Friday, October 9, 2009

How to Influence Public Policy

The purpose of political activism is to influence public policy. Sometimes this gets confused with being in politics to win elections, but winning elections is simply a means to an end – that being to influence public policy. This article explores the multiple ways that may be done.

  1. Write a letter to your elected official. For hints on how to write an effective letter, click here.
  2. Write a letter to the editor or other publication. Letter to Editor Guide.
  3. Comment on articles on the internet.
  4. Join an online social networking page (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, etc.), invite friends and share articles consistent with your beliefs.
  5. Create a blog about political issues. Its free at
  6. Contribute to a campaign, political action committee or political party. Yes, money is still the mother’s milk of politics.
  7. Volunteer on a campaign to help elect an official with whom you agree by putting up a yard sign, telephoning, endorsing the candidate, doorbelling, hosting a coffee hour, stuffing envelopes, etc.
  8. Volunteer on a campaign to help elect an official with whom you wish to gain access to better express your viewpoint, with the hopes of actually influencing his/her votes on issues.
  9. Attend a rally to show support and/or opposition to policies.
  10. Join a political activist group, such as Americans for Prosperity, Campaign for Liberty, Tea Party Express, Tax Day Tea Party, Michigan FairTax Association, Michigan Taxpayers Alliance,, Heritage Foundation of Southeast Michigan, etc.
  11. Get active in a political party. (of course, we are hoping that is the Republican Party)
  12. Attend political events, such as political party picnics, Lincoln Day Dinners, parades, fair booths, etc. to get acquainted with politicians and elected officials.
  13. Attend forums, town hall meetings, coffees, etc. hosted by politicians and elected officials to stay informed and contact officials directly.
  14. Go to Washington/Lansing/Township Board/County Commission/School Board meetings and testify on an issue.
  15. Run for office in a hard to win race to enable you to have your voice being heard in debates, etc.
  16. Run for an office to get elected.

Of course, you will be able to best influence public policy if you remain informed and be and sound credible. In addition to the organizations above that disseminate information, here are additional sources of Michigan issues you may wish to tap into: Sources of Balanced Discussion of Issues At the federal level, two of my non-partisan favorites are The Hill and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Humans have a natural tendency to collect additional data (and be receptive to sources which provide such data) that confirms their already formed opinions and beliefs. In effect, we put on blinders, so we don't see disconfirming information.

No one knows everything. Everyone's perception of "reality" is filtered by our prior experiences. In short, no one has the monopoly on "the truth". Thus we must stay open to hearing facts and opinions that do not agree with our own. To counteract our natural tendencies, we must seek out contrary sources. If it turns out that our beliefs and opinions are not supported by facts, then we must be willing to rethink our positions and form a new belief. Such constant re-evaluation of one's beliefs is not "waffling", but rather simply an application of the scientific method applied to theories in action.

Comments? Addition suggestions?

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