The underlying psychology of politicians and those who seek to influence them is that they are trying to put a problem right, finally and forever.
My corporate clients sometimes believe that if they could just change one aspect of regulation or legislation, their operating environment would be improved. Or, they think that if agree to a particular idea mooted by Government, that would be the end of the matter.
The reality is that there never is a solution that fixes everything. Solutions don’t work, or people’s expectations change, or the problems change.
So I often find myself counselling to clients that “Government never ends” – because it’s not in the nature of humans to be satisfied.
For example, about five years ago I helped private businesses fend off a proposal that would make their financial accounts public. I warned that the motivations of the people behind the proposal were not going away. Sure enough, a few years later, the proposal reappeared under a new Government. We shut that one down as well.
Similarly, I helped a food client water-down, but ultimately agree to, a government proposal related to obesity-reduction. I warned the client that the government would be back for more. Sure enough, a few years later, the original proposal re-emerged and we had to bat it away again.
What brought this topic to mind today was the battle in the US over Obama’s plan to enforce contraception as a component of employer-provided healthcare plans.
The irony I see there is that a private healthcare system is being manipulated to bring about a social objective. Those who seek private or market systems often think that they’re freeing themselves of the interference of Government. The reality is that no system is immune from the reach of political interests and the shifts of cultural values.
Central to any political strategy must be a realisation that the current project and objective is at best buying time. It’s unlikely to ever be the end of the story. That shifts strategic thinking in important ways.
That is why I urge clients to concentrate on what I call “public advocacy”, not only political advocacy. What I mean by this is that the only way to change political motivations is by going to the source of political power and motivation: the public.
The great battle of political ideologies is actually a social battle. If you change attitudes among the wider public then the political drivers are changed more fundamentally, and probably, for longer.