A friend recently told me a story of a conversation with a legislator which gave me a new insight. The gist of it is this:
A politician has zero interest in “the facts” that impinge on which way to vote on an issue. The ONLY thing he cares about is the impact of his vote/statements on the voters’ decisions to vote for/against him. Therefore, it is (almost) futile to talk to a politician about “the facts.”
To the extent that this is true (and, it it really IS substantially true) our REAL AUDIENCE is a critical vote pool. Identify the members of that pool and educate THEM. Each politician is elected by a fixed constituency of voters and some (established) constituency of major contributors. Some group is critical. E.g., it might be vital for a certain politician to win the votes of cattle farmers (or butchers) and to do this he needs the contributions of vegetable canning companies (or solar cell manufacturers). Identify these few constituents and then go sell THEM.
It should be clear that a politician who is elected by a solid block of Democrat voters is unreachable. Likewise, a politician with substantial support from Michael Bloomberg. It’s not cost-effective to try to reach that large Democrat voter block nor to convince Bloomberg. That eliminates plenty of politicians who can never be reached economically. You have lost the REAL facts battle – votes and money – before it starts.
Conversely, there should be plenty of politicians who are vulnerable to either a primary or general election challenge. EACH is equally threatening. Worst case scenario might be a target – suppose a MALE – in a solidly Democrat district fraught with gun violence, supported by Bloomberg.
HE’s being opposed in the primary by a WOMAN supported by some other important interest, say immigration. If you can convince HER audience that the gun-control message is futile then you make HER a formidable threat to knock HIM out of the Democrat NOMINATION.
We might be equally unhappy to have either HIM or HER in Congress. That’s fine. One or the other IS going to win. OUR objective is to bring the truth (about gun control, or ANY OTHER ISSUE) to those that matter, the voters and the candidate’s contributors. It may be that you have to convince HER audience of some totally UN-RELATED issue such as schools or parks. We don’t care WHY she might get elected, only that HE get DEFEATED.
Only now can you go to this guy and explain to him the relevant facts. His support of our issue (gun-control) is causing US to threaten his candidacy by SUPPORTING HER. We might be supporting her over guns/schools/parks; it doesn’t matter which. The relevant fact is that HIS support of gun control is a significant threat to his defeating her in the primary (or some other opponent in the general election).
In our worst-case scenario (a Democrat district, Bloomberg-financed) he might have to decide to risk some of his voters’ enthusiasm on one issue. He might have to forego Bloomberg’s future support. It’s a calculation for him; his only goal is to get re-elected. It’s doubtful that his not voting for a gun-control bill will lose him all of his Democrat voters. It won’t help him to keep Bloomberg’s contributions if she wins the nomination over an issue like schools/parks.
The ONLY “fact” that matters is that we find a way to threaten his re-election based on ANY competitive issue (guns, schools, parks).
It strikes me as though gun rights supporters ought to be working on the voters and the candidates’ contributors in our home states and Congressional districts. Find the weak and vulnerable candidates in specific races. Identify their opponents and their critical constituencies and contributors. Find the crucial issue in play — guns/schools/parks…whatever — and leverage the facts relevant to THAT issue.
We can’t do these things in DC. We CAN do them in our home states and Congressional districts. We need to pool our resources cleverly.
Identify which Senators and which Congressmen are absolutely secure and which are vulnerable. Move resources away from those who are secure and toward the vulnerable. Identify the viable opponents of the vulnerable and target their critical issues (guns/schools/parks). Educate the voters and contributors of these viable opponents.
Then, carry the message to the targeted pol in Washington. Let him know that we’re targeting him because of his position on gun-control.
THAT’S the only “fact” he will listen to.