If you looked at my Facebook wall, you wouldn’t guess that this election was “a referendum on Obama’s policies.”  Nearly all of my friends bemoan the fact that so many people voted against those policies before they really had a chance to get off the ground.  Does this mean I have a skewed view of what “most Americans” think these days?  Perhaps.

But one of my friends took a different view of the situation.  She blogs under the name Mom In A Million, and her post on the true effects of this election really got me thinking.  (She usually gets me thinking, which is why you should read her blog every day, not just this post.  But I digress.)

I’ve never been much of a political activist.  For years I didn’t follow any news outlet other than word of mouth — no email, no TV news, no daily paper.  As it became easier to get access to news on the web, I started with regular visits to MSN.com.  Then I met T, who insisted on watching both the national and local news each night, which got me a little more informed.  Then I started a job with a 90 minute commute during prime NPR news programming.  Suddenly, I have become much more informed, and also much more engaged, regarding politics in this country.

What MIAM’s post reminded me of was my recent experience with my current Senate representative.  I am a fairly liberal Democrat. I now live in Utah.  My Senator is Orrin Hatch. I pretty much figured I was screwed in this state, in terms of having my voice heard over the rest of his constituents in this state. But I have to say, when I have contacted his office, he has always responded.

When I wrote to say I’d like universal healthcare, he responded with a letter that essentially said, I’ll do what I think is best for my state, and that was OK. I am sure he got a lot more letters from his constituents telling him the opposite, and his job *is* to represent the majority.  They’re the ones that vote him into office.

But I also contacted him when Kyrgyzstan was in turmoil, urging him to let the State department and Hillary Clinton know that we should be helping them out. (It’s a little country that almost no one knows about, but I lived there for over 2 years, I know people who live in the south and in the areas where ethnic fighting was the worst, and I actually care.) I quickly got a letter back from Senator Hatch, saying he’d talked to Secretary Clinton about my concerns, and would keep me updated on developments. I was impressed that he claimed to have talked to the Secretary of State for me, but wasn’t going to hold my breath on a follow up.

And then one came. Seriously.

A few months later, I got a cover letter from him and an enclosed letter from the State Department with *my name* on it letting me know what the US decided to do to help Kyrgyzstan out.  I was very impressed.

So even a representative with fundamentally different beliefs than mine listened and did something on my behalf.

I guess the point of this is to say, if we stay engaged (something I have never done before), we can still have influence over the people who represent us in the government.  Even if we didn’t vote for them, even if we are disappointed that they won, when the fights begin again over legislation, we can pipe up.  We’re not limited to action just in election years. 

And these days, it’s so easy!  Just hop online, Google your representatives, and send them an email via their web pages.

I admit, I’ll never be one of those people who is dedicated enough to go door to door, or try to get petitions signed, or volunteer for a local campaign.  But I can send a quick email on the issues I find the most important.  And you can too.