Editorial: Politics now, politics tomorrow, politics forever

Editorial Board

The state legislature’s session is well under way, and if you have the chance to go observe the proceedings for a day, one aspect of the Capitol building that you will probably notice is the presence of at least one group hosting a breakfast or a lunch and lobbying legislators that day.

Iowa Staters have two such organized opportunities to lobby Iowa’s representatives and senators: Alliance for Iowa State’s ISU Day at the Capitol, which took place Monday, and the annual Regent’s Day, which is the main event of the ISU Ambassadors. Such events allow the university and its students to display the work they are doing and advocate for more funding.

Although such days have good uses and should be retained so that students have a time to experience the thrill of walking through the state capitol and politicking with the men and women who make the laws of Iowa, it is hard to believe that much comes from ISU Day at the Capitol or Regent’s Day. Those opportunities seem to be more like the cherry on top of the lobbying sundae rather than the more substantial ice cream.

That is not to say that the various sponsored days at the capitol are empty shells of events or are wastes of time. As stated above, they are an invaluable experience to students from all majors who all should have some sense of what it takes to “do politics.” For students who can only afford (either because they have to sit in class, study, or work) to give one day to such pursuits, such days provide an opportunity to have a civic experience on the state level.

But there are many other daily ways for students to get involved, to voice their opinions.

Students can write letters to the editor. Of course, we at the Daily are happy to receive them, but the legislators who represent our homes outside Ames deserve to hear our opinions, too. And since the Des Moines Register is the main source for news in Des Moines, it also provides a good forum for students to express their concerns. It may seem as if we toot our own horn whenever we say to send us letters, but letters to the editor are very different from posts on Facebook or Twitter. In social media, the only people “following” a person or “friends with him are people he wants to associate with and the people who want to associate with him. More often than not, social media becomes an inarticulate echo chamber of dittoheads and Yes Men.

We can also write directly to legislators. If you send enough individualized emails, eventually the lawmaker or his or her clerk will catch on and notice. And if those emails describe your own personal experience rather than the cliche talking points we have all heard before, that will mean something, too.

Those are just two possibilities. The most important thing to remember is that success in lobbying is in consistency, persistence and originality. As Samuel Adams said, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”