This week I’m doing my best not to spiral into hopelessness at the news about the wildfires in California, where 1600+ people are still missing. Or yesterday’s shootings. Or the DOW. Or the emails. If you want to know what you can do about all of these issues, this is your post.
When I look back on my time on Capitol Hill, the first thing I remember is the shoes. Very high, very pointy shoes. (It was the implicit dress code – unless you were a dude.) Up and down the marble halls of Russell, Dirkson and Hart, grab a quick panini and a shot of espresso before hustling over to Longworth and Rayburn. After a day of fifteen 30-minute pitch meetings, by the time I got to Union Station, my feet were on fire.
I worked for a social policy “think tank,” where we thought about things like prisoner reentry, literacy and education reform, how to improve the effectiveness of nurse/family partnerships, and youth development. Nonprofits are prevented from lobbying, but the approach isn’t so different: feel passionately about a cause, research or develop a theory of change, meet with a member of Congress to explain why you’re so committed to the issue, and reinforce the position you’d like that elected official to take.
You hear politicians complain about special interest groups, and that’s because the big ones often misuse their power. A recent study found that when it comes to climate change, major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups. But there are just as many smaller political action committees that have made a major impact by joining together to support a common cause. In the midterm elections, anti-gun groups outspent the NRA.
Learn more about the groups supporting the causes that matter to you, and throw them a few bucks. Small donors raised $1.6 billion dollars for the last election cycle, and now Congress looks like this:
Sure, composting and saying no to plastic straws and stocking your rock-ringed firepit with with a bucket of water and a shovel make a difference, but when lobbyists act more like advocates, this practice can be one of the most effective practices for convincing politicians to vote for the issues that ensure lasting change.