Archives for Drew McKissick

Local Lobbying (or How to Fight City Hall)

local lobbyingHave a problem with local government? You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. But what can you do about it?  That’s were local lobbying comes in.

Keep in mind that there are some key differences between lobbying for local change, versus at the state or national levels.  And there are some specific tactics that you should keep in mind to be more effective in local lobbying.

Unique Aspects of Local Government:

One Chamber: As opposed to state legislatures and Congress, whether you’re talking about school boards, city/county councils or commissions, you’re only dealing with one group of elected officials, rather than two.

Fewer Officials: The typical local government has fewer elected officials to keep an eye on, (the national average is six), versus potentially hundreds at higher levels.

They Represent Fewer People: Local elected officials represent far fewer constituents.  This means that they are more susceptible to organized, outside pressure.

Fewer Targets: When you have fewer elected officials that means that there are going to be fewer “undecided” or persuadable officials that you need to target…possibly just one or two.

Local Lobbying Tips:

Learn the Process: There can be wide variances in the legislative process (from cities, to counties, to school boards), so research how the process works in your area.  Contact your local council or board member and ask for information.  The more you know about the process in your area, the more effective you will be.

Do Your Research and Identify Your Targets: Find out exactly where they stand, and then relentlessly focus all of your time and attention on the undecided/persuadable votes.  When you consider that you’re focusing on just a couple of officials who themselves represent a small number of constituents, this gives you tremendous leverage.

Choose the Right Lobbying Tactics: Phone calls, letters, emails, personal visits, petitions, something else or all of the above?  “What” you do can depend on how much time you have and how many people are willing to help.  Choose those that best leverage your resources.  (You can see some of the basics in my “Nine Grassroots Opportunities” report).

Get to Know Them: Personal relationships at this level of government go farther than at the state and national levels.  Make an effort to get to know them personally.  Contribute to and help the ones who think like you do.  Be active in local organizations that they are involved in (especially the local GOP).  Remember, “politics is people”!

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You can “beat City Hall” (or any other local government), but you need to do your homework first.  And don’t forget, most state and national politicians used to be local politicians – so investing in local lobbying can pay big lobbying dividends in the future!

Obamacare Promises vs Reality

obamacare promises vs realityLike some cheesy infomercial that tries to convince you of how great its product is, the Obama administration continues to tell us about the wonders of Obamacare.  But a critical difference between Obamacare and the “as seen on TV” product is that the sales number and website for the latter always works, (even if the product doesn’t).

That’s the first insult of the government’s healthcare site: it can’t competently sell you what you’re being forced to buy.

So, how did we get here? Because Obama and other Democrats made political promises that were necessary in order for the bill to have any chance of becoming law. Promises that turned out to be, shall we say, slightly less reliable than the standard infomercial.

Let’s review:

Promise: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”. Reality: you can’t keep your insurance plan if it is cancelled because the government tells your insurance company that it doesn’t comply with new regulations, or if your employer stops providing it because those regulations make the costs go up. In fact if you like your job you may not be able to keep it either – especially if your employer needs to drop enough employees to avoid higher costs; or you may lose hours on the job (and thus income) so as not to be deemed a full-time employee.

Promise: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. Reality: not if he quits because of the costs and complications of the law, or if your “new” insurance plan doesn’t include your doctor in it’s network of approved providers.

Promise: Obamacare’s would not cover abortion. This was such a huge debate that there were several dozen pro-life Democrats who refused to support the bill until changes were made to guarantee abortion would not be covered. Reality: it does, because HHS regulations require that insurance plans cover prescriptions for abortion inducing medications – a regulation that even applies to religious organizations.

Promise: Congress will have to abide by it too. The bill required that members of Congress would have to live under the same rules that they were passing for the rest of us. Reality: Obama granted Congress a waiver, which he doesn’t have the power to do, (but what’s that between friends?). It really does make you wonder why we need to get so worked up over this business of passing laws if they don’t actually mean anything.

Promise: It will lower costs. Reality: most people are seeing increases in monthly premiums, even after government subsidies. And any plans that are actually cheaper come by way of narrowing the networks of hospitals and doctors you can use, or by raising your out-of-pocket expenses.

Promise: It will be easy! Per Obama, “It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak – or the same way you shop for a TV on Amazon”. Reality: not so much. Three years and over half a billion tax dollars later, the government serves up a website that no one can use if they need to buy the insurance that the law says they must have.

Many Republicans have been worried that if Americans become accustomed to Obamacare, we will never get rid of it. A reasonable fear, when it comes to the political consequences of government programs, and precisely what Democrats hoped when they got bold enough to pass it despite never having the support of a majority of the American people. But the reality seems to be that Obamacare will be a political hobgoblin that will haunt Democrats for years to come.

This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill government program. It covers one-sixth of the US economy, and an area that is extremely personal to every American. That means lots of political exposure for Democrats – and lots of opportunities for Republicans.

It’s an ironclad rule of politics that things behind the scenes are much worse than they are presented to the public. Applied to Obamacare, this leaves many Democrats more nervous than they let on. But despite its flaws, Republicans in Congress will never help “fix it”. As they say in NASCAR, Democrats will have to “run what they’ve brought to the track”.

In the end, Obamacare may be a “bridge too far” for big government liberalism. It’s a failure that could ONLY come from government, and it puts a bright spotlight on the limitations of big government for our increasing number of “low information” voters to see.

As Margaret Thatcher once said, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote”. During the next few months conservatives should focus on the realities of Obamacare; to build and control the narrative while it’s still being written. This will provide all the argument we need to “win the vote” on this and many other issues in the future.

Undermining faith in big government will be a bonus.

Mobilizing Conservatives for Action

mobilization 2An old Chinese proverb says that “To know and not to do is not to know”.

The whole point of identifying and informing conservatives politically is so that they can ultimately have an impact on something they care about. It’s one thing to get people riled up about something, but it’s another (more effective) thing to point them towards an outlet.

In other words, mobilizing conservatives for a specific shared purpose.

Organize to Mobilize:

An essential element of mobilization is organization.  Once you’ve got a group of people identified and informed around a particular issue, the larger the group (or the scope of action), the more you need to break things up into manageable chunks that specific people can be responsible for.  The same goes for areas you might be working on or want to keep tabs on, (such as different state or local government meetings, etc.).

When you keep things simpler and smaller, you keep it more organized. 

People may have good intentions, but they’re more likely to “do” when someone is specifically tasked with following up with them. They will feel more accountable to do what they’ve said they would.

Find a Trigger:

Depending on what issue (or issues) you’re involved with, this could be specific government meetings (such as a local school board), a petition effort to change text books, a fight over a local bond referendum, or lobbying state legislators over a specific piece of legislation.

A trigger needs to be directly and understandably relevant to the overall reason people are involved to begin with.  They need to be able to directly see and understand how taking a specific action will have an impact on the thing they care about.

The more specific, simple and direct the “triggers” are the better results you’ll see.

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People are busy.  Part of the reason they’ll join with you and others is that doing so provides them a service, or a “shorthand” way of letting someone else do the investigating into what needs to be done, how, when and where. So give it to them.

They’re ready to take action.  Just make an effort to give them the details.