutes ago. As Mr. Oliver notes, every legislature is composed differently and functions slightly differently.
Don’t you already feel a bit more informed? Won’t it feel great to direct your anger to real person?
UPDATE 2/22/15 10:30 PM: While this was a focus on state representation, it doesn’t hurt to know your municipal people, too. I just learned who my city councilor is. If you live in Boston, you can find yours here (enter your address).