What the Feinstein-Kids Video Teaches About Effective—And Ineffective—Advocacy

About the kids and Dianne Feinstein. I understand why some people feel outraged by what they think they’re seeing in the video, but I’d like to ask them to step back for a moment and try something that may feel unnatural: exercise some empathy for a politician.
 
Feinstein could have expressed it better, but if the group, especially the adults who organized it, had been able to listen to what she was saying, they might have learned some things about being effective in advocating for change.
 
Like not starting off by attacking an ally, in public. The full video, which provides much more context than the widely circulated two-minute edit, is here:

 

Senator Dianne Feinstein with a delegation of schoolchildren. Video by Sunrise Movement Bay Area via Storyful and the Sacramento Bee

 

Feinstein has a 100% 2017 rating from the League of Conservation Voters, and a 90% lifetime rating. She probably doesn’t need to be lectured about the danger of inaction on climate change. And, as a powerful ally, she just might be able to help move solutions forward.
 
Also: if an elected official who’s already on your side isn’t giving you everything you want right away, it may not be because that hasn’t occurred to them, or because they don’t want to do it. It may be because they can’t. They have to try to make things work in a democracy, where one person or group doesn’t have all the power.
 
Instead, people who disagree with you have power too — sometimes more than you, like when you’re in the minority in the Senate. So you’re forced to try to find paths forward other than the obvious one of just telling people what to do.
 
And that’s the hard part, which people in Feinstein’s position have to wrestle with every day: not what to do, but how to get it done.
 
So she could have been more polite, but her visitors could have been a little less focused on making demands, and a little more focused on making progress.
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