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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking Back...MIBOR Political Advocacy

With all the talk of Super PACs and special interests during recent campaign cycles, it is easy to think that these things are a new phenomenon. Political activity has certainly amped up in recent years, but it isn’t a new game. 

In fact, recognizing the importance of having a voice and participating in politics isn’t new. Pericles famously recognized that “[j]ust because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you” back when Ancient Greece was first toying with a new idea called “democracy.”

In present day, the same concept lives in the common political axiom that if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu.

This isn’t lost on REALTORS®.  I love history and was excited to get my hands on early drafts of MIBOR’s Centennial history book, REALTORS®: Opening Doors for 100 Years.  I am proud to work for MIBOR and wanted to learn more about the organization’s history. And while I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised to see page after page of stories detailing the political involvement of MIBOR and its members.

Reading the stories from the book about the origins of RPAC and the early days of political advocacy is both humbling and inspiring for me as MIBOR’s Political Affairs Liaison.  The books shares tales of REALTORS® working on the Fair Housing Act, advancing the rights of women and minorities, economic development and protecting and promoting home ownership.  It talks of our members working with LBJ, Nixon and a visit to one of our board meetings from Robert F. Kennedy.  When I sit in our board room, adorned with the portrait of every past president of MIBOR since 1912, it has a different feel than it did before reading the history; the portraits used to strike me as the kind of old timey photos* you might see at an antique store.

Instead, now I feel like a baseball fan in Cooperstown.  I see the faces of the giants who transformed the role of REALTORS® in the political arena.  I see the face of Delbert Ludlow, who worked with the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission during the civil rights movement.  Just above the spot on the wall where I’ve often stood while pouring myself coffee is the face of Fred “Bud” Tucker, Jr. who was one of 13 REALTOR® leaders from across the country who pushed to establish the REALTORS® Political Action Committee in 1969. While leading NAR, he emphasized the importance of RPAC and Governmental Affairs. He noted that “[t]he REALTORS® of America are in the business of politics and they are in it to stay.”

There are many more portraits on the wall of leaders whose stories are recounted in the book, and for each one of them are a dozen other men and women who worked alongside to advance the cause.  The history of REALTOR® involvement is interesting and humbling, but it also gives me a new perspective.  I see the scores of members who volunteer their time to interview candidates, fund raise for RPAC or meet with their town councilor, mayor or congressman regarding an issue. Often, it is easy to get caught up in the issue of the day – township government, rental registration agreements, TIF districts, the mortgage interest deduction, property assessments, etc. . . – but not recognize the big picture.  I love that I work for an organization that has long recognized the need to be a part of the political process. I see the commitment of the leadership and the members over the decades and I feel the passion when I talk to members who recognize the next hurdle and roll up their sleeves rather than assign blame.  
As MIBOR starts its second century, I enjoy knowing that the members who are currently writing RPAC checks or volunteering their times for an issue may be the same names listed on the first few pages of MIBOR’s bicentennial book.  Our political involvement is rich with history, but also has a bright future.

As the election season we’re currently enduring mercifully comes to an end in less than two weeks, it is comforting to know that the issues important to REALTORS® and homeowners are being advocated. Politics is a messy, and often ugly game, but it isn’t going anywhere. I’m just glad that the REALTORS® aren’t either.

*I’m only referring to the really old photos on the south side of the room, NOT the more recent photos. If you can read this, I’m not talking about you. Don’t hurt me. Please.

Pat Cline
MIBOR Political Affairs Liaison

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