By Pat Schroeder
Former Congressional Representative from Colorado
With a mandate-less president we women need to watch our elected officials carefully. As a former member of Congress I know what it feels like to be watched, so I can tell you the best way to apply pressure. Gather like-minded friends and form a monitoring cabal....
Here are some watchdog techniques:
If your elected officials aren't to your liking, meet with them as a group and give them the chance to "court" you. All federal representatives have offices in their districts and all are interested in expanding their base. But since they don't read brain waves, you will have to tell them why you didn't support them. This is crucial because "I never knew this was important to you" is a politician's favorite excuse.
Even if your candidate won, she or he still needs reminding that your continued support is based on kept promises. If your attempts to meet are thwarted, write letters to the editor relating to your experience. Run an ad with the politician's picture, offering a reward to anyone who can supply information on the whereabouts of this person. You will be called troublemakers - a badge you should wear proudly.
Whenever an issue comes up that you care about, alert your elected representatives. If they vote incorrectly print up flyers describing the issue and telling people how their legislators voted. Send a copy to that legislator and say that you have posted hundreds over all over the district. Extending tentacles into the community is a politician's worst nightmare, and most will want to know how to stop you.
Now that I'm no longer in Congress, I love to use my rights as a citizen to plague Congress members. So, if you've packed it in until the next campaign issue, unpack. We can either ring our hands or roll up our sleeves, and I don't know anyone who can wring and roll at the same time.
Excerpted from Ms. Magazine February/March 2001, p.33
Former Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo) is president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.