Delegates to NAIFA’s Congressional Conference April 8-9, 2013 would do well to see the recent hit movie Lincoln before heading to Washington. The movie shows that even presidents have to lobby to get tough things done in Congress.
For those who haven’t seen the movie or read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln on which the movie was based, the movie depicts the lobbying effort that President Abraham Lincoln undertook to round up the votes in the House of Representatives to pass the then proposed 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 13th Amendment proposed the abolition of slavery in the U.S.
When Lincoln’s lobbying effort began, it was thought that a vote on passage would fail by 20 votes. The movie depicts how Lincoln and a team of lobbyists he enlisted set about to get those 20 votes. All of the votes needed would have to come from Members who were thought to be opposed to the Amendment. Quite a daunting task.
Lincoln and his lobbyists tailored strategies to persuade each individual House member whose vote they sought. The toughest votes were undertaken by Lincoln himself, visiting the legislators face to face and asking for the legislator’s vote. One key vote was garnered by Lincoln asking constituents of one legislator to in turn lobby the legislator. In the end, Lincoln did not get every vote he courted, but he got the votes he needed.
What’s the takeaway for NAIFA’s constituent lobbyists? First, NAIFA’s mission next April is a worthy one: convincing Congress that keeping the tax treatment currently applicable to the purchase of permanent life insurance and annuities is good public policy. Second, the sentiments of a Member’s district matter—big time! Third, there is no substitute for face to face lobbying. Emails are great; phones calls are wonderful. But nothing succeeds like looking the legislator in the eye and asking for his or her vote.That’s what NAIFA’s constituent lobbyists will be doing next April. It was good enough for Lincoln; it should be good enough for NAIFA.