Bi-Partisan Political Activity - A Primer

John Stewart
Natural Resource Consultant
California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs

Whether your club focus is social interaction or working to save your favorite wheeling area, members are what make it possible. It starts with membership in a local club centering on a shared goal. Soon, you find that others share common concerns about their area of interest and you begin sharing information. You have started "networking", the basic building block of a creating a coalition. Soon, you will find yourself in position to engage in political activity; either by contacting you elected representative to talk about an issue of concern or to endorse a bill.

Wheelers are interested in recreation and have spent many hours learning how to drive and fix their rig. While the mechanical skills have been honed, the political skills have been ignored.

The reality is that the quality of your recreation experience is dependent upon how articulate, active, and successful you are in bi-partisan political activity. The following is a "no nonsense" guide to bi-partisan political activity.

1) ALWAYS TALK ABOUT YOUR RECREATION ISSUES AND CONCERNS. During conversations with political staffers, candidates, or elected officials, stick to the topic of your concerns; not party affiliation.

2) TALK ABOUT WHAT HE (or SHE) IS FOR AND WHAT HE (or SHE) IS AGAINST THAT AFFECT YOUR RECREATION OPPORTUNITY. You may be a mechanic, teacher, web designer, or business owner. Talk about your recreation opportunity and how the proposed bill will affect it.

3) DON'T TALK ABOUT OTHER POLITICAL ISSUES OF HIS POLITICAL PARTY. Your concern is a single issue, recreation. Talking about other issues will get you locked into being a party supporter of that candidate or issue.

4) BE SUPPORTIVE OF A CANDIDATE ON ISSUES THAT CONCERN US, EITHER PRO OR CON.

5) NEVER PUBLICLY ENDORSE A CANDIDATE, BUT PRAISE HIS OR HER SUPPORT FOR RECREATION ISSUES. If you endorse someone, you lock yourself in. You become a "Democrat" or "Republican", and the other side will tune you out.

6) NEVER PUBLICLY ENDORSE AN AMENDMENT OR REFERENDUM THAT DOES NOT DIRECTLY AFFECT RECREATION, BUT LEND SUPPORT THROUGH COALITIONS ON ISSUES THAT DO AFFECT RECREATION MEMBERS. Coalitions achieve their strength through diversity. That is where we can leverage recreation positions and ideas.

7) WE MUST HAVE ACCESS TO ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS (OR THEIR STAFF) WHO CAN OFFICIALLY AFFECT US - - - AND THAT MEANS WHO'S IN OFFICE IS WHO WE WANT TO BE INVOLVED WITH - - - WHO WE WANT TO LISTEN TO US.

8) PARTY AFFILIATION IS YOUR PERSONAL BUSINESS, AND YOU SHOULD ACT ON IT ANY WAY YOU WANT. HOWEVER, YOU SHOULD COMMUNICATE WITH ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PROMOTE RECREATION ISSUES REGARDLESS OF PARTY AFFILIATION.

The above are elementary political techniques - - - things that recreationists need to learn more about --- think more about --- and do more about. Bi-partisan activity through coalitions will strengthen all of us.