On the presidential front, 2004 promises to be a mudslinging, anger-packed, slug-fest of an election. On one side, we have George “Fahrenheit 9/11” Bush and on the other John “the most leftist voting record in Senate history” Kerry. But regardless of who wins, one thing is certain—the victor will face a hard time convincing the public to support their policies with such polarization in the country.
We believe that the Congressional 2004 elections are going to be where the action is―and are the far more important in determining the future of policy in the next decade. For Republicans, maintaining control of the House and Senate would prevent Kerry from raising taxes and introducing big-spending social programs (or would help Bush continue to push through his more fiscally conservative agenda). For Democrats, gaining seats―or control—in either legislative body would help reverse their decade long slide of influence in Congress, and would help counter Bush’s policies or aid Kerry’s agenda.
But making a difference on the national level in the congressional races is a challenge. Donations to local candidates, volunteering on the community level, and following the election issues to cast an informed vote, while all noble concepts, do little to impact the overall outcome across the United States. But fortunately, there are ways to create far more leverage than the above activities, by investing your time―and donations―wisely. Below, we present two activities that can make a real difference.
First, don’t just sign checks to support your local candidates—consider giving to organizations that pool groups of donations for tightly contested races. One group to consider is the fiscally conservative Club for Growth which donates to pro-growth Republicans who support reduced taxes and smaller government. Another is the left-leaning Emily’s List which supports liberal Democratic women. Do these political groups really make a difference? The Club for Growth’s record suggests they do. Last election, their candidates won 17 out of 19 seats in targeted races, causing the National Journal to call the club “one of the most effective political organizations in America”.
Second, take a proactive role in inviting candidates to speak at your business to your employees. Regardless of whether or not you support their policies—or election ticket—having candidates come in to the office or stop by the shop floor, spending thirty minutes highlighting their agenda and stances, is a great way to get your co-workers actively engaged in the political process. In the last election, our old employer was fortunate enough to have Joe Lieberman speak to a large group of workers. Despite an overall demographic at the company that tilted to the right, Senator Lieberman was welcomed with open arms by the group and really got his audience thinking about big-picture issues. While convincing a Vice Presidential candidate to show up is a long shot, getting local congressional candidates to present to a sizable audience is much easier. Sometimes, a few phone calls to campaign headquarters is all it takes.
When we were walking out of our building the other day, we saw a woman wearing a political pin that read “ABB”. We asked her what it stood for. She replied “Anybody But Bush”. Later, we thought to ourselves that in this election year, about 90% of the voting public would be happy to wear that pin or one that read “ABK”. But instead of wasting energy on supporting the “evil of two lessers”, as one friend put it, it’s time for all of us to get serious about the implications of the congressional races. Whether Bush shuffles back his Texas ranch or Kerry jets around in his wife’s $35 million Gulfstream V as a mere Senator, Congress will still be here. And they’ll be the ones casting the votes that make the policy difference.