#41 – Dick Bernard: Lobbying

I watch commercial television infrequently, usually local and national news programs in the early evening.  Some times I’m stuck with it, as when we draw baby-sitting duty and some kids channel is on.
For a lot of years I totally boycotted the medium (I didn’t lose anything; on the other hand, it was probably over-kill on my part.)  But what I noticed is that the main purpose of commercial television is to advertise, which is to say, manipulate public opinion.  I had to get away from the medium to see this.
Advertising (lobbying) is incessant.
In the last few days, I have noted from assorted sources something that has long been obvious: Big Business through individual entities like the energy companies, pharmaceuticals, the American Medical Association, the United States Chamber of Commerce, etc., is set to launch major and expensive lobbying campaigns to, essentially, assure that their own status quo (profit making machines) is minimally changed, if at all.
Their target is lawmakers, yes, but really the main target is every one of us.  Prepare for the 2009 version of “Harry and Louise” (the immensely successful 1993 advertising campaign to stop health care reform.)  
Those who we elected to serve us will be bombarded with finely tuned positions.  So will we.
The constant temptation for citizens is to say, in one way or another, “I can’t make a difference anyway”, and then proceed to prove our point by not getting on the court.  This is a dangerous attitude.
The process is easy enough: find out who your own elected representatives are, their local phone number and address, etc., and send them your own brief and polite messages frequently.  It is ideal if they actually know you as people (you’ve worked for them in campaigns, donated or etc.) but regardless, they all know you as the most important person of all: “potential voter”.      Recognize that they have an exceedingly complex job: many constituencies, many priorities. 
Too many of “we the people” still have the attitude I once saw at a polling place: a very grumpy guy went into the booth next to me, came out and said, “now I’ve voted and I have the right to complain.”  I don’t know what he meant by this declaration: was he voting for (or against) somebody; did he mean that all he had to do was vote, and that ended his role in making decisions: did he feel his vote reserved his right to gripe about how terrible things are, but not work to change them? 
He seemed to be leaving the most important part of his job as a citizen behind.
Everything I remember about his attitude that day indicated that he thought he had absolved himself of any responsibility for the outcome between the elections.
Not true.
There are endless sources of information about how to more effectively lobby for your issues.  Here’s one worth looking at: http://www.wellstone.org/organizing-tools/being-successful-citizen-lobbyist.
Get on the court.

1 reply
  1. coleen rowley
    coleen rowley says:

    It’s fine to write directly to elected representatives but it’s not enough–one must also publish open letters to them, or op-eds or letters to the editor. They count for a lot more than private communications. Your piece started off with the power of the big money ads. Of course no one has the big money to compete in that arena other than the profiteers so you have to try everything else available to reach the public.

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