You are being flooded with political news daily. As you drive or walk around your neighborhood, town, or city, are you asking yourself whether your community leadership is seeing the problems that you see? Are you wondering about the amount of influence you have over the actions of your community leadership?
For example, you may be asking yourself about the political decision-making process. “Do I know what my local or state representative does?” “Do I know how to access the process?” “Am I too busy to learn about the process or even care?” “Am I really too busy to participate in the process?”
As a taxpayer, don’t you want to see returns on that income tax or property tax payment? The taxes collected by the government are a significant portion of your income and making that payment may be easier (may be) if you are able to influence the political process.
You do know this: solving the problem of understanding the political process is necessary to your quality of life. Understanding the process results in a more predictable community environment which in turn leads to less uncertainty about how you take care of your family and household.
One pathway to understanding the political process is to meet with your local or state representatives. Your representative is a source of first-hand knowledge about what is happening inside of government and the political environment around decision making.
Keep in mind that your representative has an incentive to meet with you as well. Your representative views you as a potential donor to her campaign. Whether you decide to donate to a campaign or not will boil down to how you view the representative’s effectiveness. Remember, however, that as soon as a representative gets into office, they are “dialing for dollars” to support the next campaign. That gives you leverage.
In addition to the need for donors, a representative is incentivized to meet with you because she needs allies to spread her message. Political behavior is centered on narrative and elected officials need mouthpieces in the community that can articulate the elected official’s story to other community members. As part of the process of being an ally in spreading the message, the elected official is speculating that you may also be a conduit to the community, reading the pulse of the community, and passing that information back to her.
One of your goals then is to leverage the elected official’s need to seek feedback about her constituents by presenting yourself as the eyes and ears of the community.
Preparation is key to meeting with your elected representatives. As with all preparation, knowing where to start is important. I recommend starting with clear intent about your meeting. Are you meeting with the representative just to get to know them better? Are you meeting with the representative for the purpose of supporting a current advocacy campaign?
The second starting point should be knowledge about the decision-making process itself. A city council or state legislature website is a good start for identifying a summary of the process. Reading about the decision-making process on a website won’t make you a legislative expert overnight, but it will result in an expansion of your knowledgebase.
Taking the above steps will provide a platform for creating your list of “asks.” You should attend your meeting with a list of no more than three of your major concerns. Having this list as a guide to your discussions will increase the efficiency of the meeting while giving your elected representative documented information about your community’s concerns and a blueprint for tweaking her narrative.
In conclusion, you are capable of being an advocate for your community needs. There are steps that you can take to ensure that your elected official’s campaigns and decision-making take into account your narrative. Getting to know your representatives is an important approach to expanding your influence on the political process.
13 February 2023
Want to learn more about how you can expand your influence on the government and political decision-making process? Take advantage of my Government Strategies Service. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.