Advocacy is in our DNA
The longstanding slogan of our club explains why we feel that advocacy is a calling. Escapees RV Club is a Total Support Network for ALL RVers. Being a “total support network” means, amongst other things, that we will defend the rights of RVers, to the best of our ability. Moreover, we advocate because we can and few others will.
And, YOU, the individual RVer are critical to our advocacy program. We become aware of many advocacy issues because you alert us to problems (or potential problems.) As such we created this guide to help you understand the complexities of advocacy, so that you can better prepare us in our defense of your rights.
Challenges to RVers rights come from both the public sector and the private sector
In the context of public sector, or government interference with RVers rights, transgressions against RVers occur at every level of society—from local governments and agencies to laws passed by Congress. And, advocacy issues range from simple, local parking restrictions to laws that prevent RVers from excising their constitutionally protected rights. Because of the reach and power that governments have, the advocacy issues stemming from the public sector can be quite severe. However, challenges to RVers rights do not only arise out of government actions they can easily arise from the private sector—companies and individuals.
Sometimes companies, or in rare cases individuals, will make a policy that prevents or impedes RVers from travelling or living the RVing lifestyle on their terms. Typically, private sector advocacy issues surround the use of a mail forwarding service address, by fulltime RVers, as their address of domicile. And, more specifically, most of the address related advocacy issues stem from a company interpreting regulations that have an origin point in the Patriot Act. Fortunately, in almost every case where a regulation is based on the Patriot Act, there is an exemption that will enable RVers to use their mail forwarding service address as their address of domicile.
To truly understand advocacy, it is important to examine the steps it takes to evaluate the importance of an advocacy issue and the steps necessary to resolve it.
Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why?
The most basic questions in any advocacy issue are the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why questions?
Who - What parties are involved in the issue?
Is this entity causing the interference with RVers’ rights a government or a private actor? And, is the scope of the impact limited to an individual, a particular geographic area, a subset of RVers, or does it impact the entire RVing community? The more RVers impacted and the higher the level of government (or size of the company) involved, the more pressing the issue becomes for us.
What - Which rights are impacted? Or, otherwise stated, what is at stake?
Obviously, the more severe the interference and the more important the right impacted, the more pressing the advocacy issue becomes. And, typically, the more resources we need to resolve the issue.
When - When is the issue having a current effect on RVers, or is it merely proposed?
Sometimes, we become aware of an issue before it manifests. This usually occurs in the context of a regulation or a law that is moving through an approval process. In these cases, we try shape the regulation or law to eliminate (or at best minimize) its impact on the RVing community. However, regardless of whether an issue is proposed or actual, time is of the essence. For proposed issues, typically there is a sequence of events that run on a set timetable—which dictates our actions. And, for issues that have materialized, obviously, those command immediate attention to stop the impact on the RVing community.
Where - Is the impact of the issue local, region, or national in scope?
The larger the impact, as discussed above, the more involved we become and the more resources we need to commit.
How -How does the issue impact RVers and where is it currently in the process?
This question actually breaks down into two different questions.
How does the issue impact RVers?
This becomes very fact specific. Sometimes an issue can be very easily resolved with a different interpretation (or more thorough reading) of the regulation or law.
How can we address this issue where it is currently in the process?
The Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution sets an order of authority amongst laws. Laws supersede regulations and court decisions. State laws supersede local laws; federal laws supersede state laws; and, the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, superseding all. Moreover, there is a similar hierarchy amongst courts. State-level courts supersede the decisions of county-level courts; federal-level courts supersede the decisions of state-level courts—even state supreme courts; and, the U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter in the country. The interplay between court decisions can get complex, because the courts may or may not give credence to out-of-state courts or courts of the same level from other districts based on many, varying factors. Nonetheless, understanding where we are in a process is critical to developing a successful advocacy strategy.
Why - Why is this party restricting (or seeking to restrict) RVers’ rights?
In many cases we will never know the true motivations of the other party. However, as best we can, we try to understand those motivations, as they are the heart of the matter. This requires the difficult task of separating truth from fiction and fact from speculation. In the past, we have encountered the following motivations (although not every possible motivation): political, financial, moral, and philosophical.
There are two important comments about motivations.
First, the government or company that appears to be the face of the issue, may not be the sole interested party driving the issue.
Second, sometimes there is no motivation to harm the RVing community behind the actions of the government or company. Rather we are overlooked or not considered in the actions of others. Nonetheless, understanding why the issue has arisen is key to developing an effect strategy.
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Once we have properly framed the issue, we can begin to set a strategy.
The strategies include any combination of the follow: private negotiations, individual examples, publicizing an issue, “grass-roots” campaign, lobbying, and litigation. We’ll explore each below:
As the name suggests, this method involves the interested parties discussing and resolving the issues in a private, often confidential, setting. Typically, this is the fastest and most affective form of advocacy. And, it is often necessary to enable to parties to discuss solutions that may never manifest, beyond the gaze of public scrutiny, to test ideas and theories.
Often we learn of advocacy issues when they begin to affect individual members of our community. It can be helpful to illustrate to the government’s or company’s representative/s real world examples of impact of an issue, rather than merely discussing concepts in the abstract. However, to do so requires the consent, and at times the direct involvement, of the harmed party. Privacy and time-commitment concerns may cause a harmed party to not be involved the advocacy efforts. Nonetheless, the use of individual examples remains an effective tool.
Publicizing an Issue
Publicizing an issue, via social media and our Escapees Club News outlets primarily, are useful elements in an overall advocacy strategy. The sharing of challenges with one another enables fellow RVers to avoid the relevant issues, and, thus, harm. Moreover, publicizing an issue can put the community on notice that advocacy is underway.
This element is usually employed if negotiations or lobbying (discussed below) fail.
A grass-roots campaign occurs when we ask you, all of you, to write to a government or company representative, with a set message. This can be a very effective tool. Nothing demonstrates the power, breath, and passion of the RVing community like a grass-roots campaign.
However, grass-roots campaigns must be used sparingly. It is easy to lose control of the overall message when thousands of voices are tasked with carrying the message. Some people will take liberties with the phrasing or content of the message, diminishing the effectiveness of the campaign.
Grass-roots campaign work best when the members of the community are all saying the same thing. Divergent messaging amounts to undiscernible noise. (And, sometimes, those divergent messages can be outright offensive, causing the other party to back further away from an agreement.) In addition, if grass-roots campaigns are used too frequently, especially with the same opponent, they tend to lose their impact being dismissed as nothing more than bluster and puffery.
As with all speech, there is a proper time, place, and manner. When used correctly, grass-roots campaigns are extremely powerful.
This element of an advocacy campaign is situational.
Lobbying is petitioning a government entity to affect some change in a proposed law, an existing law, or to build relationships with government representatives against the day we may need their support.
Lobbying takes time. And, it is important to note that government officials, at all levels, are bombarded with requests. To be effective, messaging has to be delivered multiple times to become memorable. And, trust has to be created between the parties. However, for the appropriate issue, this form of advocacy is effective because it is direct.
Lastly, the courts are always at our disposal. Litigation is time-consuming, expensive, and public. As discussed above, there are many layers of courts to which either party may appeal—winning or losing at one stage does not ensure conclusion of the matter. For those reasons, it is a measure of last resort. However, when all other methods fail to produce the desired result, a lawsuit (once all legal proceedings cease) gives final, binding resolution to an issue.
Escapees Advocates for RVers Rights
Knowing which elements of an advocacy strategy to employ and when to use them, requires intuition based on experience. And, we have a rich tradition of advocating for RVers rights. In the past,we have successfully advocated for many issues impacting RVers.
Escapees has been fighting for you for more than 30 years!
View the Advocacy Timeline here.
We track a great deal of legislation moving through Congress and the legislatures of key states. However, we cannot track everything. We rely upon you to alert us to issues you are facing. Framing an issue in the context of the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why questions, helps us develop an advocacy strategy.
If you find an issue that we should look into, let us know here.