The Citizen Lobbyist, pg 89

Feb 16, 2016

“The more our citizens engage in public policy and with our elected officials, the more our government–and therefore our society–will benefit. The more we engage as a people with our public officials and the more we force our system of governance to answer to us, the better the government works for the people and the better our lives are for it.”

-Amanda Knief, pg 89 of The Citizen Lobbyist


10 comments on “The Citizen Lobbyist, pg 89

  • …the more we force our system of governance to answer to us…

    That sounds great.

    If only determination were enough.

    Unfortunately, money seems to have greater influence than mere voices.

    One thing I wish – that more people would take their vote more seriously.

    Also, I have often wondered how feasible it would be to institute qualification exams for public officials – just a thought.

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  • This view is a little naïve.

    While it’s true that contacting our politicians is the only way to change their minds, we have to recognise – as PeacePecan notes – that there are other pressures on politicians.

    My own experience is that when you initially contact your Representative (MP, Senator, Councillor, etc.) you will receive a standard letter – written by an Office Prole and possibly signed by a machine. If your Rep’s. party is taking a line the letter will simply parrot that party line, no matter how nuanced your own e-mail or letter.

    If you continue the contact by replying to the Rep’s. reply results will be mixed – politicians are people too. If your position on an issue is diametrically opposed to your Rep’s., then ask yourself: Why would they reply again – what incentive, what motivation, do they have?

    In the situation where you have no common ground with your Rep. writing more than once is a waste of time and their Office may even label you Potential Opposition Troll, which means your future contacts may never reach your Rep., as they will be filtered out by the Office.

    In a situation where you support your Rep. (or their Party’s line) contacting them is a good way to build bridges. The Rep’s. Office will keep statistics on For and Against contacts and advise the Rep. accordingly at important moments.

    In the situation where there may be wiggle room between your view and the Rep’s. view – including after an initial standard, pro-forma, first response – then write again and try to highlight the grey areas, and promote the benefits of your own position while showing how you’re asking your Rep. to move their position slightly – not completely change their minds.

    Using this last technique will often work best on technical subjects. Rep’s. cannot be experts in every aspect of every business, way of life, government policy, etc.. This approach has got me invitited to the House of Lords (a Member I met through a professional organization) and the House of Commons (direct contact). I say this not to brag, but to show just how easy it can be. If you choose the right subjects and a subtle approach your Rep. will organize a brief meeting to hear a constituent’s views. One reason for this is that very few constituents contact their reps.

    Take a step back. It’s important to be realistic about your potential success at changing your Rep’s. mind.

    First, Reps’. are, currently, often paid. It is claimed that this frees them to concentrate on government business, lessens the likelihood of undue pressure being successful, helps to avoid temptation to make fraudulent expense claims and other things besides. The reality is crystal clear: None of these objectives is met in the majority of cases. The main reason is re-election. Politicians become inured to opposing the public if the door remains open for organised vested interests (like charities, labor unions, business groups and other social influencers) to steer the political dialog.

    Second, Reps’. start to enjoy being well paid for work that requires no heavy lifting (incl. the thinking kind) and maintain party links through compromises and following the whips.

    Third, a combination of the above two come together in the media. The media hold a politician’s feet to the fire (re-electability, public profile and public view of effectiveness) on a daily basis. Politicians frequently ask themselves, and each other, and their parties: What does X publication think?

    Fourth, although (as is the case with my current MP) your local Rep. may be so happy taking a pay check that they only follow the party line even these apparently hopeless cases can be approached and can be incentivized to lodge complaints within their own party.

    Fifth, many people get into politics through being steeped in a party dogma. This leaves them, mostly, with an authoratarianist view of politics, making it hard to present alternative views without sounding like your some kind of anti-establishment troublemaker.

    Sixth, despite the above politicians are individuals. This might make them more approachable, if your’e lucky. Equally, it might make them bloody-minded.

    Last, but not least, you won’t be the only person approaching your Rep. – and that includes not being the only constituent.

    But, at the end of the day, when all’s said and done, if you don’t contact your Reps., they will think that what they read and hear in the media is what people think. This is, in my extensive study and experience, only rarely true – and most politicians (in my much briefer experience) realize this.

    Naïve or not, Amanda Knief is smack on the button:

    The more we engage as a people with our public officials and the more we force our system of governance to answer to us

    After government pay for elected politicians and the media I do have one other concern. In a word: Globalization.

    To be clear: I’m a long-standing supporter of the GATT and WTO. Removing barriers to trade was the best long-term method of helping poor countries to industrialize and reap the benefits.

    In the meantime we’re in a drive to the bottom on hourly rates of pay. As the current push by the US Administration to legislate for overtime pay illustrates, rich countries’ middle classes are being severely strained by globalization.

    That does not mean we need to call a halt to globalization – but it does mean we need to ease off the deregulation pedal.

    I have breathed fire over the TPP TTIP and TSA before, so I won’t go there again. Globalization is relevant in the context of getting involved in politics because pressure on pay and hours means that almost all citizens are finding it harder to find time for politics.

    As I hope is clear as a sub-text in the above: Political activism takes time, your time. One of the main reasons that Reps. only hear from the unemployed, retired and students is because these are the groups with the necessary time on their hands. But this is clearly a bad thing. Politicians only very rarely hear from the workforce, entrepreneurs and professions as individuals because they’re just too damn busy earning a crust!

    If you find yourself, for whatever reason, with time on your hands please, please, please, get involved in politics.

    If you don’t the vested interests – and organized religions are the most egregious – will get away with it AGAIN.


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  • 5
    fadeordraw says:

    1stly, the paragraph is phrased as a truism. Without evidence, it looks like an unproven hypothesis. How would it be measured?
    Personally, I have had relatively little direct engagement with our elected officials on public policy. I do read the Globe and Mail daily and listen to CBC news (I’m a dedicated listener to CBC’s Ideas) and I do vote. Canadians just voted in much wanted change to how the national government governs. Was that a result of individual engagement with elected officials, publicized party platforms, voters’ general negative assessment of the incumbent’s policies and demeanor, etc…?
    2ndly, “…the more we force our system of governance to answer to us, the better the government works for the people and the better our lives are for it”: while the word “force” doesn’t seem right as an sustainable approach, the use of “for”, rather than “with” warrants some thought. Shirley, most would go for working with governance entities as the best bet for what’s better for us.

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  • while the word “force” doesn’t seem right as a sustainable approach, the use of “for”, rather than “with” warrants some thought. Surely, most would go for working with government entities as the best bet for what’s better for us.


    To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your GOVERNMENT can do FOR you, ask what you can do WITH your GOVERNMENT (for yourself and your country and the world).”

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  • @stevenofwimbledon

    I am involved in politics, though not on atheism, and a letter is all fair and well but what it needs is backing/numbers. One of the first things we are asked when meeting MP’s or reps, is how many members have you got. Our group has a system in which we write the letter and get organisations/individuals to sign it with maybe a few changes suggested from others before signing. Using this method, we can gather signatures/endorsement from all over the world. Signed up members in a petticoat country (voters) are the most effective way of persuading MP’s to think about what you want because those particular MP’s are already embroiled in groups even to get elected in the first place. You have to
    An eye on them and the moment there us conflict between what they are saying and doing, you must pounce. In my experience, only the older lords and ladies etc, are free to use there conscience as they see fit. All others are bound by constituents and party. It wasn’t until we got an MP kicked out of an APPG group that we even got noticed.

    Apart from being politically active, I think that this forum and it’s highly educated members ( me excluded) should see their role as educators. Encouraging people like me ( who effectively came out of the education system at 14) to contribute and ask questions. That is part of why I am here. If I can ask stupid questions then so can others as long as those here can appreciate that and answer with the intention to educate not threaten or mock. There is an elitistist undertone here, in some, who are really only interested in same level discussion, a selfish act, rather than passing on knowledge.

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  • Olgun #7
    Feb 18, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I am involved in politics, though not on atheism,

    Likewise – I go for a direct approach!

    I speak to my MP personally, at constituency meetings where he is present, and work on his campaign team from time to time.

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  • Alan #8

    I haven’t done much with my local MP because, as I have stated above, of numbers. There are not many Turkish Cypriots in my borough, so we concentrate on members boroughs that have large enough population to make a difference.

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  • What does: ““The more our citizens engage in public policy . . .” mean? Does it mean the more they “talk about public policy making,” or “participate in public policy advocacy,” or “become public officials who have policy making authority or responsibilities.” or “attend public hearings on policy proposals,” or what? This is pretty much a nonsense paragraph. If a writer is suggesting actions, the writing can bemade at least a little less foggy if it contains some details to indicate just what those actions are.

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