Meeting your Representative
Below explores the path to meeting a representative. I will be posting a summary of the interview early next week along with news about further interviews to come.
For my first step into professional political commentary, and as a contributor to TheIndependentProgressive.com, I felt it necessary to write about the lack of response from elected officials. Not to go in empty-handed, I reached out locally, emailing three elected officials via the state website. The search process is quite simple, actually.
My thick-skinned, Internet-Millennial mind was ready to be ignored. After all, I had reached out to my Federal Senators, my governor, and Star Trek’s Patrick Stewart, who all ignored me, or at the best sent a copy-paste generic and ultimately meaningless response. My expectation: complete silence followed by mental empowerment to write an “I told you so. They don’t care!” blog post. Fortunately, my cynicism remained unrewarded.
Within an hour of my cynical electronic tantrum, I received two responses: State House Representative Harold Love’s office, and Congress House Representative Jim Cooper’s office. Both offered me a path to an interview. I immediately put on big-boy pants, and offered my available, “not in meetings at that time” slots.
My first interview, and what I will discuss here, was on May the 25th, 2017. Here, I sat down with State Senator Harold Love Jr to discuss engaging “younger people” in politics, and policy that effects his district.
Legislative Plaza is located in the Business District Downtown Nashville. The entrance is packed with a metal detector and a grunting police guard, who is friendly enough to lend an ancient and out-of-ink Planned Parenthood pen for note taking if asked nicely. The building feels old and established, but professional and accessible. Nothing about this building pretends to think it is better than the average person. It just is what it is.
Visiting your state legislature is as simple as this. Reach out; set a time; go inside; borrow a pen; walk to office. They are surprisingly real people. Moreover, they affect a given individual’s life more immediately than anyone else in government.
Finding a Way Inside
Admittedly, I was transparently confused entering the office, but two assistants, not part of Love’s office, informed that he was running late. I resolved for patience, and was rewarded by a drowsy 25 minutes sitting on the office couch. Deep down, I was slightly insulted. How could he be late? I arrived early! After all, didn’t I vote for him in a recent election?
Around the time I would have departed, Representative Love appeared in the door with a bagged lunch, and an apology. Destroying all barriers, he explained that he was attending the funeral of a constituent, one of my fellow voters.
That reason is what makes Representative Love work. The entire interview focused on his passion for his constituents. This passion glowed through answers across the board.
I’ll be honest here: I had no mental plan for my interview with District 58 Representative Love. My Psychology degree’s Alma Mater, Middle Tennessee State University, didn’t offer “Interviewing Your Legislature 101”. To Rep. Love, none of that mattered. He was ready to answer questions.
And that’s it. Want to talk to Harold Love Jr? Reach out and ask questions. He spent an hour speaking with me about education, healthcare, Net Neutrality, broadband access, and more. You can find the interview summary early next week.
EDIT: I should note that representative Senator Jeff Yarbro has yet to respond, though, I have given him a pass, since my guard was broken by others’ quick responses.
Aaron Albritton is a TIP Co-Founder and contributor to our blog. He can be found on Twitter @jAaronA and reached at Aaron At TheIndependentProgressive.com