Last week, I spoke about the importance of understand other people’s viewpoints in an effort to work toward legislation that works for farmers. The idea was born, in part, because we at the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association want to make the process of influencing legislators and public opinion easier for our MSGA members.
How do we approach and work with elected officials? To answer this question I will write from the point of view of those that chose to serve the people by going into public office. Sometimes reversing the role helps to bring clarity.
Just the process of being elected ingrains the priority of serving the most people they can. My friend that served in the House for many years gauged this comfort level with voters as when everyone is happy, you gave away the bank. When everyone is mad at you it means you are too far right or left on the issues. it is alright to have most not get all of what they want; he was comfortable, ”keeping everyone slightly pissed off.”
Legislators must manage their time carefully. There are two major determinants for their public time they look at: A) number of voters they can have audience with and B) elections are reoccurring so keeping contributors in the loop is important.
If there are two events at the same time, one with three constituents and the other with 50 people a voters first glance will tell them where to go. Now if the first event were your top three contributors to your campaign the choice would be different. Now add in what I said last week about presenting win-win solutions and how that affects what kind of audience you can gain, it starts getting complicated.
Simple things Minnesota soybean farmers can do to help their elected officials are provide a good audience, invite them to your annual meetings, plot tours, breakfast on the farm and other farm gatherings. Or piggy back with other groups that have common interests. Involvement in campaigns can make a difference! Working on a candidate’s campaign will be the start of a long term dialog. For most, financial contributions will be the simplest way to open a dialog with candidates. These are all points for gaining access to law makes, but remember, there are many more access points. Be creative. Often someone knows someone and that is how connections can be made.
Last week we talked about working with issues and legislators, this week about access, look for simple action ideas in a future post.
Paul Freeman is a soybean farmer from Starbuck. He is Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and is the chair of the Advocacy action team, which is made up of 12 MSGA directors. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.