On the November 14, 2007 episode of Voice of the Voters, host Mary Ann Gould interviewed Washington lobbyist, Laura Esquivel. Esquivel’s time on air was revealing, and full of practical information that should make any citizen lobbyist far more effective when interacting with elected officialdom.
However, before I talk about the nuts and bolts of lobbying as presented by Ms. Esquivel, I want to share a revelation that came about in the opening banter. Mary Ann opened the dialogue with a fundamental question as to the definition of lobbying, to which Esquivel fluidly responded that “Lobbying is an attempt to influence or modify the decisions, perceptions, and votes of elected officials”. She then went on to make an analogy, evidently in an effort to elevate the genre, between the actions of the colonists when they threw the tea into Boston’s harbor to those of modern hired gun lobbyists. It was at this point that my antenna become far more directional, as I sensed that a fine tuned ear was going to be needed to separate operational information from marketing hyperbole.
I did not have to wait long because in the very next breath, Ms. Esquivel revealed how the world is backwards, upside down, inside out and completely screwy when she said, that in lobbying “The RIGHTNESS of an issue is less important than it’s potential to be effective”. Maybe I am a one dimensional dinosaur, but I am almost certain that when Thomas Jefferson and his team composed the Declaration of Independence that their standard was to not to sheepishly include as points of contention only what they believed could be “most effective“, rather, their rants against England and King George were precisely about the RIGHTNESS of policies or the lack there of. Are you not delighted that the Declaration was not drafted by lobbyists?!
While the practicality of life is about the ability to share and compromise, it remains very bothersome that the accepted convention is now engrained where being right is secondary to being effective and tells a woeful tail which explains much about our modern malaise. However, moving onward….
Much excellent information was shared by Ms. Esquivel that can be utilized by the common citizen lobbyist. Mary Ann asked how the average American can effect change, to which, Ms. Esquivel replied with a sensible three point strategy. (1) EDUCATE the official, as it is unrealistic for anyone to be conversational about every topic, big or small. (2) MOTIVATE, this element is closely related to educate, and is where the education has tuned the light bulb on. She used a wonderful quote from long past Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn where he said, “When I feel the heat, I always see the light”. (3) ACTIVATE, is that phase where fellow citizen lobbyists and officialdom use and share the understanding to create more of the same. A snowball of common ground.
Ms. Esquivel followed with more empirical understanding by sharing her observations about how to best, or most effectively communicate with an elected official. Her sage advice was to simply develop a relationship with your elected officials, and with their staff. The best way to get your message across is to make an IN PERSON visit to an elected officials local office. Call and make an appointment, go in having all of your ducks in a row (goes back to that Educate element of the three pronged approach), present your information with passion but without abrasive anger, and leave the meeting by extending your hand and thanking them for their time. Common courtesy can take you far. After all, even if you are diametrically opposed to the philosophies and positions of an elected official, they are not the enemy, but merely opposite thinking Americans. Following the in person visit in its usefulness is the written letter. The standard seems to be that whatever takes the most time, energy, and expense is the form of communication that gets their attention. “One in person visit is worth a thousand emails“, says Ms. Esquivel.
Depressingly, Ms. Esquivel reminded us that it is vital to demonstrate to an elected official how his or her supporting your issue may flatter their potential for reelection. Damn, there it is again. That effectiveness over the right thing! May I take this opportunity to suggest that we are long past the point where we need an army of selfless Kamikaze style leaders that would rather do the right thing regardless of how it impacts his or her future, than to merely be effective! Yeah, I know, I am a pipe dreamer.
Esquivel went on to share that she is very impressed with the grassroots efforts within the voting integrity movement. “The grassroots wave of voting integrity is sweeping across the nation”, she said, but she also reminded that, “change takes time, grassroots needs to stick with it”. To that she then added that, “realistically, nothing will change between now and the 2008 election”. That reality is something that we have all known, but it is like having the nails driven into the coffin lid to hear it come from the mouth of such an experienced operative.
Another of Esquivels observations was that, “part of the grassroots problem(s) have been that they are not unified“. She could not be more correct on this point. For months we have been talking about the need to find a common ground, decide on unified leadership, and become a sword point. However, we, the grassroots, are up against manufacturing conglomerates that are Educated, Motivated, and Activated. Yeah, and they are also FUNDED. Kind of sounds like they have lobbyists working for them, does it not? Only a small army of hired guns! Blackwater mentalities that disembowel righteousness using salesmanship and rapier tongues as opposed to cold steel swords.
The lesson is clear, in today’s world more than ever, money rules and citizens the fools. Where are the lobbyists when you need them to represent the citizens? What am I talking about…hired guns require cold cash. That money thing again.
We citizens are on our own. Frustratingly, maybe it is time to take Laura’s tools and use them to lobby our butts off. Show the bums in office that they can lose their jobs if they will not effectively do the right thing.
Voice of the Voters is heard weekly, airing to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania market on WNJC1360, and on the internet on www.wnjc1360.com
This article is now available as are Pod casts of past programs on the Saveourvote.com website.