Representative democracies only work if you can represent yourself. Ian Webster made it easier to do just that with one phone call. Call 1-844-USA-0234 to be immediately connected to your members of Congress.
A phone call can be a powerful tool for policy change. A call is a record of your voice, and your opinion. Every day, representatives get a brief of how many constituents (psst, that’s you) called, and which issues they called about.
I know this because I used Ian’s hack to call my representatives, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12) to ask them about this comment reporting policy. It took me three minutes.
Removing The Barriers
Ian built the hack in an evening using Twilio’s Node.js library. And yes, it is open source. When you call the number, enter in your zip code and you’ll be automatically connected with your representative. You can press star at any time to be automatically forwarded to your other representatives.
It’s that simple; and simplicity can seem novel when you’re attempting to toss your opinion into the gears of political process. Luckily, politicians’ phones ring just like everyone else.
That’s part of what inspired the hack, but only part. Ian addressed why he built this in a quote that I will not paraphrase, but rather include in full.
“To be honest, it was the Orlando shootings. It’s easy to feel helpless in the aftermath of situations like these, where something’s so absolutely broken in our country and we can’t do anything about it.
I believe in our representative democracy, and after reading about how representatives review communications from their constituents, I concluded that even a single phone call to a Congressperson can create marginal change. It’s not much, but if I believe strongly in something, the least I can do is take action to back it up.
I created this app because even though it’s very easy to look up your senator’s phone numbers, the friction is still too high (you need to find the site, enter your information, and place 4 separate phone calls). Instead of doing all that, I’d rather just store this number in my phone, knowing that I can reach all my senators and representatives with one tap.”