Yesterday I received a survey from ASVA (The Acupuncture Society of Virginia). My excitement at being asked for my opinion quickly turned to surprise as I read the questions. Several deserve a post of their own. (The discussion is pertinent for other states as well.) Today I’ll look at “Should ASVA organize a grassroots campaign and fundraising to support the election of legislators that would be favorable to licensed acupuncturists in Virginia?” Perhaps it seems like a no-brainer to you — of course! Why not?
Here are my questions:
- What makes a legislator favorable to licensed acupuncturists? If they think acupuncture is great and should be covered by insurance, but feel strongly that MD’s and DC’s should continue to provide acupuncture with short training, is that favorable?
- If our positions are unlikely to be amenable to MD’s, PT’s and DC’s, will any legislator go for support from the 400 Virginia LAcs without regard for the 34,000 MD’s, 7000 PT’s, and 1600 DC’s?
- Does their position on other issues matter?
- There are 100 Delegates and 40 Senators in Virginia – in how many races will we get involved?
- There are few open seats in any election year. Do we support a challenger knowing that incumbents usually win and may bear grudges? (In 2011 two Delegate races were won by challengers.) Does an incumbent need our support?
- In those two races each candidate spent about $500,000 on the race. What is our best estimate of the amount we could raise and is it enough to have an impact?
What could we do that would be far easier? As individual practitioners we could know and support our state legislators and local candidates and be sure that they know us. Make a few $20.00 donations over the course of a campaign to your local legislators (unless they are really awful, in which case support the challenger). Attend your Senator’s or Delegate’s Town Halls during the session and their Meet and Greets during the campaigns. If you think they are decent, work for their campaign. Do what you can to educate them about our issues while making sure they know who you are and what you do. This is best to do when the legislature is not in session, as they have more time then. (Of course, if you ask them one week to get rid of the form that recommends a visit to a physician for patients because, after all, acupuncture is safe, and ask them the next week to make sure PT’s can’t do acupuncture because, after all, it puts the public at risk, it may confuse them.)
Making a difference in state politics doesn’t require a big campaign and, in Virginia and many other states, the acupuncture community is probably too small to be a special interest to be reckoned with any time soon. As individuals, though, we excel at building relationships. Build connections on a personal level and create legislators who are favorable to acupuncture — it’s the easier way.