Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Bikers Ever Influence Politics?

About two years ago, me and several members of my old riding club attended an ABATE meeting in Riverside, CA.

That night Kevin Jeffries was there to speak. He was a Republican running for the 66th State Assembly District. He said that Dennis Hollingsworth, a man who previously held the seat he was running for, told him not to underestimate the power of the motorcycling community.

So Jeffries was here to win the support of the local ABATE chapter. He talked about his support of bikers' rights, repealing the helmet law, going after crazy drivers, and putting the focus on bigger issues rather than nailing people for ticky-tacky stuff.

In the end, Jeffries won the 66th seat.

We'll never know how much the biker community helped him. The Inland Empire of Southern California is a red community, and have always supported the Republican Party.

Over the years, as I've blogged for Biker News Online, I've come across other news pieces that describe the biker community as a powerful lobby. I've heard of accusations that ABATE reaches pretty deeply inside state politics, for the fact that many legislators are motorcycle riders themselves. I don't really know if these far-reaching tentacles are in fact the case.

I tend to think not.

If every motorcycle rider was a registered voter, and actually voted every time there was an election, then certainly an organization like ABATE would become a very powerful lobby. ABATE would be able to pick the legislators in California, and perhaps across the country.

But most riders I know don't vote.

Most riders I know don't even understand the ballot initiatives.

I think ABATE is a great organization, but being a member of ABATE isn't enough. There needs to be another organization that makes it mission to get bikers registered to vote, and to remind them to vote.

Once bikers establish a reputation for being consistent voters, legislators will listen. Only then, will we be heard.

1 comment:

  1. Heres the problem as i see it. You have ABATE, You have MRF, and BikePAC, and a bunch of other MRO's out there. Scattered and all doing their own thing.

    Take my state of Oregon, well over 100,000 motorcycles registered. ABATE here has about 2000 members. MRF a couple thousand more and so on.

    When you sit down with a legislator to discuss issues, one of the first questions they always have is, how many in your organization. Well, you know what they are thinking, is this a large enough group to effect my elections or re-elections. When you come up with dismil numbers compared to the number of registered bikes, well, they will listen, smile, nod, thank you for seeing them, and when you leave, order lunch and make golf plans for the weekend.

    Could abate and others be more effective? Sure, if people realized abate isn't just "those helmet law guys" anymore, if they joined, got active and participated, we could make a huge difference.

    But, the last few decades have seen a new kind of American emerge. The, someone else will do it, or, that doesn't pertain to me or, I don't have time for that kind of American. The kind that would rather sit around and bitch about the laws passd that effect them rather than get off their butts and do something to keep them from being passed in the first place.

    Wars are not won by one group doing this and another group doing that, all on their own and not focused. They are won with corrdination, determination, resources and overwhelming numbers.

    Until Motorcyclists and Bikers come together, until the crusty ole grey beard and the kid on the zoom splat stand shoulder to shoulder untied for the same cause, we will just continue to get the nods and smiles of those in law making positions.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    ABATE of Oregon
    Hub City Chapter
    Legislative Rep


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)