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The Tribal Politics of Advocacy: Shape Up and Be Successful

By Joel Anderson | 06/11/2013 | 1:42 PM

The goal of this column is to discuss the latest research on how individuals form themselves into peer groups with respect to legislation and regulations.  This research is important to IWLA and our membership because our goal is to pass the legislation our members seek or defeat the legislation our members oppose.  As a result, we gather and analyze these studies and apply their findings to advance the policies and practices of our membership. The publication cited for this column is, The Three Languages of Politics, which gives an excellent “how to” of the best techniques in being effective in public policy and regulations.  Author Arnold King describes three streams of American political sensibilities: 

1)      Progressives see political governance and political responses in terms of oppressors vs. oppressed.

You can read examples of this context in the propositions of progressives: labor vs. management; poor vs. wealthy; race vs. race; gender vs. gender. Read any press release from the California South Coast Air Quality Management District and you will see it breaks society into oppressors vs. oppressed divisions.

 2)     Conservatives see political governance and political responses in terms of civilization vs. barbarism.

You can read examples of this context in the good vs. evil of foreign affairs; prudence vs. spending; checks and balances vs. a living Constitution. Read any column by George Will and you will see he discusses current issues in terms of civilization vs. barbarism.

 3)     Libertarians see political governance and political responses in terms of freedom vs. coercion.

You can read examples of this context in many places: the new regulations on financial institutions vs. the viewpoint that any new government regulation is an infringement on freedom; the EPA vs. the free market in reducing pollution; the mandate of health insurance vs. choice to not be insured. Read any column by Nick Gillespie and you will see he sees the fierce hand of the state against individual freedom.

IWLA shapes its arguments and advocacy for the protection of our membership. In California the governing party is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Many elected officials come from trade union backgrounds and their bias is an “us vs. them” bias. To represent our membership, IWLA must present our positions in California through impacts on jobs and career ladders, referencing studies done by the University of California or a similar government-related source.

In dealing with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, our filings first emphasize the positive impacts of our proposals on health and safety. Industry cannot be heard at the FDA until we first demonstrate to them our integrity and build credibility that our requests are consistent with the public health.  Unless we prove our trustfulness, the agency will dismiss our concerns.

The most difficult public policy argument to make is when the regulator or elected official is embedded in their ideology and logical arguments make no difference. The prime example of this reality is the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Employers can try to frame their arguments in terms of employee advancement; but, in my opinion, that is simply wasted resources. NLRB members have shown their intent to push through an agenda that all workers are oppressed unless represented by a union.

With the NLRB, the IWLA position becomes one of opposition from the beginning because of the strong ideological orientation of the regulators. We have read their decisions and their reasons. We understand that in all instances they see employers as the oppressor.

 I would recommend as you read the daily political reports, you apply this three part “tribal division tool” to discern the orientation of the person talking to you about politics. You will find this approach gives you a neutral space to evaluate how to protect and advance your company with elected officials and regulators and to present yourself and your company in a manner completely unpredicted by your opponents.



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About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel D. Anderson is president and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA). Based in Des Plaines, Ill., IWLA is the 120-year-old association of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry, with 500 members in the U.S. and Canada. Before joining IWLA, Anderson spent 28 years at the California Trucking Association, the last 13 as executive vice president and CEO. An economist by training and profession, Anderson was also a past board member of Cascade Sierra Solutions. He is a frequent speaker before supply chain industry groups.


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