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OPINION

Want to Make Change in 2017? Use a Petition

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Advocates of the free market and individual liberty will find themselves in a remarkable position in the days and weeks to come. With Congress, the White House, and the majority of governorships in all Republican hands, now is the perfect time to drive a freedom-focused agenda at the state and federal levels.

As the 115th Congress prepares to partner with President-elect Trump to reform tax, regulatory, and health-care policy, conservatives must carefully consider their approach. While the Republican majority certainly helps, it does not guarantee a legislative response. In the flurry of changes that will ensue in the first months of 2017, individuals and advocacy groups must consider a wide range of strategies to make sure their cause stands out to legislators.

With the ubiquity of social media, digital petitions can give organizations a critical edge in communicating with policymakers. An organization can craft a petition that highlights how an overlooked issue significantly affects the lives of ordinary Americans and within seconds, activists can sign the petition and share their support of it on their social media platforms. Success in the digital age often comes down to a numbers game, and petitions allow advocacy groups to play this game to great effect.

Digital petitions not only give advocacy groups the ability to increase their numbers, they also allow individuals to discover new organizations that support their causes. Platforms like StandUnited give activists the opportunity to read and sign multiple petitions, connecting them with groups and causes they may not otherwise have encountered—and to do so while at home, in the office, or on the go.  

Digitization also has the potential to bring about swift change. Through StandUnited, legislators receive individual petition messages in real time, allowing them to see advocates garner a broader body of support as it actually happens. It’s difficult for officials and their staffs to ignore a flood of petition letters all persistently asking for the same course of action in a short period of time.

Digital petitions also help advocacy groups communicate with legislators precisely how they like to receive communication. Hill staffers often express frustration with the circuitous and unclear rhetoric used by advocacy groups. A well-crafted petition with a concise explanation of what advocates are asking for and whythe legislator should take action communicates in a way policymakers can understand and appreciate. Activists have used StandUnited to effect change on a wide range of national and local issues, from repealing the Medical Device Tax and renaming a D.C.-area park in honor of First Lady Nancy Reagan, to preserving a historic Civil War monument in Virginia.

Petitions are frequently a hallmark of liberal advocacy efforts, with conservatives opting instead for op-eds or cable news appearances. But this need not be the case. Now more than ever is the time for groups defending liberty, free markets and limited government to continue to drive change and hold official accountable to the will of the people. The kind of fervent public mandate that put Republicans in both Congress and the White House is extremely rare. Advocates who want to make a difference should make as much of this mandate as they can—and there is no better way to give voice to the people than by petitioning their lawmakers.

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