While season’s greetings and holiday cheer abound in the political world, this is the time of the year that separates the amateurs from the pros. The amateurs are saying: “An easy time to back off,” “Nothing is going to happen!,” “Gridlock!” and “No opportunity and no threats.” The pros are saying just the opposite.
This is the greatest time in the Congressional cycle for building relationships, driving home key points on your issues, gathering support and commitments and making new friends.
In short, the novices are preparing to take the rest of the year off and the pros are doubling down. The experts know that with one of the most important elections in memory about to take place, now is the time that they have their greatest leverage.
The 2012 elections will be the first applying the Congressional districts carved out from the 2010 census information. With all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats up for election, the revised districts offer a unique opportunity for organizations to educate the candidates on the issues important to their new constituents.
It is imperative to take the time to set up a meeting, introduce yourself and highlight what you expect from your representatives. Candidates are forming their opinions and making their campaign commitments now. They are paying attention. Your opponents are likely voicing their opinions. Can you risk them being heard and not you?
After having spent decades here in Washington, D.C., I don’t just think, I know that the next 10 months will provide organizations, trade associations, corporations and nonprofits the greatest opportunity in years.
The belief that nothing is happening in Congress is a myth. I only need to remind you of last year’s lame-duck session. It was supposed to be a sleeper, but it turned out that those few weeks were more productive than the whole year preceding them.
Make the effort to build relationships with Members of Congress and their staffs. After the elections are over you will have lost your window to become the leading expert and go-to source on specific policy points. By providing planks for your candidate’s platform, you have ingrained yourself in the structure of their candidacy. After the public officials are in office, you will have created a relationship in which they will rely on your knowledge to navigate the legislation at hand.
Do not be a passive bystander during the countdown to Nov. 6. Resist the temptation to sit on the sidelines and wait out the results. Get involved, volunteer, contribute and participate in the process.
With new super PACs able to raise unlimited sums from individuals and corporations alike, advocates must work even harder to stay engaged and visible to today’s candidates.
When Election Day is over, the amateurs will just be getting ready to gear-up their lobbying efforts and engage the newly elected. They will stand in awe at the number of new faces, issues and actions that need to be taken.
At the same time new Members will be busy learning the ropes of Congress and picking out furniture for their new offices. The pros will already have quietly planted the seeds of success and will be reaping the harvest of their early and constant involvement.
Former Rep. Dan Mica (D-Fla.) is president and CEO of the DMA Group.