An article about the crook, Cunningham, and most of Congress, really, makes another point:
Perhaps conceding more than he intended, former Democratic Sen. John Breaux, now on K Street, told the New York Times that a member of Congress will be swayed more by 2,000 letters from constituents on some issue than by anything a lobbyist can offer. I guess if it's a lobbyist versus 1,900 constituents, it's too bad for the constituents. That seems fair.
There has to be a way to actually measure these types of things. Sure, we have polls and all that, but what if we could look at any given issue - any given vote that our representative was about to take, and decide exactly how much opposition, in the form of, say, handwritten letters, would cause that politician to side with us instead of his bribers, the business of lobbying group trying to buy ff his vote.
Let's take a concrete hypothetical. How many handwritten letters to Governor Schwarzenegger would it take for the Guv to grant clemency to Tookie Williams? 2,000? 20,000? 200,000?
It'd be nice, I would think, from an activist's point of view, to be able to shoot for a specific target like '200,000 letters written', instead of some fuzzy target like 'latest public opinion poll says that Arnold's re-election chances probably won't be hurt by granting Tookie clemency'.
What is that number for Tookie? What is that number for any number of different issues/politicians/votes/districts? So, really, not just 'what is that number?', but 'what is that formula?'
Maybe something like this, is what I'm looking for:
[% of likely voters] x
[strength of disagreement on issue] x
[strength of issue overall] ==
[minimum number of letters required to get pol's support]
Just a thought...