I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, when I came across something that really angered me, more so than the discussions around the government shutdown (which, might I add, is a good idea and we should shut it down until DACA is codified).
Senator Tom Cotton’s (R – AR) office sent a cease-and-desist letter to a constituent they claimed was harassing their office. The constituent said that she had just been an avid protester and wanted to have her voice heard by her Senator, as she has the right to.
Cotton’s office claims that the constituent called a 19-year-old intern a “c**t” and threatened her (the intern in Washington, while the constituent was in Arkansas). They say that the constituent had been warned, and that they don’t usually do this sort of thing, but that they needed to set some sort of example.
I spent last summer working as an intern in the Colorado Governor’s Office of Constituent Services. I dealt with the majority of our phone interactions. In any given week, I had about 300 interactions with constituents.
I didn’t go a single day without be cussed at.
I was threatened quite often.
And never did I ask my boss to send a cease-and-desist letter to any constituent.
I’m only 17.
Cotton’s office wants to claim that threatening language against a 19-year-old intern was grounds for legal action against a constituent. That was never a consideration for us in Governor Hickenlooper’s office. Even when a constituent who was a little angry and possibly threatening actually came to our office, we simply called the Colorado State Troopers in the State Capitol, and they helped us out and mediated the discussion with us.
Why can’t Cotton’s office do the same thing? They have an even better trained police force at the Capitol.
I think this drives a bigger discussion of who our good politicians are, and who are terrible ones are. On both sides of the aisle, there are elected officials who will direct their staff to treat every constituent’s concern with equal importance, no matter how difficult it is to handle. That was my goal in every constituent interaction, even when people would try to keep me on the phone for 35 minutes and tell me their life story.
I think, at the end of the day, it’s more important for us to choose people to govern us who are interesting in governing for every constituent. Above any ideology or policy discussion, this is most important. Because what happens when that constituent has a non-policy related concern, but can’t contact her senator because he’s threatening legal action against her because she had some questions for him that he didn’t want to answer?