The Grit: Winning the Lobbying War

You can beat the special interests—by taking a special interest.

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The Grit: Winning the Lobbying War
"...find a way of making it fun." A Code Pink antiwar activist waits on Capitol Hill for a Congressional Super Committee meeting. (Photo: Mike Thieler/Reuters)

The Grit’s First Law of Least Resistance: people will do whatever you want them to do, providing it’s the easiest thing to do.

Two years ago a bill came before the Senate, which, if passed, would give almost every adult in America the right to carry a concealed firearm across state lines.

A lot of time and money was spent arguing for and against the proposal. There was a definitive vote. The bill was narrowly defeated. Two years later, in slightly modified form, the bill is back.

“Some bad ideas refuse to die,” says The New York Times.

There’s a reason for that.

Corporations are not good or evil. They sit outside moral judgments. They don’t exist to make the world a safer or more dangerous place. They’re not interested in the Second Amendment as it relates to the American concept of national identity. They exist to enrich their shareholders. That’s it.

In the case of the gun industry, that means not resting until every adult in America is armed. If that goal requires throwing time and money at the legislative process, it’s time and money well spent.

Or as British writer and journalist James Meek says on the growing role of private healthcare companies in Britain’s National Health Service:

“The salesman thinks more often of making a sale than the consumer thinks he is being sold to; the lobbyist thinks more often of his loophole than the politician thinks of closing it; and so, whatever the obstacles may be, the salesman and the lobbyist are bound to succeed.”

The lobbyists and salesmen will wear their opponents down, until their way is the easiest path to follow. The Grit’s First Law of Least Resistance in action.

So how do you stop them? You beat them at their own game. And you play long.

Familiarize yourself with the agendas of the corporations and companies that funded your local representative’s election. Share those agendas with others. Contact those companies. Ask them questions.

First you have to identify a wrong that needs righting, a right that needs exercising, or a cause that needs defending. Then you take it up, and utilize the First Law.

Don’t wait for the rich house-builder to target a prime piece of virgin real estate. Identify it first, and start a campaign to protect the land from future development. Make granting a protection order the obvious and easiest thing to do. Hell, you can even let the legislators think it was their idea.

Familiarize yourself with the agendas of the corporations and companies that funded your local representative’s election. Share those agendas with others. Contact those companies. Ask them questions. Build or join your own networks. Take responsibility for your convictions. Motivate others to do the same. And—this is very important—find a way of making it fun.

A big goofy grin might not match fabulous personal wealth for motivation, but it sure helps when you’re putting in a shift.

We know professional lobbyists can be defeated by mass activism. But in each and every campaign you have to indentify a goal and then incentivize yourself to pursue it single-mindedly. That’s exactly what the lobbyists and salesmen are doing. If you’re not, they’ve already won.

Finally—and people don’t tend to tell you this—activism has some empowering side effects. If you do find a cause and roll up your sleeves, wonderful things happen. Life becomes more satisfying. You will almost certainly get to snog someone you fancy. And you will start to make a difference. Not just to the good folk around you, but to big shots who have the power to change things.

Y’see, if you believe that all of us are, underneath, decent human beings, your righteous idea will connect, and eventually win out. Hence the Grit’s Second Law of Least Resistance: when you make it just as easy for someone to say yes as it is for them to say no, they will often surprise you.

Go get ’em, tiger.