TNM’s Legislative Action Workshop’s current session features CEO and author David Thomas Roberts presented his talk on “Building Relationships for Legislative Advocacy.”
Dave Roberts, the CEO of Defiance Press, a leading book publisher for conservative and libertarian literature, has crafted many personal and professional relationships with politicians and power-brokers. However, he didn’t do that by standing awe-struck of their office or reach of influence.
“The first step is [to realize] that these guys are just like you and I,” related Roberts, “they just happened to have won an election. That’s all.” Certainly, the author relayed the importance of being respectful, unlike the flash-mob harassment of office holders that has become so popular, but it’s not necessary to be sycophantic.
In approaching a politician, among the things you need to keep in mind is to be respectful of their time in presenting your case. “You got to realize that, you know, when you’re meeting one of these guys or gals for the first time, they’re trying to size you up also… ‘Is that person a potential political donor? Does that person [have] a wide-sphere of influence?’ Basically, when they’re looking at you and I, they’re wondering what [we can] do for them.” It’s not necessary to bend your own principles to accommodate the politician but be frank and to the point. You’ll find that they’ll respect that and will listen to you.
Another key step in building relationships to achieve legislative change is to “try to find common interest.” “Anything you find in common [could be useful]. Maybe, [you should] do a little research on the person you’re going to go visit or go talk to, before you do it, and see if you can find common ground so you know what to bring up. You may even know some of the same people, or anything from high school football to hunting, [or] some bill that they sponsored.” Almost anything could be grounds for establishing rapport with your representative.
Also important is finding common cause. You are unlikely to agree with all the legislative decisions of any of these politicians. And while your aim is to convince them to see things your way, that may not always be possible. However, you could rally them to specific causes that you both generally support. “We may not agree with a legislator on some bill that they passed, but if he’s onboard with protecting the Alamo, we have something in common. And I’m going to pursue that with him, knowing that the other might be a lost cause… You may have some small battles that you’re going to lose, but the idea is to win the war, over all.”
One anecdote Roberts shared was from his recent meeting with Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a Freedom Caucus founder and prospective GOP leader in the House of Representatives. Because of his possible rise in rank, his political enemies have tried to implicate him in a scandal. During this time, Roberts “sent him a text that said, ‘Hey Jim. Just praying for you. We support you down here in Texas, we don’t believe any of the crap we’re hearing, and I just wanted to let you know that Texas stands behind you.’ And you know what? Now I have a regular conversation with him all the time. He’s been very helpful in some of the research I’ve done.”
You can watch the entire session below.