“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – President Theodore Roosevelt
The political world has been nothing short of obsessed with the recent events in the House of Representatives. Starting with Speaker John Boehner’s retirement announcement, followed by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy bowing out of the race to succeed him, and culminating with the pending ascension of Paul Ryan as the next Speaker of the House, the media coverage has been non-stop.
While the race to become the next person to be third in line to the Presidency is important (and like Christmas morning to the political geeks like us), it is critical to take a step back and realize that there is a more important lesson to learn from all the political theater. And that lesson, is the importance of continually grooming political leaders because Congress keeps rolling on.
For decades, our industry has relied on the same members of Congress to protect its interests – Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and former Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. As of this writing, Sen. Harkin is no longer Sen. Harkin and Sen. Hatch is currently serving his last term in Congress.
While both Senators were strong champions, the dietary supplement industry must realize that it has enemies in Washington, D.C.—some very powerful. All it takes is for one hostile member of Congress to become a subcommittee chairman, a full committee chairman or to become part of their party’s leadership to create real havoc. Just ask the nuclear energy industry about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's impact upon their interests during his tenure in the Senate. He has been a one-man wrecking crew.
Senator Richard Durbin's presence in the Senate Democratic leadership should be a warning sign to the entire industry that they cannot go to sleep and depend upon GOP leadership in the House or Senate to save them from real danger. Things in Washington, D.C. can and do change very quickly.
The next few years are critical for the dietary supplement industry. There’s no time to waste. We are under constant attack. Just a few weeks ago, numerous media outlets published stories on a New England Journal of Medicine study that claimed dietary supplements are responsible for approximately 23,000 hospital visits each year. You can bet similar stories like these are in the pipeline.
Now is the time to get politically engaged – on all levels of government. This includes reaching out to your member of Congress or state representative and actually taking the time to educate them on what our industry actually stands for. Invite your Congressman or Senator to your facility for a tour, or to meet your employees. Travel to Washington, D.C. to engage with your elected officials and their staff.
And yes, now is the time to contribute financially to your elected officials who work everyday to fight the continued regulatory onslaught. To succeed politically as an industry, we must drastically improve on our poor track record when it comes to political giving. We are living in the day and age of the Super PAC—the importance of money in politics cannot be understated.
With the 2016 Presidential election, as well as House and Senate elections across the country, now is the time for our industry to do the ground work by utilizing the strength and financial power of our grassroots and grasstops to develop the next generation of legislative champions.
Political inaction is unacceptable. We must flip the script and start spreading the true story of the dietary supplement industry. We all must remain diligent and heed the advice of our 26th President to prevent the worst from happening.