The midterm elec­tions are over — now what?

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

Well, that’s over.

Did we all sur­vive the midterms? Was it a blue wave? An ooze? Or some­thing more in the shade of crim­son?

Did we do our duty? Did we save the coun­try? Can we move on with our lives un­til 2020? Well, not yet. The elec­tions may be over, the con­fetti swept away, the tears shed, the cease­less ca­coph­ony of at­tack ads stilled. But for folks like San­dra Duck­ert — and, she hopes, you — the work has just be­gun.

“Many of us think that our only duty as cit­i­zens is to vote,” said Duck­ert, a Cor­rales res­i­dent and a tire­less

ad­vo­cate for ad­vo­cat­ing. “We’ve been trained to be­lieve we have no in­flu­ence af­ter our votes. But if we learn how to be ef­fec­tive we find we ac­tu­ally have a lot of in­flu­ence. It’s fun and easy when you know how.”

Duck­ert is a for­mer long­time ed­u­ca­tor who hasn’t stopped ed­u­cat­ing. Over the past two years, she es­ti­mates she has trained close to 300 peo­ple on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum across New Mex­ico on how to be ef­fec­tive ad­vo­cates. She learned how to be ef­fec­tive her­self through Re­sults, a na­tional ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps train, sup­port and in­spire cit­i­zens to be­come ad­vo­cates for end­ing poverty glob­ally and na­tion­ally.

Her work helped earn her the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­ti­gious Bob Dick­er­son Grass­roots Lead­er­ship Award this year, named af­ter a long­time mem­ber. She’s the sec­ond New Mex­i­can to be so hon­ored since the award’s in­cep­tion four years ago.

“I teach peo­ple how to give a twominute speech in front of law­mak­ers, how to write a let­ter to the ed­i­tor, how to speak with our con­gres­sional lead­ers,” she said. “It helps peo­ple feel some power again, some sense of be­ing able to do some­thing other than feel hope­less, to feel they can make an im­pact.”

Duck­ert her­self was a quick study, her train­ing help­ing her get up the courage to chat up Sen. Tom Udall as he walked in a Fourth of July pa­rade in Cor­rales.

“I jumped off my fold­ing chair along the side of the road and just started lob­by­ing him on for­eign pol­icy,” she said. “You know I could not have done that if I had not known what to say.”

Al­though Re­sults fo­cuses on an­tipoverty ad­vo­cacy, learn­ing how to con­nect and com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively is a use­ful skill with any is­sue and ev­ery level, from school boards to the U.S. Se­nate.

Which brings us back to life af­ter midterms.

Now that we’ve voted them in, it’s time to teach them how to do the job.

“Think of it like hir­ing new em­ploy­ees,” she said. “Th­ese peo­ple work for us and if we can do some­thing to help them do that job bet­ter, then let’s do that. No of­fice or busi­ness would last long if peo­ple hired were put in their jobs and then not both­ered with for two years or six years.”

A re­cent study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence Re­view and con­ducted by re­searchers Alexan­der Her­tel-Fer­nan­dez, Matto Milden­berger and Leah Stokes found that se­nior con­gres­sional staffers — the peo­ple who help their bosses de­cide what bills to pur­sue and sup­port — have wildly in­ac­cu­rate con­cepts of what their con­stituents want or think, a clue­less­ness ex­ac­er­bated by the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-cen­tric echo cham­ber and the ubiq­ui­tous and well-fi­nanced lob­by­ists.

Yet a sep­a­rate sur­vey by the Con­gres­sional Man­age­ment Foun­da­tion found that 46 per­cent of staffers say an in-per­son visit from a con­stituent wields a lot of in­flu­ence, com­pared with just 8 per­cent of staffers who find a visit from a paid lob­by­ist equally as in­flu­en­tial.

Con­stituent let­ters, emails, phone calls and town hall com­ments also rank higher in in­flu­ence than a chat with a lob­by­ist, the sur­vey found.

“This leads me to be­lieve that our ad­vo­cacy as cit­i­zens is crit­i­cal,” Duck­ert said. “I have found that the staff mem­bers in con­gres­sional of­fices ap­pre­ci­ate get­ting back­ground in­for­ma­tion and so­lu­tions. Our job is to help our lead­ers un­der­stand what we want.”

Which is to say that the job of be­ing a good ci­ti­zen is not over once a vote is cast.

So let’s get to work.

Jo­line Gu­tier­rez Krueger

COUR­TESY OF KEN DUCK­ERT

San­dra Duck­ert, the 2018 re­cip­i­ent of the Bob Dick­er­son Grass­roots Lead­er­ship Award from Re­sults, ex­plains that a re­cent study found that 46 per­cent of con­gres­sional staffers say a visit from a con­stituent has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on de­ci­sion-mak­ing vs. 8 per­cent who say paid lob­by­ists have sim­i­lar in­flu­ence. That, she says, is ci­ti­zen power.

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