How to Get Your Elected Representatives to Act

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The power of ordinary citizens to make things happen in Congress boils down to one thing: influence over how constituents vote. Money helps, and corporate lobbyists and campaign donors certainly have a lot of it, but the influence of a well-organized constituency can and has trumped the power of corporate coffers.

The key is to make the issue you're most passionate about a re-election campaign issue. Let your legislators know, politely but resolutely, through emails, phone calls, in-person visits in your district, demonstrations covered by your local news station, and the opinion pages of your local newspaper that energy security and economic growth are the decisive factors that will determine how you vote in the upcoming congressional elections. Let them know that you want decision-makers in office who represents the interests of their constituents, and you want them to demonstrate their commitment to voters this summer by co-sponsoring the Open Fuel Standard Act.

The key is to be targeted and strategic in your communications by focusing on who you have voting power over and demonstrating that many of their constituents are paying attention to the decisions they make on a particular issue.  

Legislators are rational actors — they base their decisions in part based on what they think is best for their constituents and the country and in part on how much it will help or hurt them in their next election. If they made decisions based purely on principle in every instance without compromise, they likely wouldn't remain in office long enough to be able to accomplish their long term goals. Like it or not, the balance of power on any given issue is a necessary consideration for them.  

Your goal is to convince them that if they support a bill that is currently being opposed by a powerful array of private domestic and foreign interests, they will have the firm and enduring support of their constituents no matter how much money the former throw into manipulative campaign advertising and other political tactics designed to get you to vote against your own interests.  It's about shifting the balance of power in your favor by convincing your fellow citizens that this is an issue worth investing time into on behalf of their unemployed friends and family, our troops who have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our nation's future economic prosperity and national security.   

If you're new to this game and would like training on how to become a more effective policy advocate, contact us and we'll teach you the skills you need. It's going to take an army of grassroots advocates across the country to make this happen but if we work hard and smart enough together, there's no doubt we can accomplish our mission.   

Thomas J. Buonomo is an Energy Policy Advocate for the Open Fuel Standard Coalition. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Middle East Studies from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has spent the past six years researching U.S. energy and national security policy.


Read more: Tips For Being An Effective Grassroots Activist.

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