A sad truth about federal politics: political wins don’t flow from policy wins. Policy wins for one side mean policy losses for another – and angry constituencies, plus fodder for negative ads and fundraising all around.
Think health care reform and deficit reduction. Both are good in policy theory, but bad in political practice for the “winner” of the policy battle.
So, Congress isn’t going to accomplish much this year. The President can’t accomplish much without Congress, so he’s not going to try.
So what’s an advocacy program to do? Three suggestions to make 2012 successful:
1. Build your offline advocacy muscle.
This year will bring ideal opportunities to get your advocates offline and in front of their representatives.
From telephone town halls to in-district fundraising events, rallies to public debates, door-knocking to polling, this year Members of Congress will be unusually available to their constituents.
Use these opportunities to build your offline advocacy muscle.
Organize a “bird dog” campaign by asking your advocates to pledge to participate in a telephone town hall and ask a question about your issue. Ask your advocates to pick up calls from pollsters and mention your issue if given an opportunity to provide their own answer to a question. Encourage your advocates to include a note about your issue with any contributions they make to candidates, and to bend candidate’s ears if they get a chance at fundraising events.
Elected officials never care more about constituent feedback than during election years. Use this year wisely.
Work in the states.
If you don’t have a robust strategy for working in the states this year, you’re missing the ball.
Fifty percent of members of Congress were once state legislators, and they bring their ideology and issue positions to the Hill with them from their state offices.
Given redistricting, the impact of wave elections, and the increasing coordination of policy across states (primarily by conservative legislators through groups like ALEC), even if your issue matrix is primarily federal, you should be engaging in advocacy in the states.
Mind the Gap.
This year we’re continuing our focus on improving the practice grassroots advocacy as a way to influence policy.
We humbly recommend that you revisit our own The Great Disconnect, Jake Brewer’s Tragedy of Advocacy, and take a few minutes to read Clay Johnson’s Dear Internet: It’s No Longer OK to Not Know How Congress Works.
SuperPACs and other election-year players make it more important than ever that grassroots advocacy is done well: which means smart targeting, savvy timing, and building to demonstrate political power.
2012 Is Your Year. Let Us Know How We Can Help.
As ever, if we can help meet your strategy, advocacy, or communications needs, don’t hesitate to be in touch: 202.683.8465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.