The head fake …
We are in the silly season. National election primaries are ramping up as the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus looms in February and a number of state legislatures prepare for state representatives to invade their respective state capitals. It is the silly season because candidates will attempt to sell you ideas and plans that have not a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. All one has to do is listen to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders’ promises of delivering free college education or free childcare for working families without once laying out the tactics for dealing with a Senate that will likely be in the hands of the Republican Party on 3 January 2021.
The danger of group non-efficacy ….
One overlooked incident of silliness is the voters’ placement of limits on their own political power. Many voters limit their power and influence to the singular act of voting. The reasons are well documented. Voters are working two jobs trying to keep food on the table. After working two or more gigs to feed their kids, voters want to chill for a couple hours watching Netflix versus going to a city council meeting or watching a debate or congressional hearing on C-SPAN.
These types of voters, those who cannot make the time to glean information on policy making are dangerous and quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed near a voting booth as their uninformed voting decisions have a negative impact on the rest of society (although some candidates may like this type of voter as long as they have bought into the candidate’s narrative hook, line, and sinker.) Creating a large collective of voters i.e. political colonization, is advantageous to a candidate especially where the candidate can sell that group on what the group’s self-interests should be. The candidate enjoys efficiencies from aggregating this most important electoral resource because creating a collection of voters buoyed by a few singular issues helps to refine the number of promises or political packages the candidate has to offer.
The risk to individual households with interests that vary widely from the group is that their political needs will not be served. Being herded into a large group, whether based on race, culture, income, etc., dilutes your position, limits your influence, drowns out your voice. There is a decision to be made. Either be the wolf maximizing your political gains or be the sheep herded to the slaughter spawned by dissatisfaction.
Each household must step out on its own….
An individual household cannot hold itself back out of some false sense of allegiance to a group. There is no rule saying you must bear the cost of a group’s non-efficacy. Once you have decided that only you can increase your influence; that showing up just to vote is not enough, then you must take the next step of investment. I will not tell you that the investment is cheap, but the costs can be minimized. Here are a few simple steps that you may have already heard of.
First, build your political network. That network may be right in front of you. We are all six or fewer handshakes away from meeting Kevin Bacon. Someone in your network likely knows a policymaker or elected official. In that case, seek out an introduction.
One other way to meet policy makers or elected officials is to identify the policy maker or elected official that is making a decision on a matter that you are most interested in. Contrary to public belief, elected officials want to meet you. You are their resource. When you identify them, set up a meeting or determine what events they will be attending so that you can meet them.
Second, continuously engage your policy makers or elected officials on those top issues you are concerned about. Engagement need not be expensive. Written correspondence is great. A short letter will suffice. Letters are preferable to email. While both types get entered into the record, letters get more thorough responses. Also, if your budget allows, offer to meet the policy maker or elected official for coffee or lunch. As long as you are not lobbying on behalf of a group or business, no disclosure reports need be filed.
You can near guarantee an audience if you are bringing some insights or knowledge to the table. In your emails or letters, always demonstrate that you are abreast of the issue by sharing some tidbit that you have researched. This bit of information will get you closer to a meet and greet. Stay informed!
Lastly, donate time, money, or both. If you want to impress a policy maker or elected official, show up to hearings and if the forum allows, make a statement for the record. If you believe an elected official is meeting your representative needs, send them a donation. People who donate get an audience, even if it is a response to a message via LinkedIn.
You can do it …
The above advice is from real world experience. I have met policy makers and elected officials simply as a result of reaching out. For we shy types, it is not easy at first, but keeping your “ask” real simple will settle your nerves and keep the engagement simple. Once you are willing to increase your households influence over the political process, you will see the investment of time as worth it.
Need more consultation on reaching out to policymakers or elected officials? Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.