Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2012 - A Campaign Year

It is a new year, with a new project.

Given that this is a Presidential election year, I want to turn my focus to political and social change.

In doing this, I wish to start with this video discussing a new strategy for the secular community.

There is a lot of good in this. I intend to spend a few posts highlighting some of its more important points.

Key Point Number 1: You cannot accomplish anything politically useful unless you bring money or votes to the table.

I see a lot of blog and forum posts where the author says, "Write to your legislators and oppose/support this legislation."

As if that is going to do any good.

It is particularly amusing when the people writing those letters decide to use well-reasoned evidence-based arguments in support of their conclusion - as if legislators judge legislation according to well-reasoned evidence-based arguments.

If you want to convince a legislator to take your side on a piece of legislation, then what you need to argue is that supporting your side translates into more campaign contributions or more votes come election time, while opposition means less money or fewer votes.

This probably sounds cynical - as if I have given up on finding any decency in the human race and now think that the world is governed by callous self-interest.

However, that is not the case. If I were a legislator, I would work according to these same standards. The only place where I would pay attention to well-reasoned evidence-based arguments are those where the law in question is sailing under the radar, as it were. In most cases - in almost all cases that you would be interested in writing to me - those arguments would only serve a tie-breaking role.

Reality demands it.

Let's say you came to me wanting me to support gay marriage. Let's say that I agree with you on all of the points of evidence and reason - that the laws are discriminatory and unjust - perhaps even that these restrictions on gay marriage violate the principles on which the Constitution was founded. However, knowing my district, I know that voting for gay marriage would mean a sizable shift in campaign contributions and votes to my opponent - a bible thumping young-earth prayer-in-school creationist.

My answer to you will be, "No."

What you are asking me to do is, in practical terms, no different than asking me to resign my position and appoint the bible thumping young-earth prayer-in-school creationist in my place. Is that really what you want me to do?

Do you really want me to support your side on this legislation?

Then you need to bring money and votes to the table. Come to me as the representative of an organization. Let me know how many volunteers you have and how much work you are willing to do in support of a candidate that sides with you on this issue. Let me know that you are willing to put those resources to work in my district. Do this - and make be believe it - and you will have my vote.

Do not write some letter to me saying how wonderful the law is. Write to your mother. Put a link to an article on your Facebook page. Twitter or "Stumble Upon" articles defending your position so that your friends and family can see them.

Join an organization that can pool your resources. As a part of the organization, volunteer to hand out fliers, stuff envelopes, and man a booth at the local county fair. Organize some publicity such as a march or a demonstration that will bring the television cameras and newspaper reporters who will take down your message and put it in front of their audience - and make sure you put out the message you want to put out. Create and collect money to put out a radio or television commercial. Create a web site, then write to a few hundred blog posters asking them to share its message with their audience.

Even in doing this, remember that your goal is to build the political and economic support for the issue you are defending. You can't do this by giving your message only to those who already support your issue. You need to reach the fence-sitters - the people who might change their behavior if they hear the arguments.

So, this is the second question you should ask yourself if you want to be bring about social or political change. "Do my actions increase the political or economic power behind my view. When the representatives of my view go to the legislator, will these actions give them more campaign contributions and more votes to bargain with?"

The second question . . . ?

Well, the first question always has to be, "Am I right?" There are a lot of people arrogantly certain that they are using these practices to support ideas that they think are right - but are just plain wrong. Let's always leave room for the question, "Is this the right thing to do?"

And . . . Happy New Year. Let’s see if we can make it a better year than it might have otherwise been.

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