Grass Roots Key Contact work is about getting results on political issues. It is not for what people in politics call “case work.” That is, a personal problem that affects only you. If you are trying to get some benefit like that, the staff of your elected officials will help eagerly.
That’s their job and they are happy to help if they can because politicians know every successful case turns into votes. So if you aren’t getting results, you probably want something you don’t deserve or that is impossible to obtain. Get therapy.
Issues and policy, on the other hand, are things that might be decided by a vote in your city council, county commission, legislature or the Congress: taxes, regulations – all the stuff federal and state governments do that affect you directly.
One important operating principle: Don’t expect politicians to pay attention to you if you represent just one person with a good idea for policy or law. They don’t have time to devote to such matters because there are too many equally good ideas that have widespread support from broad-based organizations called special interest groups.
Am I saying you probably won’t get much unless you are part of a special interest group? Yes, and rightfully so.
You will often hear politicians, even experienced ones, deriding the power of ‘‘special interest groups.’’ Newspapers, bloggers and television routinely portray them as a human version of the AIDS virus, a plague upon the Republic that needs to be eradicated. I hope when you’ve finished this book you have a different view. I hope you will see how the Constitution supports and enables special interest groups and what an important and positive contribution they make to our democracy. In fact, our democracy is designed and intended to foster the formation of special interest groups.
Next time you hear a politician railing against ‘‘special interest groups,’’ ask this: ‘‘Which special interest groups have too much power and what would you do to curtail that power? AARP? NRA? The Methodist Church? Teachers? School boards? Realtors? Boy Scouts? Insurance agents? Fact is, any honest politician will tell you that the government, and certainly the politicians, couldn’t function without special interest lobbying groups with their volunteer and professional staff.
“Lobbyists are in many cases expert technicians and capable of explaining complex and difficult subjects in a clear, understandable fashion. They engage in personal discussions with Members of Congress in which they can explain in detail the reasons for positions they advocate…. Because our congressional representation is based on geographical boundaries, the lobbyists who speak for the various economic, commercial, and other functional interests of this country serve a very useful purpose and have assumed an important role in the legislative process.”
Senator JOHN F. KENNEDY—Congressional Record, March 2, 1956, vol. 102, pp. 3802–3
If you want to change law or policy in any political area – city, county, state or the United States – you must show broad based support. You do that by joining or forming a special interest group and mobilizing people who can vote for the politicians who can give you what you want.
If you don’t like the system, I encourage you to try to change it. This blog will help. On some structural issues, such as the pernicious role of money, many politicians and lobbyists will agree with you. I probably agree with you. But for today, I’m trying to help you get what you want from the system as it exists, using tried and proven techniques.
Basic concepts you need to understand:
§ Our political system is not designed to decide who is right and who is wrong. It is designed to decide who has a majority.
§ If you have the votes in the legislature or Congress, you’re right. If you don’t, you’re wrong.
§ There are no right or wrong positions in politics, just decisions made by human beings for good reasons or bad reasons, or out of indifference.
§ If you can’t prove that lots of people are with you, you will fail.
§ No political decision is permanent; the fat lady never sings.