How seriously those messages are taken by Congress varies widely, chiefly because, when it comes to interacting with the public, there’s really no such thing as Congress per se. There are five hundred and thirty-five small businesses that together form the legislative arm of government, and their way of dealing with constituents can differ as much as their politics…
…For constituent activity to have more immediate effects on the actions of lawmakers, however, other conditions—most of them necessary, none of them necessarily sufficient—must apply. Broadly speaking, these include a huge quantity of people acting in concert, an unusually high pitch of passion, a specific countervailing vision, and consistent press coverage unfavorable to sitting politicians. Together, these can create the most potent condition of all: the possibility (or, at any rate, the fear) that the collective restiveness could jeopardize reëlection.