Lobbying in troubled times
“Lobbying means persuading someone with more decision making power than you, in a particular situation, to take a course of action that you support. It’s that simple.
No more. No less.”
Judith Meridith, Community Toolbox
Lobbying is a legitimate aspect of the political process; it’s a method of conveying information, a way of influencing the decisions, and a means of holding decision-makers accountable. When the lobbyists and the decision-makers hold similar views and are motivated by similar interests, the nature of the lobby will be quite different than when the parties to the lobby are further apart in views and motivation. However, the act of lobbying is equally important in both circumstances.
There may be a tendency on the part of interest groups to avoid lobbying in troubled times, on the assumption that there’s nothing to be gained from meeting with those in power. However, there is always something to be gained from lobbying, including:
- a better understanding of the politician’s agenda, tactics and timelines.
- insights into the politician’s standing with others in his/her caucus.
- the opportunity to remind the politician of his/her responsibility to all constituents.
- verbal and non verbal clues about the politician’s investment in the issues.
- the ability to explain to allies and potential allies that you have met or tried to meet with the politician.
- the ability to publicly report on the meeting or the attempt to have a meeting.
- an impact on the politician’s ability to negatively characterize the interest group and individuals within the group.
- the ability to convey breadth and depth of support for your issues, through the composition of the delegation, signatories to written material, etc.
- the ability to provide information that the politician would not receive from his/her supporters or caucus.
- a shift in the politician’s mindset about the issues or the interest group.
- and, of course, the ability to influence the decisions.
- lobbyists who plan their efforts in order make gains of this nature will find the lobbying to be worthwhile, even in troubled times.