Start with two pounds of voting
Recipe for political influence
By Abtin Assadi
June 29, 2004
So, you want to be able to influence people in the position of
power, eh? If this were a cookbook, it would describe the process
something like this. Start with two pounds of voting, for the
best results slowly mix one pound of consistent voting at primaries
and one pound of consistent voting on regular elections. Add one
pound of continuous communication on a variety of subjects with
your elected officials during their term. Slowly pour one and half
ounces of choice campaign contributions over it on a slow fire.
Let it simmer for a few years, while you keep the constant communication
going. Now you are ready to get to the table.
Well, this is not a cookbook, but the ingredients are still the
same, participation, communication, money and patience. Let’s
look at each of them separately, first participation. Let’s
face it, without any sugar coating. If you are not voting, then
the politicians have absolutely no reason to care about your welfare.
You are not impacting their future, so they turn their attention
to those who do. A bit harsh, but true I am afraid.
I have heard many say, well, I am so disgusted with the politicians
I refuse to vote. A small blow with a blunt object to the side
of the head may help these people think straight. Would the
genies care to explain, how they intend to get rid of the
rascals by not voting? So, vote and vote often, politicians
have a database of all the people who have voted in their district.
If you are not in that database, your voice means precious little.
Furthermore, vote in the primaries. In some instances it’s
more important to vote in the primary.
For example, if the district
is a safe Democratic or Republican district, the primary is the
real contest. Oh, and another thing, you have to first register
to vote before being able to actually vote. If you have not registered
before, or even if you have but changed your address, you need
to register. It’s a simple process, you fill out a short
form and the ballots will come to your address about a month before
each election with all of the details. The forms are available
from your Secretary of State office, DMV or your local public library.
You can also register online at a variety of sites, including baivoter.org.
Politicians normally look to their constituency to form their opinion;
after all, they are your representatives. It’s your responsibility
to tell them what you think. Do not wait for them to come knocking
on you door for your opinion. Unless you live in a town with seventeen
other people, your elected officials don’t have the time
to come to you. You need to communicate with them. Communicate
regularly and on a variety of subjects. Foreign policy is near
and dear to many of our hearts, but that’s just one category.
There are many subjects that are important to many of us.
is relevant to all parents. Civil rights are essential to many
of us, especially since the passage of the Patriot Act. The
economy is important to literally everybody. So communicate with
your representatives, tell them what concerns you and send them
a thank you note when they support one of your issues. It’s
much easier than you think. You can send them a letter, a fax,
an email or just pick up the phone and politely tell them what
you think. Every time you contact them on a subject, you are establishing
yourself as a person of opinion on that specific topic. Pretty
soon, you’ll receive letters or emails about your issues
from your representative.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to write your
own letters, find groups or organizations that are advocating your
issues. Many advocacy organizations have written letters already
for you. Sites like here help
you find the advocacy groups for your issues.
That brings me to the delicious subject of cash; many people argue
political contribution is the biggest factor in achieving political
access. Well, that might very well be true, if your contribution
has enough zeros, but if your contribution is anything like mine,
it’ll be counted, but will not be the single most important
part of your engagement.
I have read a few articles recently that
are only focused on the money. I contend that is but a piece of
the whole puzzle. The funny thing is, you don’t even have
to put up the cash yourself if you can't afford it. You can organize
events to raise cash from those who can, or volunteer your
time in your candidate’s campaign organization.
Finally, bear in mind that this a process.
Think of it as a game where you need to collect twenty brownie
points before you get
a seat at the table. Every action results in points. So, every
time you vote in a primary election you bank one point, every regular
election vote is worth another point, any letter you write to your
elected officials earns you half a point, for every $50 you contribute
you receive two more points, volunteering two half-days a week
for 3 months in a campaign earns you seven additional
points. Of course this is a gross over-simplification of the whole
process, but you get the picture.
Abtin Assadi is member of board of directors at Bay Area Iranian
American Voter Association baivoter.org.