Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Editorial: Franking frankers!

The unnamed editor is incensed that our Congressman uses his free mail privilege to send us campaign advertising disguised as constituent service information.
     I totally get it, and I agree that most of the time our public officials either don't know or don't care that they're supposed to be using the mail this way to genuinely inform voters about what they're doing. It's reached the point of absurdity, true enough.
     But let's step back for a sec. The franking privilege is one of the few facilities for members of Congress to communicate directly with constituents. Imagine for a moment a theoretical Congresscritter who, out of a pure sense of duty, truly wants to let me know how he's voting on issues and why, what legislation he's seeing, and that he wants my input. Then factor in the elimination of franking for that purpose. What modes of communication are available?
     Is he supposed to finance mailings, or buy broadcast time, or hire a telephone survey company out of his own pocket? Or is he to rely on the commercial media to spread the word? Few outlets are as compliant as Prescott eNews, for example, in printing an official's news releases verbatim (if you're a member of the right party). Fewer still are interested in carrying the dull details that build a useful picture of a complex issue. And there is no medium that reaches every voter other than the post.
     Shutting off the only useful means of communicating with constituents does not make sense in a democracy (or a republic, for all you selective pedants out there). Doesn't it make a lot more sense to look at the Congresscritter's communications and fully take them in as statements about the character and competence of the person we've sent to work for us? From that standpoint, even the most grossly abused mailing is eminently valuable, imho. And it costs us damn little.

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