And yes, I have definitely seen outreach from those letters. One such letter contained an election reform proposal which another activist read. He marched it in to a Kucinich house party, where Kucinich was present. Kucinich, in turn, wanted it to be made into law. Yet another activist contacted me a year later and told me she handed out leaflets at a movie with my election reform proposal on the leaflet. Mind you, this proposal was printed in a very small underground newspaper. Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of readers to be effective. It only takes the RIGHT reader to get something done. Period. Mission accomplished! Yes, letters to the editor can work! Cheer up folks. There is hope.
My election reform proposal, which I submitted to newspapers all around the country, clearly made the circles. Because people were posting about it from all over the country on Movoen.org's forum (prior to it being closed down). I attribute this to the fact that people like to read about solutions. Virtually every newspaper editor I submitted it to, printed it. Just one more reminder to us activists, that rants and dire predictions are less likely to be "heard" than something positive and pro-active.
I couldn't be sure though, whether or not those posting to Moveon's forum got the proposal from a local newspaper or from a chain email I had sent around: One person who posted to Moveon's forum about it, came from a town where I used to live, and where I had emailed someone. Then again, people from the Deep South, where I have never set foot, also wrote about it.
Later, The Christian Science Monitor, to whom I had emailed the proposal, also recently came out with a lie-based critique and a twisted "fact" statement about computerized voting being safe. I was shocked. But yes, it was the same proposal I had sent them which they mentioned.
Word does get around, if we take the time to circulate it. As we take that time, our efforts may be well rewarded.
There also were a few occasions in which I Flexed my Power (a website name, not related but just having fun with the words!) to politicians directly. And yes, it worked every time. It's particularly when I have let politicians know that I have carbon copied journalists and key people, that they ahve responded to me in person and taken a step back in their plans. This is a tactic I have used which I have found works very well. If people think that politicians don't care what we all think about them, they are very wrong.
One County Supervisor was pushing legislation which would have usurped personal freedoms. I emailed her a strong letter, letting her know that I was carbon copying the ACLU (which I did) and several newspapers. She responded to me personally, with a personalized message, trying to sweet-talk me. She also liked a lot of the ideas I had proposed, and was going to implement them.
And while I don't like to give myself undue credit---I don't enjoy the ego revelling, and much prefer to be an anonymous person, believe it or not----I also do think this letter I wrote to the California Secretary of Food and Agriculture had some effect. It was not the only thing, because citizen furor had already threatened the plan to aerially spray the entire San Francisco Bay Area (250-mile radius with numerous cities in its terrain) with pesticides never before tested on human beings. Was I mad! I perceived this as a mass murder attempt. You can laugh me out of town, but I don't care. What's wrong must be stopped. So....
I wrote the Secretary and told him in what I let him know was a public format, based on his claims that the pesticide spray was so non-toxic as to be edible without washing the produce, that he should please:
A) Stand in direct firing line of the jet's spray, unmasked, together with young and old family members and best friends, all also unmasked, aired on public TV
B) Eat the still-wet produce on TV, in front of our eyewitness eyes
C) Publicly air his doctor's exam (after all, the Patriot Act makes our medical records Federal property, so he was no exception either, I pointed out) in which his doctor would be shown on TV, stating that "nothing proves otherwise" that the pesticide spray had no connection to his own ensuing ill health. Because the Secretary had claimed, in writing, "nothing proved otherwise" that more than 3,000 illnesses plus one near-death of an infant bore no connection to the spraying, even though this happened just after the spraying had occurred, county-wide. The 3,000 cases may also reflect an under-reported figure.
What happened? I got a response by email not only from the California Secretary of Agriculture and Food whom I had written, but from Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and Senator Diane Feinstein, neither of whom I had written. Within days, the newspapers announced that the plan to spray inhabited areas had been abandoned. As a "compromise" they were going to spray shoreline areas and the public recreational areas. As if those would not poison our ground water.
So while I can't prove that my letter was the straw that broke the camel's back, I suspect it could have been. Because I let them know in that letter, very clearly, that I was carbon-copying it to a string of concerned citizens, to newspaper journalists, and to one person who is a military-trained expert in chemical warfare. The fact that I heard back from politicians whom I had not written to, cued me in that they had seen my letter, regardless. It obviously caused them some concern.
So, can we have an effect? Yes. That is my experience. And I share my experiences in the hope that others may, in turn, draw hope of their own.