Power and Access and Selling Out

Politics can be seductive.

The chance to rub elbows with elected officials, being looked up to by people in your community as someone in the know, invitations to and recognition at special events, being quoted in the media, helping to write “acceptable” compromise language, an appointment to some committee or task force, or even a paid job in the politician's office or campaign -- all this could be yours if you become a grassroots leader.  These are the trinkets for which leaders sell out their political agenda.

Of course, most everyone thinks he is strong enough, smart enough, and committed enough not to sell out.  Few people are.

Before long, instead of delivering to the politician the grassroots’ message to pass or defeat specific legislation, you become the politician’s representative, telling grass-roots activists what they must settle for.

Right now, today, decide whether you want access or power.

Access is calling a politician and having him take your call.  He listens to what you want, and may or may not do it.  It is what most grassroots leaders end up settling for.  This is the way most non-controversial (e.g. business accounting before Enron) and high-interest versus low-opposition (e.g. farm subsidies) political business is done.

Power is the ability to tell a politician what you want, and either get it or deliver substantial pain (maybe even get a new politician) at the next election.  This is the ONLY way ideological, controversial legislation can be passed or defeated (e.g. abortion, guns or homosexual special rights).

Again, I urge you to remember the three percent plus one voter.

You and your grassroots group may be able to single-handedly bring the politician down.  Or perhaps you will be one of a handful of groups organizing at the next election.

No matter what, you will make it harder for the politician to win re-election, costing him extra time and money.

If the politician loses, every other elected official will fear you and your group.

If the politician wins, he (and other politicians) will remember the extra pain you caused him.  And he will know you may do it again or worse.  When you return to continue fighting for what you believe in, you will find him and his colleagues more willing ... and surprisingly, sometimes more gracious (though do not count on the latter; personal pleasantness is cheap coin).

As the late Everett Dirksen said, “When I feel the heat, I see the light.”

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