As I read about how many people die in Chicago (where I sit writing this) each week or see the horrific scenes of yet another mass shooting, I ask, yet again, why can't this country pass even basic rules to regulate guns, which do in fact kill people -- lots of people?
You would think that outrage about a mass shooting would actually weaken the gun lobby, but the opposite is true. Gun sales go up. NRA fundraising ramps up. And the legend of NRA invincibility grows.
Though a majority of Americans support sensible gun policies, the levers of power reside elsewhere. While this is frustrating, there are great lessons for you to take away here and apply to your fundraising and advocacy work:
1. Your efforts to move people on an issue might be moving them the wrong way. It's 90% psychology, and it's not always intuitive. For example, a poster telling kids to not drop out of school actually encourages kids to drop out of school -- it provides social proof that people do that and, psychologically speaking, gives the kids seeing it permission to do the same. Talking about how many people have guns is probably working the same way.
For more on this, read Robert Cialdini's classic book on persuasion.
2. Politics and political change are a combat sport. In Wisconsin, Republicans get less than 50% of the votes in the state but hold over 60% of the legislative seats. To win, you need to understand where power resides and how to get it. In the case of Wisconsin Democrats that means being in front of the Supreme Court this week.
3. People are emotional creatures and lose interest very quickly. Think about how we go from one Trump outrage to the next. The outrage about the Las Vegas shooting will fade all too soon, as well. You need to be nimble enough to connect to people when the feelings are fresh and give them agency to make change and be part of a solution to keep them engaged.
Many of us working on social change already work really hard. To move your org and issues ahead, you don't need to work harder. Instead, you need to reevaluate and refocus in order to work smarter.