Speak truth to power

Dec. 16, 2014
Because it’s your skin that’s in the game

Ever since the Watergate scandal inexplicably captivated my teenaged self, my favorite sport to follow— even to the point of dabbling in it— has been electoral politics.

As with any rabid fan, I got pulled in more and more until I was persuaded a few years back to run for a seat on my town council. I was elected to serve a two-year term and then re-elected, but increasing constraints on my personal time precluded seeking a third term.

My time spent being “the man in the arena,” as Teddy Roosevelt put it, was brief. Although mine was an unpaid elected office, I was rewarded for my efforts by experiencing first-hand that, as Tip O’Neill once insisted, “All politics is local.” Local as in right down to where a stop sign should be placed. Or not be placed.

Indeed, the biggest lesson drilled into me— by constituents who literally  buttonholed me or phoned me or flooded me with emails— was the squeaky wheel does get the grease. And the squeakiest one of all may well get all the grease.

When it was time for our 50-member Representative Town Council to debate and then vote on a contentious issue, such as school funding or municipal employment contracts, it was the sworn duty of all of us to argue for or against any measure based on the views expressed to us by the people we represented in our given voting district.

The upshot? It was the thinking of the vocal minority— those who bother­ed, often passionately, to express their views directly to their representatives— that determined the outcome of every highly charged issue.

And so it goes as well up on Capitol Hill— except, of course, for the added pressure applied by deep-pocketed lobbyists. But dense as they may sometimes appear, Members of Congress know damn well who put them into office and who can kick them out.

Whether they got to the polls for the midterm election or not, anyone eligible to vote has the right to be heard by their senators and representatives and to hold them to their campaign promises.

It’s worth considering that Congressmen are thoroughly clued into what industry associations and other organized interest groups want them to vote for or against.

What they don’t know if you don’t tell them yourself is your views and how you expect them to be addressed.

Politicians keep an unblinking eye locked on their next election. To get them to work for you, you have no choice but to make it known that the vote you’ll cast in a few years' time must be earned now.

With so much at stake in the upcoming 114th Congress for everyone who earns a living from trucking, come January and right on through the next two years, every message you individually send to your senators and your representatives will power up the industry’s traction on such crucial issues as revitalizing transportation infrastructure and stemming the flood of burdensome regulations.

It’s said the Quakers first urged that we “speak truth to power.” If you’re in trucking, there’s no better time than now to do just that.

After all, to paraphrase President Obama, it’s your skin that’s in the game.

David Cullen is Executive Editor of FleetOwner.

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