Members of Congress and their staff generally look forward to the August "recess," a time during which the pace slows, vacation beckons, and the work hours shorten. It is a month for lawmakers to return to their home states and districts, reconnect with folks "back home," and get a handle on the pulse of their constituents. It is generally a "mom and apple pie" time for legislators, most of whom will tell you how much they love being home.
But this August seems a little different.
Watching the media coverage of raucous town hall meetings where lawmakers are getting an earful on health care reform and other issues and dealing with a passionate electorate underscores the importance of the 2008 elections. Voters feel personally invested in the political candidates they supported — Democrats and Republicans alike — and they are paying attention to what is going on in Washington. The robust attendance at town hall meetings (whether driven by outside interest groups or not) is, in my opinion, a good thing. How often do voters know where their elected officials will be and when? How often do they get a chance to talk with and ask questions of legislators directly, instead of leaving messages with staff?
I'm not endorsing the rowdiness, rudeness, or violence that has taken place at some of these town hall gatherings, but I do believe August presents constituents with better opportunities to get to know lawmakers than other times. August is the perfect time to invite legislators to visit your business and meet your employees. Make an appointment to meet with your lawmakers in one of their district or statewide offices. Take advantage of their proximity to your home to build a relationship with them and offer your opinions. The more you reach out, the more they will remember you and call on you for advice when making important decisions.