I am typing at top speed with a deadline looming, and I’m sure to be late (sorry, Pete). The workday ran long. My day job’s current assignment has me watching state legislative action, and today kicked off the 2018 season.
The State House hallways were full of citizens sporting buttons and scarves emblazoned with symbols of this or that bill, thumbs up or thumbs down. An impromptu press conference about a particular bill temporarily blocked access to one hall. Twitter was ablaze with coordinated targeted messages on various measures. Typical stuff, on a day with lots of bills up for votes.
It made for great press, and it all served the long-term goal of influencing public opinion. What it didn’t do, as far as I could tell, was swing a single vote on the most controversial bills.
That work had been done earlier, in one-on-one conversations with those representatives who were cheerfully trying to work their way through the crowd to their seats. This is how things are done close to home.
Conversations without cameras, with no social media posts at stake, one neighbor to another. As occupied with politics as I am, I can’t afford to forget how important those conversations are.
Why be concerned with how things are done on the local or state level? Isn’t that little league stuff? Not to me.
For one thing, these state legislators make up the bench from which parties draw candidates for bigger if not better offices. The more one-on-one conversations a legislator has, the greater the legislator’s sense of accountability to the people who’ve been talking with him. Professional lobbyists know all about that. Smart voters know it, too.
For another, we need the practice. I know I do. I tend to resort to social media even for messages to state representatives. That’s not the most effective way for me to do my job as a constituent. For that, I need face-to-face conversation, or even a brief phone call (remember those?), with the people who claim to represent me at the State House.
When a family has a story about how a bill would affect them, they use media appearances to share that story. That helps shape the environment within which a vote will be cast. If they really want to lock down a particular vote, though, they’ll have a private conversations with a legislator, without cameras or mics in the room.
For the two bills with which I was most concerned today, people on all sides worked relentlessly on such old-fashioned communication, as well as on social media, right up to the minute the votes were cast. The same-day work was important.
And yet it wasn’t as important as the low-key conversations that started back when the bills were introduced (and even earlier). Today’s votes reflected relationships built long ago. Those relationships started with conversations.
It may sound odd for a keyboard warrior to admit, but I’m glad conversation still counts.
Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues and New Hampshire politics at ellenkolb.com and leavenfortheloaf.com. You can support Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Writers by hitting Da Tip Jar. Thank you!