Make It Personal, Make It Local: How Cross-Partisan Community Connections Are Building a National Movement
Rotary Clubs and other civic organizations bring together businesspeople and community leaders for nonpartisan education, engagement, and service. Their community-minded values make them an opportune place for American Promise volunteers looking to build local support for the For Our Freedom Amendment. By speaking to the shared values among the community groups they are part of, American Promise volunteers have found success in driving cross-partisan support for our issue.
At the 2022 National Citizen Leadership Conference, several sessions featured American Promise volunteer leaders who shared how they are building the national movement for freedom by working with people in their communities.
Engaging Fellow Businesspeople by Speaking their Language
As a Rotary Club president and American Promise volunteer leader in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Judy Nagel has seen how the issue of campaign finance reform can unite people across the political spectrum. Like her Rotary Club work, the American Promise mission appealed to her because it is a cross-partisan effort for positive, long-term change.
“Rotary is known for two things: civic engagement, but not being political,” she said. “So how do you walk that narrow line? The best way to walk it is to bring into the conversation somebody from the opposite side of the table,” she said.
Learn how you can participate locally to end the dominance of big money in American politics.
Nagel decided to introduce American Promise to her fellow Rotarians by showcasing how it aligned with the shared principles of the group. Partnering with Howard Hauser, another Green Bay Rotary Club member, Nagel introduced American Promise to her Rotary Club as an initiative that aligns with the club’s four-way test of guiding principles:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
“It really meshed very well,” she said. “After the presentation, people said, ‘What can we do to help?’ They didn’t even mention their political affiliation.”
Speaking to Shared Experience
Speaking clearly and directly about the issue of campaign finance reform makes it easy to connect with fellow community members, Nagel said. “When I have conversations with certain people and they say ‘What are you up to now?’ I say, ‘Well I’m working on the 28th Amendment.’ And their face just kind of goes blank — don’t talk to me about politics. I give them a few moments to have that reaction and then I say ‘I’m working on campaign finance reform.’ And they say, ‘Oh great, somebody needs to do something about that.”
Political candidates and citizens in Green Bay have seen the influence of outside money in local elections, such as untruthful mailers and dark money contributions, she said. “That makes any candidate vulnerable. It’s just the right set of circumstances, and maybe the right amount of money from some unknown source that can be their undoing,” Nagel said. “So they can all find themselves in a situation and it can come out of the blue and something over which they have absolutely no control. So why not be part of the solution versus being caught unaware?”
As momentum grows for the For Our Freedom Amendment and other aspects of campaign finance reform, she said more elected officials will realize the need for change. “Those who don’t feel that they have an interest in this feel that they’re winning at the game. Somehow you’ve got to convince them that yeah, they might be winning at the game today, but the game can change and it can change pretty quickly,” Nagel said.
Watch Judy Nagel and other American Promise volunteer leaders in the the NCLC 2022 session: Make it Personal, Make it Local: Get Behind the State-by-State Path to Victory
I’m a Rotarian from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and a Rotarian since 1992. Over the last couple years, Howard Hauser and I — both past presidents of our club — have been making joint presentations about campaign finance reform. What makes us unique is that we’re from two different political affiliations. Rotary has a long history of civic engagement, going back to our support of the founding of the United Nations. Our goal is to show leadership by example around the important issue of campaign finance reform. We can find common ground. Our partnership with American Promise, the nonpartisan national leader on finance reform, brings together across the country people of all ages with a common mission. We want to change the dynamics of how money is used to divide us. Bad things happen when good people do nothing. We want to be part of the new patriotism. The team that creates positive change, honoring the principles of our democratic republic. We look forward to an opportunity to share our story with your club.