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Five Principles of Useful Political Activism

By Joel Anderson | 09/10/2013 | 7:13 AM

No amount of money or time can influence political activities if the right components are not in place. My political experiences led me to five guiding principles that pave the way for advocacy success. These allow you to evaluate the worthiness of engaging in a political effort. Ultimately, these five points divide successful campaign from failed campaigns.

1) Be on the side of the angels.
Asking your legislator to vote your way is asking them to potentially encourage an opponent to run against them in a primary or a general election. Can you frame your argument to give your position the presumptive moral high ground? If you can, you have an action that reaches above party lines.

Always imagine that what you ask of your legislator will be on the front page of the legislator’s local newspaper. Your very first task is to make him/her look good in front of his/her constituents and have solid, fact-based data/proof to support your claim. The goal is to pass your legislation and build a relationship with the elected official. Ideally, your representative will see you as trustworthy source of information, and as someone who knows how to protect long-term interests.

2) Make your opponents uncomfortable.
If your opponent has an argument nearly as strong as yours, the legislator’s default position is not to act. Legislators hate to galvanize a group of special-issue voters against them because they know those voters remember the past. When planning your activism, it’s important that you examine the arguments of the individuals with contrary positions. Figure out how to frame your position as the best solution to a gnawing problem so that your opposition is portrayed as heartless to the public need in the elected official’s district.

3) Carefully select and groom the advocates who will present your position.
If your industry has the strength of diversity, demonstrate that diversity at every public and political event you hold. In a world where generalizations of an industry are a matter of convenience, your efforts to dispute those generalizations are critical to your success. For example, IWLA oftentimes asserts the openness of logistics career ladders by gathering studies by government groups that show the career progression, the diversity of the workforce, and the industry’s attention to safety and human resources. This requirement is crucial when dealing with groups that cherry-pick employers who have exploitation charges against them. Know your opponents tactics and have your spokespeople represent the full diversity spectrum of your workforce.

4) Stay on message.
Ask for one thing, keep to one thing and be happy when you obtain that one thing. Never be seen as greedy.

5) Always be gracious, even when you lose.
Politics is a long process that can revive itself when least expected. Losing today teaches you how to win tomorrow. You create future opportunities for yourself and your clients by thanking your sponsors and treating your opponents with respect.

During my career, these principles have enabled the two associations I’ve led to transcend the normal odds and pass or kill legislation when others never expected us to prevail.

IWLA’s vice president, Jay Strother and senior coordinator of marketing & public relations,
Morgan Zenner contributed to this posting.



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

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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