It’s a new year, a new governor and a political situation that Wisconsin hasn’t experienced in over 10 years: split control of government. With the new administration taking shape, advocacy groups across the state are asking how do we operate in the new normal? How are we going to get legislation passed?
The answer is simple: activate people at the grassroots level!
Regardless of what is sometimes spun, elected officials really do care what their constituents think. Irrespective of the letter behind their name, politicians on both sides of the aisle are keenly aware of the opinion of the voters and can be moved to support or oppose legislation they are about to vote on.
I’ve seen it firsthand from both sides of the debate. From working as a legislative staffer to being State Director for Americans for Prosperity and consulting for advocacy groups, grassroots lobbying can have a massive impact on an issue debate. Connecting a legislative office with their constituents by phone, e-mail and even old fashioned letters can change the course of a deliberation.
The key is having the right tools and targeting to find the people who are interested, educating them on the issue and motivating them to action. And as a former staffer, I can tell you that offices know when the contacts are just spam and when they are real contacts from real people. Building a grassroots infrastructure can be time consuming and difficult, but it will pay off in the long run.
After eight years of Republican control and two years of Democratic control before that, it’s hard to remember what Wisconsin was like with divided government. There are areas that both sides are willing to work together and compromise, but it’s more important than ever to have the public behind you and supporting your issue. The voters are the common denominator for both sides of the aisle.
Pre-existing conditions started off the session with a bipartisan 76 “yes” votes in the Assembly. The voters made it a key issue in the fall and the bill is moving ahead. This can happen for issues big and small. We live in a world where you don’t have to rely on and sometimes can’t depend on the normal avenues to get your side of the story told. Sometimes you have to deliver the message directly to the voters and the tools available make it easier and more cost effective than ever.
While it’s true we won’t see as many bills signed into law as we have been used to, there are still plenty of opportunities for compromise to pass legislation. The key will be finding the audience that needs more information, getting them to engage with their elected officials and urge them to action.
David Fladeboe is the Senior Account Executive for Persuasion Partners.