It is a few months after the election; do you know where your freshman legislator is?
Sending your naïve conservative hero off to the legislature is similar to sending your precious, innocent college freshman off to a liberal university.
You are turning him loose to the wolves.
You have done all you can to raise him up and prepare him for the real world, but you will never know how he is going to respond to all the pressure and temptations that come with his new life away from home and the people who helped him get there.
How will you know where he is, and the decisions he’s making, when you aren’t there to hold his hand?
As a former State Senator myself, I can tell you where he is.
He is at the state capitol moving into his impressive new office. He’s attending freshmen orientation classes and meeting his fellow legislators.
Every member of the press and the lobby has scheduled time to meet with him. He has already had his first caucus meeting and cast his first vote — to elect new leadership.
Needless to say, there is a whirlwind of important activity immediately following the election.
This is a foreign environment for most freshmen legislators. Many have never stepped foot into a capitol before. It is all pretty heady stuff and can often be overwhelming.
THE SPIN ZONE
We must be aware that like liberal college professors at an Ivy League school, the “political class” is entrenched in their element.
It is definitely NOT a foreign environment for them. This is their domain. They eat, sleep and drink this arena. AND, they know how to use this opportunity to begin shaping the minds of young, naïve freshmen.
Who makes up the political class?
Leadership Speaker of the House
President of the Senate
Special Interest Groups
Most in the political class have sharp focus on their agenda and are adept at playing the game. They will seize the moment when newly-elected freshmen legislators feel overwhelmed.
They know that whoever reaches this freshman first is best poised to educate them to the “truth” of their issue.
This is one of the most exciting, yet mentally exhausting times in the life of a legislator.
There is a vast gamut of important and complicated issues to learn — everything from the state budget and education, to healthcare and energy.
It is impossible for a freshman legislator to fully understand the intricacies of all these policy issues.
For each one of these complexities there is a myriad of lobbyists and special interest groups whose livelihood hinges on persuading the new freshmen.
Enter the spin zone
The moment a legislator is elected, the phone starts ringing off the hook with people hoping to schedule meetings. There are coffees, dinners and cocktail parties with lobbyists, and meet-and-greets with industry leaders.
Large educational symposiums are hosted to provide legislators with in-depth presentations on how specific industries run, and how important they are to the state’s economy. Legislative field trips are organized so legislators can have personal tours of important industries around the state.
Each of these opportunities is helpful and important toward educating a legislator about key issues.
These meetings are also effective at re-educating a conservative hero into a big government, big corporatist political tool.
Lobbyists and interest group leaders have spent years “educating” members of leadership, the press, and even legislative staff on the importance of their issues.
There is a universal understanding of how things must work.
Legislative leadership will meet with all freshmen lawmakers to explain that politics and legislating is a team sport. If anyone attempts to leave the safety of the group and venture off on their own, it will cause great harm to the team.
Leadership will explain how things are “really done in the legislature.”
Staff will answer the freshman’s questions and explain how making cuts to the budget, eliminating a department, or amending a particular bill just won’t work.
The press is quick to ridicule and demean anyone who dares to think outside the box. If a conservative legislator steps out of line, they are quickly mocked and blacklisted.
The pressure to conform is intense.
The temptation to be one of the “cool kids” in order to be “effective” is overwhelming.
Newton’s Law of Accountability
For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.
It is incumbent upon you, the grassroots conservative activist, to understand the squeeze your freshmen legislators are in and the power of the spin zone.
It is YOUR responsibility to come alongside, strengthen and encourage, as well as hold him accountable.
If there is pressure coming from the left, you MUST apply pressure from the right.
He is your freshman. He is your responsibility. It is imperative that you call him, meet with him, and encourage him to stand in the face of pressure.
This will certainly serve as a strong reminder that he is not alone, but truly representing the ideals and values of those who have sent him into battle.
More often than not, you will be forced to discipline a politician you helped to elect.
This is why we teach activists to take care not to become close friends with a politician. Inevitably, you will have to discipline them. Just as it is painful to discipline a child, it is hard to disciple a friend.
If you want a friend in politics, get a dog.
You may give a warning, but a wrong vote demands that you lay down some wood.
Send out some mail. Contact your members and have them email your legislator. Never stop applying the pressure until you get the behavior you expect of your politician.
Again, YOU are responsible for the lawmaker you helped elect. You must try to protect them from the spin zone.
Ensure that you are available and supportive. Guide them and remain in communication with them. BUT, if necessary, you MUST discipline them. You have a moral obligation to your members to hold politicians accountable.
Colorado State Senator
P.S. Just like your children, you are responsible for the politicians you helped elect.
Never underestimate the pressure they are under to conform.
You must continually provide support to inoculate your freshmen legislators from the pressure of the SPIN ZONE.
And, if necessary, you must never flinch from disciplining a politician you are responsible for.
h/t Susan Holmes for providing this letter so we could share it with OKGrassroots network
I live in Bartlesville Oklahoma now, but I grew up in Texas. I was a cofounder of the Associated Conservatives of Texas in the 90's, serve on the Traveling Liberty Bell board, was a co-founder of R3publicans in 2008, Constitutional Liberty Coalition (a multistate effort) and OKGrassroots in 2009. We are working together to restore the republic and proclaim liberty throughout the land! Finding Gems & Sharing Them - my personal blog * R3publicans * OKGrassroots * Constitutional Liberty Coalition