A Reddit comment discussing an article on long-shot replacements for Governor of California during the 2021 recall election, explains how an individual can have a much larger impact without having to run for office. The author says that they worked "as an advisor to 3 different (Australian) Senators", so some examples may not apply everywhere, but as a general rule, I think its quite spot on.
I'm reproducing the comment in full below.
There's actually much lower cost/higher reward forms of political involvement than this. Spending a quarter million on a longshot campaign for Governor where even if you win you have no institutional support and probably get replaced after a year comes quite a long way down the list in terms of cost-effective political investments.
I would say if you want to maximise political impact-for-effort, the best method is probably:
- Form a lobby group. You can literally do this with a handful of friends. Give yourselves some sort of name that sounds like you might represent someone, appoint people office holders, adopt a constitution. The group doesn't need to do anything, it exists purely for you to be its representative.
- Call up politician's offices and ask for appointments to express your concerns about some bill that's coming up. Some will meet with you, some will have their advisors meet with you, some will ignore you. But you'll get a much higher strike rate than you expect.
- Take the meetings, sit down with legislators or advisors, tell them what you like or don't like about the proposed law and how you would like to see it changed. Literally no one will ask how many people you actually represent or why they should listen to you.
- Most importantly, rinse and repeat. Find any opportunity you can to call around and ask for new meetings. You will build relationships over time, and legislators will learn and begin to internalise your concerns.
Why this works:
Politicians and political advisors spend a large percentage of their time having meetings with concerned interest groups. You're not asking them to take time out of their normal schedule to talk with you, you're slotting into their normal operations. It's not at all hard to get a meeting. I've seen professional lobbyists who make careers from "getting access" for corporate clients. It's pure grift, the client could have just called and asked for the meeting directly.
Politicians use the number of times people come and meet with them over an issue as a rough proxy for how important that issue is. Just by repeatedly badgering them on X issue, you can create an impression that people really care about X.
Politicians get most of their claims and talking points from interest groups (which is a part of why they so often say things that are so misleading). They do very little research of their own. There is no better way to put the salient facts in front of them, or for those facts to become a part of the public debate.
Politicians are like normal people in that they have a selection of issues they care passionately about, and then there's a whole bunch of things they don't have any opinion on. If you show up and tell them what they should think about an issue they previously hadn't thought about much and can express yourself clearly and convincingly, there's a high chance you can get them to agree with you!
Most lobbyists are pretty bad at lobbying! The basic strategy of "Get as many meetings as you can" is very effective and very rarely utilised! The best lobbyists I've seen are Industry Super, who took the opportunity to call me up not only every time a bill impacting the superannuation industry was proposed, but also at every stage of the drafting process and when amendments were being drafted and circulated. Now, they represent a group of funds that manages literally trillions of dollars of investments, but their main lobbying strategy is one that can be replicated by anyone - it costs no money, only time.
There's a saying in politics - "The world is run by those who show up". It's absolutely true.