The Congressional Management Foundation has put together an interesting newsletter with lessons learned from the whole "Congress e-mail logic problem" situation. They make the very good point that both sides of the debate (both the pro and anti logic problem camps) feel strongly that they are promoting democracy. And, as CMF points out, both have something useful to say. For Congress, the point is that by reducing the number of "point and click" letters, where it's not clear how seriously the sender feels about the subject, they are allowing the more serious and concerned citizens to have their voices heard. Grassroots advocates (and, of course, the businesses that make money promoting advocacy) feel that the many new tools available have allowed more people to join in the debate, even if at a low-level.
The main lesson that comes out of all of this is that, one way or another, whether we like it or not, Congress is continuing to decrease the attention it pays to form letters. Frankly, it never paid much attention to them anyway -- it's just more obvious now. Grassroots organizations need to understand and adapt to this phenomenon if they are going to be successful in swaying elected officials. Form letters have their place, but that place is often not about making a difference in the political process. Generally, form letters do far more to help the organization learn about its membership than anything else.
To see the CMF's Newsletter, go to http://www.cmfweb.org/071706.asp