Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Joe Biden wants to help you write a letter to the editor -- for all the good it'll do

"I've been there," pronounces the subject line in the e-mail blast from Joe Biden that just landed in my in-box. And judging from the message that follows, the veep is still there, stuck in the '80s, when the letters pages of newspapers actually had power. When they were, in Biden parlance, Big Fucking Deals.

"Believe me, senators and their staff read the letters page -- because they know just how influential it can be. Your letter could make a tremendous difference," writes Biden -- or, more to the point, someone at who really should know better, considering how the Obama campaign used new technology so well just a few years ago.

Yes, senators still read letters, and pay attention to the number of people weighing in on either side of an issue. But anyone who wants to can e-mail a note directly to a senator's office, skipping the middleman of the newspaper. Where such copycat messages -- Biden's note provides a helpful link for those who need some cut-and-paste aid -- now inevitably wind up in the dead-letter pile.

Because a carbon-copy message is no longer a BFD at newspapers, which today reserve their precious space for letters that at least include a few original words.

Here's Biden's note:

Two weeks after it was signed into law, health insurance reform is still the talk of the town.

It's for a good reason: This was a historic accomplishment. But it wasn't easy. I remember what it's like to be a senator and take a tough stand on an issue -- confident that it's the best thing for your constituents, but equally sure that special interests will pour buckets of money into attacking you for it.

Your senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, did just that when they supported health reform. Now, we need to provide a line of defense money can't buy: the voices of real constituents speaking out and showing their support.

That's where you come in. Do you have three minutes to jot down a quick letter to your local newspaper? If you need ideas on what to say, you can watch a quick video Organizing for America put together about how reform will benefit Colorado....

Believe me, senators and their staff read the letters page -- because they know just how influential it can be. Your letter could make a tremendous difference.

In my conversations with my old colleagues, I made it clear that this White House was prepared to back them up -- that no barrage of partisan attack ads would go unanswered. But to follow through, I'm going to need some help from folks like you.

This legislation will put Americans in control of their own health care, rein in insurance-company abuses, and give millions of Americans access to affordable health care for the first time.

Special interests know that in the coming months, all their lies about reform will be proven false. But that won't stop them from inventing new ones and spreading attack ads.

It's just the first step, but one letter from a constituent is worth a hundred paid advertisements. So please make sure your friends and neighbors understand the benefits this law will bring to ordinary Americans -- take three minutes and write a paragraph or two now:


Vice President Joe Biden

Just don't send those letters to me.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun