Grassroots Tips

The Five Types of Elected Officials

elected officialsIf you’ve been paying attention to politics for any length of time you’ve probably noticed that there are several different types of elected officials. Not just in terms of partisanship or ideology, but in the sense of how active or vocal they are.

If you’ve ever done any lobbying, you’ve noticed a difference in how reliable they are in terms of their vote and how hard you have to work to nail them down.

Here’s a shorthand way to categorize elected officials:


These are the guys (and gals) that are so far on the other side of the street that you can forget about wasting the time even thinking about getting them on board with anything you support. Pretty much all liberals will fit into this category.

High Maintenance:

These are officials you have to constantly watch and check in with on virtually every issue. Whether it’s because they are constantly trying to make everyone happy, have their fingers in the wind, or are just more concerned about themselves, you end up spending a lot of time chasing them and bringing pressure on them to make sure they vote right when the time comes. And even then sometimes you come up short.

Low Maintenance:

They’re not completely reliable, but it doesn’t take as much time or pressure to bring them around. But the point is that they still require some time and effort.

No Maintenance:

Just like the label implies, you never have to question what they will do and you can always count on them to vote right, whether they get pressured or not. They’re “on the team”, and you don’t have to waste time on them, freeing you up to focus on the first two groups.

Team Leaders:

Not only are they “No Maintenance”, but they will actively help move ideas, drive debate and publicly advance the cause.  Whether it’s the public speakers or the behind-the-scenes legislative “mechanics”, they’re the true leaders of the conservative movement in government at all levels.

Knowing what type of category elected officials usually fit into can help when it comes to doing any type of grassroots lobbying, as it gives you an idea of who you have to work on, who you can count on no matter what, and who will help you advance your agenda.

If you’re actually engaged in any sort of grassroots lobbying on any issue, take some time to take inventory of the elected officials you have to deal with and categorize them accordingly so you’ll know where to spend your time, energy and resources.

Now, quick quiz: which one of these five types of elected officials do we need more of?

The more conservatives who actually get involved and “do something”, the more maintenance we can do on the elected officials who need it – and the more people we can elect who will actually help advance the cause.


Suggested Books for Political Conservatives

books for conservativesI recently had an exchange with a fellow activist about what kind of books I’ve read that are useful from a practical political standpoint. I mentioned that, despite studying political science when I was in college, political science doesn’t teach much of practical value.

Besides actual experience (and experienced friends to work with), books are the most useful tool to learn what you need to know to have a greater impact on things you care about.

And since many of us are doing some Christmas shopping and trying to come up with some good gift ideas, why not give actual “ideas” – as in books. Specifically, books that would be useful to a fellow (or budding) conservative activist, (or maybe for your own reading, or just to annoy that liberal relative we all seem to have).

So, what books?

While I was in college I was did a lot of volunteering with the Republican Party and was able to spend some time around SC political legend (and RNC Chairman) Lee Atwater when he was in state for political events, taking him to/from the airport several times.  I asked him the same question, “what books?”

His answer? “You need to read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”, “The Prince”, “On War” by Clausewitz and the biography of Huey Long by T. Harry Williams” I felt kind of puffed up since I had already read “Art of War” 3 times at that point and I told him. He said, “You need to read it about 10 more times”.

The point is that you never stop learning, and there are some books which teach or illustrate practical political principles that conservatives can apply as they try to have a greater impact on the things they care about.

So with that, here’s a list of suggested books for political conservatives (with links to my own “store” of course).

Books for Practical Political Principles:

art of war“The Art of War” (Sun Tzu) was written over 2,000 years ago as a manual of military strategy, but most military principles apply to politics, business and pretty much anything else where people are involved. It’s short, easy to read, but full of wisdom.

“The Prince” (Machiavelli) is probably the most famous book on politics that has ever been written, and it offers practical political principles covering everything from gaining power and using power, to keeping power.

“On War” (Clausewitz) offers more on military strategy, the nature of conflict and how success can be achieved.

“Huey Long” (T. Harry Williams) is a biography of the former Governor and Senator from Louisiana in the 1930’s. It’s a bit long, but if you like bios, it’s very good and entertaining. Lee said it was a great example of the “use” of political power.

“The Art of Political War” (David Horowitz), covers most of the basic principles of conservative political strategy and messaging.

“The Starfish and the Spider” (Brafman & Beckstrom) is a fantastic look at how independent action of decentralized organizations can displace preexisting “incumbents”…allowing people/consumers to organize on their own and have an impact. It emphasizes how the Internet has leveraged this ability. The Tea Party is a perfect example of the principles in this book.

“Tribes” (Seth Godin) is all about building “tribes” of people who think alike or share certain affinities, and the power they can have when they work together. Pretty much anything by Seth Godin is good marketing material, but this one has clear political applications and in my mind makes a good companion to “Starfish”.

“Rules for Radicals” (Saul Alinsky) gives you a look into the mind of our opponents. Yes, this one was written by an avowed leftist, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to learn here in terms of practical politics. And it can certainly give you a better understanding of the tactics of the left.

“Nixon’s Ten Commandments of Leadership & Negotiation” (Humes) I’ve enjoyed a lot of Nixon’s books, but this one is based on ten principles he kept on a note-card in his desk and it’s very insightful and practical.

Of course I have to add my own contributions: The Grassroots 101 Training Series, (with 3 levels, from “beginner” all the way to “advanced”), and How to Plan a Winning Campaign (if you, or someone you know is planning to take the political plunge).

Conservative Thought and More:

goldwater“Conscious of a Conservative” (Barry Goldwater) is not heavy lifting for a newbie, but gives an easy to understand, solid layout of bedrock conservative principles. A great place to start (or revisit).

“God and Man at Yale” (William Buckley) is an indictment of liberal academic orthodoxy that is even more relevant today. It would be especially interesting to young conservatives, given Buckley wrote it when he was just 25 years old.

“The Road to Serfdom” (Hayek) is a defense of free markets and libertarian individualism, and a warning against government control and central planning, (a timely read, given the path of our government).

“Capitalism and Freedom” (Friedman) is a book by the Nobel Prize winning economist and one of the strongest proponents of freedom in the modern conservative era.

“The Liberty Amendments” (Mark Levin) is a timely work that highlights Levin’s thoughts on several suggested Constitutional Amendments and why they’re desperately needed, many representing philosophical/political/fiscal fights we will either have now or later.

Like American history? “American Afire” (Weisberger) is a great recounting of the first contested presidential election in American history, between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. It gives a you a good look at the roots of not only some of our present political fights, but even the political “machinery” we use today.

“Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims” (Rush Limbaugh) I haven’t read this one myself, but the reviews are excellent, and you could do much worse than give a kid a book that gives them a look at important elements of our nation’s history that their school’s history books breeze through or overlook entirely.

If you have any other suggestions, please click here and add them to the comments section for others to see.

Hope you enjoy.

Seven Ways to Be Prepared for Effective Party Activism

party activismIf you really want to have an impact on something you stand a much better chance if you’re prepared. The same goes for party activism.

I’ve written quite a bit about the importance of getting involved in a political party, and about how parties are organized. But how do you go about trying to be effective over the long haul? What should you do? What should you focus on, and why?

The Boy Scout motto “Be prepared” comes to mind in the sense of being prepared ahead of time for the situations they may face. It’s a good application for party activism.

Here are seven tips for party activism to keep in mind:

1) Attend meetings. Yes, meetings can be boring, but you won’t have much of an organization unless people meet, discuss business and make plans. Be there when they do. In most party organizations, the people who are always there eventually end up in charge of something (for good or ill)!

2) Volunteer. Offer to help out with party functions and volunteer to help candidates with their campaigns. Offer to serve on committees that interest you.

3) Recruit others. The more people you get involved who think like you do, the more effective you can be in the long run, (it’s like a pyramid scheme!). Find other conservatives who want to have an impact. Drag them along. The more the merrier. Teach them what you’ve learned.

4) Cultivate allies. Remember, politics is people, and it’s all about networking. To be more effective, it’s important that you develop relationships with others that will work closely with you and support your objectives.

5) Know the rules. As with most things in life, if you know the rules you’re more likely to be successful. Party rules (and parliamentary procedure) aren’t exactly exciting, but they’re important. Get to know them, at least on a basic level.

6) Watch and learn. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. Keep an eye on what others are doing, (even your opponents), and learn from it. Adopt what works.

7) Stay focused – and involved. People generally don’t throw rocks at those who aren’t having an impact. Success usually breeds opposition. But when it comes, just remember why you got involved in the first place. Don’t let opponents distract you or run you off. Double your efforts!

For new activists, these simple tips will help you avoid being overwhelmed by something that may be new to you. For those who already are involved, they’re a good guideline to help reorient your mind and your time to the simple things that you can do to be more effective.

Remember, if you really want to have an impact, you need to be prepared.