Grassroots Tips

Why Conservatives Should Get Involved in the Republican Party

political influenceHow would you like to have more political influence than 99.99% of the population?

Would you like to become so influential for the things that you care about that candidates and public officials come to you for support, seek out your opinions or come to know you on a first name basis.  Or maybe so important that your opinions help shape the political debate.

How is this possible?  Simply by getting involved in a political party.  And for conservatives, that means get involved in the Republican Party.

Parties are where the power is

Most of the political influence in our country is channeled through the two major political parties.  Everything from public policy, to candidates for public office and the laws that are proposed and/or passed in our country are influenced by political parties.

It is fair to say that the degree to which you can participate and be effective in the political process depends, to some extent, on the degree to which you get involved in a political party.

The apathy of others increases your impact

Most people in our country don’t get involved in political parties.  They don’t even bother to vote in party primaries, much less volunteer or serve in any elected capacity within a party.

Consider some numbers: Only a little more than half of all Americans bother to register to vote; a little more than half of them will vote in the average election; less than half of that number will vote in the average party primary – then split that number in half between the average turnout in Republican and Democrat party primaries.

At that point you’re already having more influence than 80% or more of the population.

Party involvement magnifies your political influence

It will vary slightly from state to state, but on average only about 1/10 of 1% of Americans are actually part of a political party structure – meaning they have joined a local party precinct organization.  A still smaller percentage of that group either gets elected to a local leadership position or as a delegate to the county, district, state or national levels.

These are the people who are usually sought out by candidates and elected officials for their feedback, their help on campaigns and to fill staff positions in government.

Political parties are just vehicles

Political parties in some form or another have existed since the foundation of our country.  Their “philosophies” have changed over time however, as members come and go. In other words, they’re no better than the people that comprise them at any given time.

For example, think of a political party as a bus that a group of people use to get from one place to another.  Every few years the bus pulls over to the side of the road, people get on and off, they fight over the steering wheel, and then it goes down the road for a few more years.

But if you’re not “on” the bus, you don’t have any influence over “where” it goes.

So, again, do you want to have a greater impact for the conservative agenda and things you care about?  Then get involved in the Republican Party at the local level.

Don’t let people you may disagree with (or who are just disagreeable) keep you from getting involved.  You can’t control what other people do or don’t do.  Only yourself.

Don’t be part of the 99.99%

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You can get more tips about about party activism in my Intermediate Guide to Grassroots Politics!

Political Resolutions for Conservatives

Sometimes we get so caught up in what’s going on in politics at the moment that we can lose sight of what’s important and what to do next. Don’t let that happen this year. If conservatives are going to be successful in the long-term, then we have to THINK long-term.

With that in mind, here are a few suggested political resolutions for conservatives.

Focus on the Fundamentals

No matter how things may change, the need to do the fundamentals remains the same. The most fundamental _element_ of politics is people, while the most fundamental _principle_ is addition. More organized people means more political influence.

Find (or create) and focus on projects that you or your group can use to help identify and better organize more people who think like you do.

Coordinate With Other Conservatives

It’s a simple fact that conservatives are stronger when we work together, and we are easier to beat when we are divided. Focus on finding ways to work with other conservatives on sharing information, picking which battles to fight and which targets to focus on and then coordinating activity. The result will be more real progress and less wasted time and frustration.

The bottom line is to work together to leverage our strengths by focusing on places where they can be overwhelming and have a long term impact.

Don’t Be a Cannibal

Every few years campaigns come along like tornadoes and divide many conservatives against one another and then they’re gone. The problem is that many times the personal divisions remain. Don’t let things get personal!

Productive relationships with fellow conservatives are vital.  No matter who you or anyone else may support (or have supported) in any given campaign, don’t “go cannibal” on fellow conservatives. You might win for the moment, but that means fewer people to work with in the future to make a difference on the things that you care about.

Build the Farm Team

Just as baseball has its minor leagues, so does politics. Local government is important in its own right, but it also serves as the farm team for the political big leagues. Don’t ignore it. Plus, campaigns and elected officials at that level are easier to influence. A little organization goes a long way. A coordinated effort to recruit good candidates and then let other conservatives know who to support can have a much bigger impact on Joe Smith for school board than it ever could on Suzzie Smith for Congress.

If you want to have a long-term impact on the upper levels of politics, then you need to have a long-term approach for influencing who gets there.

Focus on the Republican Party

Ronald Reagan used to say that “personnel is policy”, and it’s true. It’s great to have conservatives start their own groups and speak out, but it’s better when those same folks also join local Republican Party organizations and get involved. Better still if they bring other conservatives with them.

The more conservatives who get involved in the Party and support and network with each other, the more success we will have in pushing a conservative agenda in the long run.

Pick Your Battles

Just as liberals won generations of votes by winning battles over Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, conservatives should focus on big picture battles that result in still more victories in the future because they tilt the playing field more in our favor.

Conservatives need to focus on battles (issues) that unite us and build our coalition – and that we can win.  But cooperation is the key. Pick your battles…don’t let them pick you.

Adopt an Elected Official

Organizing, recruiting and electing candidates to office is one thing, but it’s all for naught if conservatives don’t work to help them succeed – or hold them accountable when necessary.

Watch them. Attend meetings. Meet with them. Offer to work with them when you can. Let them know about your concerns if necessary. Let other conservatives know what’s going on and how they can help.  “Adopt” an elected official and make a project out of them.

Do Something

Focus on doing what YOU can do this year instead of complaining about others. If you can’t find an effective group that focuses on the things that you care about, then start one yourself. Or start an effort to identify and recruit candidates for local office. Or you create a newsletter or website that keeps people informed about candidates and elected officials, or lists key dates and information about political activity in your area with details about how to get involved. Put it on Facebook and share it with everyone that you know.

The point is not to wait for someone else to do it. They’re waiting for you. Do something!

Don’t Quit

Whether you win or lose in any political endeavor, it’s never really “over”. No victory or defeat is permanent. If you lose, you saddle up and get ready to fight again. If you win, you can’t go home because the other side will be coming back to un-do whatever you have done. Government is going to be here as long as there are people, which means the process of government – or politics – is never over.

Conservatives waste too much time trying to ramp up for a fight rather than just staying engaged so that they are always ready. Don’t quit!

Laying the Groundwork for Productive Media Relations

media relationsYou have probably noticed that, as a rule, the more successful conservatives are at impacting politics and society, the more attention they will get from the media – and that this attention is almost always biased.

But if you have been involved in politics for any length of time, (or you plan to be), at some point you’ll have to deal with the media. Whether it’s as a candidate, a campaign manager, worker, volunteer or just as an activist, everyone associated with politics is a target of the political media. It’s what they do.

Since they are a fact of political life you may as well make the most of it and be prepared to deal with them as effectively as possible, making sure that the way you go about it actually helps support and advance your goals, rather than set you back.

This means that, in order to be more effective, conservatives need to be prepared to deal with the media. With that in mind, here are some fundamental principles to lay the groundwork for more productive media relations.

Don’t ignore them:

The media is often referred to as the “fourth estate” or the “fourth branch of government”, and with good reason. Whether we like it or not, there is simply no denying that the media has a tremendous impact on politics and society in general by virtue of its ability to help shape public opinion.

Remember, the media goes on without you. And if you choose not to have any input in the conversation, you can’t really complain about the results. Don’t ignore it just because you don’t like it, or it doesn’t like you.

Get to know them:

The better you know the members of the media who cover the topics that you are involved with, the more effective you can be. In fact it’s a two-way street, in that they need sources that are active in the areas they cover in order to do their job. So put together a list of relevant media sources, (TV, radio, newspaper, Internet), and spend some time introducing yourself and letting them know about the issue or group you’re working with.

A big part of media relations is actually knowing them.  In other words, build relationships.

Always be honest:

As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Whether you’re dealing with reporters on a story, or writing an op-ed column or a letter-to-the-editor, you’ll always have better success and a greater impact if you shoot straight with people and they come to expect that from you. Remember, conservatives already operate under a “cloud of suspicion” with most of the media because of their liberal bent.

Don’t make things any harder on yourself.

The caveat being that, as Proverbs tells us, only a fool utters his whole mind. In other words, some things just don’t need to be shared. That said, make sure that what you DO share is the truth. This makes it easier to keep a productive relationship after you’ve gone to the trouble of building one.

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Conservatives already have enough trouble getting a fair shake in the media. Following these rules will help you get better results.