Feeling like elected officials are not listening to the people that elected them into office or live in their district can feel very frustrating for those constituents. Many people give up and no longer want to participate in government not knowing the many reasons why constituents voices may seem to go unheard in the political process.
It is easy when a person is frustrated to become very focused in his unique vision about how things “should” be. The first thing that a Civil Citizen needs to do if they are not making progress on an issue is to look at their stance on that issue. Start by asking other people that can offer a few differing viewpoints what they think to gain a greater perspective. It can be difficult to be objective. It’s important to remember that to truly be a Democratic society it must represent the greater good.
Some issues tend to be self-serving to a small group. Those types of issues can be overlooked or willingly ignored by those in office, ideas that appear to be too extreme in some way. If the feedback from others suggest your idea may be one of those extreme ideas do some research see what other similar communities are doing to address the issue in question. Is your idea within a range of those similar ideas or is it very different?
One needs to know why the policy is what it currently is and what needs to happen to come up with a solution that works in reality. It is easy to be a bumper thumper. Those who just throw bumper sticker slogans around as policy ideas with no real in depth consideration about how any of it would actually work in reality. These folks have a very narrow view and vision of the world. When creating a good public policy the very old and wise saying must be considered and implemented the one about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes before making any judgments. So make sure you are not being a bumper thumper.
If at first your idea is one of those non-workable ideas it is not something to give up or despair about. It is time to contact elected officials or their staff to respectfully and humbly ask questions. Attend a town hall meeting, do research online and ask yourself and those involved hands-on with the issue “What is it that I don’t know about this issue?” Such questions invite a learning environment and discussion to cultivate a better understanding of what can be done moving forward.
If the work has been done a reasonable policy has been developed and still no viable response is given. It’s likely that you have bounced into the stone wall called political will. Political will is what those currently in office are willing to do. Many times it is has little to do with anything the Civil Citizen did or didn’t do. Political will can be about realities totally out of the Civil Citizen’s control. When crashing against political will there are still options.
Such options include:
- Contact the press (radio, TV, etc)
- Write a letter to the editor
- Host a community meeting
- Attend committee meeting or City Council Meeting
Do whatever it takes to get the word out to the community about the solution you suggest so that public opinion can apply pressure and convince political will to change.
Sometimes it is simply the messenger. If you are unfortunate enough to have a highly partisan official and you are not the “correct” party for them they may just be playing politics and not listening because you are not on their team as far as they see it. If that is the case and you happen to know someone who is a member of that party. Preferably one that is well known in giving donations or having influence see if they may be interested in pitching your idea. Sometimes the delivery is everything. Be willing to compromise. Sometimes although you are not able to get everything you want, you can get some of what you want and that is a good start.
If no progress can be made, it is time to consider whether you want to work on a campaign for someone who is in agreement with your point of view. Hopefully if they win you will have someone more open to making your idea happen. Not that any politician can be counted on for sure to pass your idea through even if you helped with the campaign. There are many different variables in play. However, if it is a like minded person, your chances are much better.
Have all options been tried and still no results? It may be time to question whether you want to be part of that community any longer. If the issue is a strong one, or one of many, that leave the community feeling like it is not home perhaps its time to be open to an opportunity to move to a place that is more naturally in tune with your ideals without having to change anything. This is only a last resort if all other options have been exhausted.
The most important thing is to do your best to be heard. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there and keep at it until your elected officials listen. Whether they like it or not, it’s what they get paid for!