Mark Fisher, Indy Chamber – @FisherIndy
Often the deepest divide in Hoosier politics isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats – it’s the fault line between change and the status quo. When it comes to issues like how we run our elections and government, who can sell alcohol on what days and at what temperature, or whether ‘Hoosier hospitality’ truly welcomes everyone, it’s always easier to muster a majority to defend the way things have always been done.
Some of us spent years trying to reform a system of township government conceived in the era of horseback travel, only to repeatedly collide with the stubborn insistence that Indiana needs a thousand different ways to distribute poor relief and cut the grass in our public cemeteries.
While the last session of the General Assembly was remarkably productive in many ways, a redistricting plan proposed by Representative Jerry Torr was scuttled because lawmakers were simply more comfortable with the old system – perhaps complacent about the politics of drawing their own districts.
There’s nothing wrong with tradition, and caution is a virtue in writing our laws and spending taxpayer money. But different perspectives and new thinking are necessary to move us forward; competitive elections also force our public officials to work together – bipartisan progress happens when gridlock becomes an issue at the ballot box.
That’s why the Indy Chamber applauded the formation of a bipartisan ‘Indiana Future Caucus’ earlier this year, made up of younger legislators focused on the interests of Millennial Hoosiers. This generation makes up a growing plurality of the U.S. workforce, and their career and lifestyle choices are driving change – from Indy’s investments in mass transit and our walkable housing boom to the state’s Regional Cities Initiative to help other Indiana metros appeal to young talent.
We hope the Future Caucus brings a fresh point of view to the Statehouse, building a youth movement that invigorates debate and pushes their respective caucuses faster in the right direction. But this group only organizes the officials who have already taken the leap into electoral politics and public service. The bigger challenge is getting more of their peers into the action.
That’s why the Indy Chamber’s annual Hob Nob event – coming up on August 31st – will feature a Political Bootcamp aimed at first-time candidates…not just Millennials, but new voices from the private sector who can speak for the people and employers in Indiana’s largest region and dominant economy.
The Bootcamp provides a primer on the political process – from ballot access toByzantinee party rules, from finding a winning message to raising enough money to make that message heard. Session topics include:
- Stories from state and local elected officials about their first campaigns – lessons learned, the “good, the bad and the ugly” of running for office;
- Building a campaign infrastructure and volunteer base;
- Fundraising – pitching individual donors, the role of PACs, party committees and other outside organizations and more;
- Turning your beliefs into a message, and measuring the results (polling);
- Overall campaign strategy, from door-to-door to big data tactics for contacting, persuading and turning out 50% + 1 of your electorate.
In short, the Political Bootcamp will provide a blueprint for turning rookie candidates into election night winners – and bringing a new dynamic to politics and policymaking at the state and local levels. Hob Nob is typically about hearing from candidates – with no elections this year, we’re excited to help prepare those who may be up on stage and working the crowd next year.
Survey after survey shows that Millennials are passionate about their communities but highly skeptical about our political system, and we know that businesspeople can be similarly frustrated by the pace of progress in the public sector. But these feelings can be catalysts for change, if we encourage more first-timers to jump into the arena and get engaged in the process on behalf of a pro-growth agenda.
Mark Fisher is Chief Policy Officer for the Indy Chamber.