Welcome to a new month! This is our last month of YOUR topics! We hope you’ve enjoyed the posts we’ve written in response to the answers you gave to our polls the end of last year. We trust that you’ll enjoy June’s topic as well – Specific Ways To Get Involved! We’ve got some great posts planned for the month (including an exciting interview we’ll be sharing the end of June!). So without further ado, let’s learn about…
Lobbying Made Easy!
We hope the articles that we’ve been posting have inspired you to do something! Even more than that, we hope that God will use you to DO SOMETHING BIG!
You probably have a ton of pent-up energy just waiting to be unleashed on something incredible, but you may also be asking that looming question — “Where on earth do I begin?” In this article, I hope to give you some fun and effective tips on one way to make a difference — lobbying a bill.
No doubt, there are at least a few issues about which you’re passionate; and, more than likely, there is legislation introduced in your state every year which pertains to those issues. So, a great way to get involved is to lobby for or against those bills. And, the great news is, you don’t have to be a professional lobbyist to lobby!
(If you’re wondering how to find out about legislation in your state, check out our helpful resources page! There are several organizations mentioned there, such as American Family Association (AFA) and Heritage Action, that send out frequent alerts on important legislation and general issues. There are also a great many conservative organizations within each state, and, with the advent of social media, you should be able to find some reliable and constitutional groups fairly easily.)
Media for Lobbying
Let’s now talk about several practical media for contacting your legislators.
1. Send a form letter
Form letters are those letters drafted and distributed by activist organizations. You simply sign your name to their email and send it back, and your signature is added to a list of many others whose signatures will appear at the end of the letter, once it is sent by the organization to your state or federal legislators. Some people point out that, since form letters are less personalized, a legislator may be more likely to disregard them as the manipulative product of a special interest group for which he/she doesn’t have the time of day. To some extent, this may be true; however, the quantity of form letters can also denote widespread concern amongst his/her constituency about a particular issue. In this way, form letters can actually be very persuasive.
2. Call/email your legislators
Your legislators are elected to represent you. They need to hear from you! Even if they care nothing about being a good statesman or stateswoman, they will likely realize that a favorable performance is vital to their political career. Having said that, most legislators are nice people who want to hear from their constituents, so take the opportunity to connect with them personally through expressing your personal support or disapproval of certain legislation.
3. Utilize social media
The ubiquity of social media can be a great benefit when reaching out to your legislators. Most legislators are on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Sending them a private message on social media could be a great way to quickly and concisely communicate your thoughts to them!
4. Go meet with your legislators
Many legislators enjoy little more in their job as elected representative than a visit from their constituents. The ability to visit and interact with our legislators is one of the most beautiful things about our Republic. Your State Capitol is your Capitol, so take advantage of that right! Of all the media of persuasion, I would say that friendly, face-to-face conversation, when done cordially and poignantly, is the most effective.
How to Lobby via Impersonal Media
So, now that you have some ideas for contacting your legislators, how do you ensure that your message is clear and effective? If you’re like me, you’re probably afraid that you’ll make yourself sound completely ignorant!
Obviously, it’s fairly easy to lobby via form letters, email, phone call, or social media, since those media afford you the opportunity to draft and refine your message; however, there are a few precautions that I would encourage you to take when utilizing these methods.
1. Criticize the issue, not the person
Don’t make any personal comments. Even if your legislator is a flaming liberal, saying so won’t help your argument. By all means, point out the flaws in your opponents’ ideology or viewpoint, but don’t say things like, “Your party’s myopic policies…,” or, “This bill is just stupid!” Be respectful. A kind disagreement is always more effective than a contentious or opprobrious one. Don’t compromise your position, but communicate it in a cordial manner. Reciprocity should be the goal; craft your message in such a way that would make glorify God and encourage your legislator to discuss the issue with you further, even if you disagree with him/her.
2. Be concise
As much as possible, keep it short and sweet. I often fall into the trap of thinking that my efficacy is dependent on a lofty dissertation; however, this can be a detriment more than a benefit. Proofread your email, letter, or private message multiple times before sending it, thoroughly searching for verbosity and anything that is not imperative to the argument. Oftentimes, we can run off on rabbit trails that would be better left out. Remember, legislators are busy people; therefore, the shorter your message, the better the chance that they will read and consider it.
3. Mention your age or social status
Knowing a little about your walk of life will make your message more interesting. Don’t give your life story, but briefly mention your age or social status and how the issue in question would affect you. Chances are, some of your fellow constituents will be communicating a viewpoint similar to your own to your legislators, and seeing the same viewpoint being propagated by a diverse group will add to the efficacy of your argument. Many legislators are sincerely interested in the daily perspective of their constituents, and would love to consider it when analyzing an issue.
How to Lobby in Person
Heading to your State Capitol and meeting with your legislators is not only one of the most effective ways to lobby, but, sometimes, the most frightening! Don’t worry; you CAN do it!
There are a few reasons for the efficacy of personal lobbying. First, the mere fact that you took the time out of your no-doubt busy schedule to travel to the Capitol and let your voice be heard indicates considerable concern. That fact, in and of itself, could have a significant effect on your legislator. Second, an informed, well-spoken, motivated citizen is probably the greatest threat to tyranny. When a legislator encounters someone like this, he or she will want to make a favorable impression on them, doubtless realizing that that person has the potential to affect their political career; therefore, he/she will be very likely to consider their viewpoint. Third, when a visit is made in a cordial manner, regardless of political differences, a working friendship can be established that could affect your legislator’s perspective on future issues.
So, I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to meet with your legislators!
It is important to note that the tips I offered for how to effectively lobby via impersonal media should also be applied to one-on-one conversation. Be kind, be concise, and take advantage of the everyday effects of the issue on your life.
Here are some tips for effective personal lobbying:
1. Break the ice
Most legislators have family pictures, awards, and memoirs on display in their offices. Capitalize on these things by asking questions about what them. Most people love to talk about their families, awards, etc., so use these things to try to find common ground and establish a friendly working atmosphere before you ever breach the purpose of your visit.
2. Ask questions…lots of questions!
The worst thing one could do when discussing an issue with anyone, including a legislator, is to sound like a know-it-all. Nobody enjoys listening to someone like that! A good way to avoid presumptuousness is to ask a lot questions. If you disagree with your legislator, this will allow him/her to express his/her viewpoint in a non-confrontational format. Additionally, questions alone will often make your point for you, without ever forcing you to go on the offensive.
3. Don’t press too far or too long
If you reach an impasse, and your legislator will not concede your viewpoint, agree to disagree. It may be that, after giving private consideration to your arguments, he/she will come to agree with you. What you don’t want to do is press so hard and so long that your legislator becomes frustrated.
I hope these tips will help you! But, if you get nervous, or a conversation doesn’t go as smoothly as you had hoped, remember that the battle is the Lord’s, and the Holy Spirit will give you the words to speak. Bathe your preparation and conversation in prayer, realizing that, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” At the end of the day, He’s in control, and He can move on the hearts of your legislators, if it’s His will. Rest in that, and go forward, fearless!
I know that lobbying can be nerve-racking, so let me encourage you with the following verses:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
— Romans 8:37
“For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”
— Luke 12:12
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
— 1 John 4:4
If your cause is righteous, the Lord will bless it. Trust His will, and go get ’em!
1 John 4:4: