When you hear the word “politics,” what comes to mind?
Many of us were taught to distrust political promises or avoid the “dirty” business altogether. The perceived inaction of government in the wake of the “uncovered” police brutality and gun violence in our communities has left some of us weary. Yet there are simple actions we can implement to collectively make a difference.
I started out in Washington, DC several years ago as a young college graduate wanting to change the world. My first job was in a government relations department of a medical association and I was hooked. I loved watching C-SPAN all day, learning about the interests and backgrounds of the Members of Congress, going to the Hill, and meeting doctors eager to change hearts and minds and “convince” Congress to vote for their cause.
One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years is that with patience, organization and strong relationships, we can make the political system work for us.
I have seen bills which seemed like they would never pass, become law a few years later with a different Congress and national climate. I have seen the power of groups coming together with one message making the world of difference to legislative staff
As women in business, we know that relationships matter. That’s the basics of “politics”. I regularly see people who have taken the time to cultivate those relationships and make an impact. It’s not dirty or wrong- it’s human nature.
If you are a business owner, or someone who aims to achieve neutrality with your brand, it is natural to be concerned about how politics might alienate you from certain segments of your clientele or audience. I do not advocate that you put your business or brand in jeopardy. As you develop a higher level of engagement, consider focusing on the issues. Develop relationships with power brokers so you can go to them before, during and after important votes or decisions, no matter their political party.
Think about the issues you are facing now trying to start or grow your business. Is the process to start a business too cumbersome? Are taxes too high? Are health care and wage requirements unfair? Are you looking to impact other policies that may have a negative impact on your business or work? It is not as daunting as some make it seem.
These small actions can make a difference!
Not much needs to be said here. If you don’t vote you can’t complain. Don’t only vote but encourage others to do so. In recent years, elections have come within a few votes. Help people understand the connection between what affects them on a daily basis with what the candidate or ballot measure supports.
Know the issues:
There is no way around it. We must be knowledgeable about what is affecting our lives, our businesses and our communities. This becomes difficult when life becomes hectic, but there are many ways to integrate this into your day. On social media, be sure to follow reputable news outlets, elected officials and community leaders so you receive current events while you scroll. Make it a goal to listen to talk radio or podcasts during your commute.
Serve on a Board or Commission:
Commissions advise governments on a variety of issues from urban planning and zoning to housing to women’s issues. They usually meet monthly and are a great opportunity to learn, share your expertise and network.
Work on a Political Campaign:
If you have a candidate that you want to support, or you desire to know more about the process, working on a political campaign is a great way to learn! Campaigns need volunteers to do everything from help manage the candidate’s schedule to knock on doors and make phone calls to organize outreach events. Do an internet search to find the campaign website of the candidate you want to assist.
Join an Organization:
There are hundreds of organizations which take different stances on issues which may be a good fit for your level of interest. Organizations are also a great way to network, learn the issues, and offer an avenue to develop relationships with elected officials. Their time is often limited so they prefer to attend events where they can reach more people at one time.
Run for Office:
As an elected official you have the opportunity to vote on issues of concern to business owners, and influence the opinions of others. Many times the perspectives of entrepreneurs are not at the table when important decisions are made.
Yes, Money Does Matter:
One of the primary goals of an elected official is to get re elected. Money allows them to share their message and earn votes. Making a donation is an investment in a candidate. If you don’t know who to support, consider donating to a political action committee which can distribute money to candidates who support your issues. You don’t have to give thousands of dollars. For smaller campaigns, less money is needed so your small donation may help them make a big impact.
If you are dedicated to growing your business, or making any type of impact, it’s difficult to do so without being involved in the political process at some level. The closer you get to the person making the decision, or being the person making the decision, the better your chances of success. We each have the opportunity to flex our political muscle, and our children, communities and businesses are relying on us to do so.