Tips For Better Political Activism

politics2So you’re all excited or worked up about some issue, campaign or candidate and you decide it’s time to volunteer and try to make a difference.  That’s great.  But there’s always a risk that you’ll be overzealous, jump in to anything and everything with both feet and soon get burned out.  When that happens, you won’t have much of an impact on anything.

Here are some political activism tips that will help you stick with it and make a difference for the things you care about.

Know why you’re involved

Knowing “why” you’re involved in something goes a long way towards keeping you involved. It’s that thing that will keep you motivated over the long haul. What’s motivating you? What impact do you want to have? How involved do you want to get? Just be a volunteer or become a leader? What skills do you want to learn or what issue do you want to learn more about? Who do you want to get to know?

If the “why” isn’t enough to make you want to “do”, then “don’t. If you don’t know “why”, you either need to figure it out or do something else.

Make reasonable commitments

It’s much better for you and any cause that you’re volunteering for that you be realistic about what you can do. Think about how you can achieve a happy medium between the time you’re really able to contribute and the needs of the cause or campaign that you’re getting involved with.

Don’t over-commit. In the end, it’s your dependability that’s most important.

Get to know everyone involved

Since politics is about people, personal relationships are the glue that holds everything together. So be sure to attend regular meetings and events as often as possible and get to know everyone involved.

Knowing and networking with other likeminded activists will help you be more effective both now and in the future.

Keep a good attitude

Sometimes “somebody” has to do the tedious, menial, “un-fun” work…like delivering literature all over creation, or calling voters you don’t know. But since it has to be done, attitude is everything. This is why you should be careful about “what” you volunteer to do. Make sure it’s the kind of thing that you can do and still keep a good attitude. As a result you’ll be more productive for the things you care about.

If you don’t stay positive about what you’re doing, you won’t last long.

Go the extra mile

People who are willing to give an extra effort and “fill in the gaps” when necessary are essential to making any cause or campaign a success, not to mention sustaining it. If you know why you’re involved and aren’t over-committed, it’s easier to do more when necessary.

People who go the extra mile stand out…and they go farther.

Recruit others

Any group or cause can never have too many volunteers, (and they never do). Share the vision with your friends, family, and others. Invite them to meetings. Send them updates. The more manpower, the better your group or cause will do.

The more conservatives that get involved in our political system, the better off the conservative movement will be as a whole. The more who get involved at the grassroots level, the more who will eventually be in positions of leadership at higher levels.

Be patient and persistent

If you’re not patient, you’ll probably get a bad attitude, won’t last long and won’t be able to keep at it long enough to make a difference. Remember, things don’t always run on your schedule, especially in politics. Also, persistence is the key to long-term political success. Other people quit. Don’t be one of them.

If you’re patient and persistent you’re more likely to make a difference.

***

The purpose of this is not to discourage you from getting involved, but to get you to make sure that you volunteer in a way that you’re more likely to enjoy – and that will keep you involved in the long run.

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 Amazon.com “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.

What are you going to do about it?

political activismDo you spend more time than you would like complaining about things going on in government?  That’s not unusual.  In fact, it’s pretty much a prerequisite (or at least a direct symptom) of democracy.

Government is run by imperfect people who represent a lot of other imperfect people with a lot of different philosophies and points of view…and some of them seem to just represent themselves.

Anyone who’s paying attention (which ideally should be everyone) can find something to complain about.  But is that as far as you go?  Or do you ever think about taking action?

Don’t Just Complain

Is “Common Core” being pushed on your (up until now) good school district? Grading standards being dumbed down?  What are you going to do about it?  Have you attended a school board meeting and spoken out?  Carried a crew of other angry parents with you to do the same?

Is your local public school board trying to pass a millage increase, all the while spending record amounts of money on extra layers of educrats?  What are you going to do about it?  Just cuss when you get the tax bill?  How about starting a petition campaign to oppose it?

Is your county about to vote on another wasteful bond referendum?  What are you going to do about it (other than pay for it later)?  Have you written a letter to the editor?  Print it as a flyer and leave it on doors in your neighborhood, or cars in the parking lot at the next council meeting.

Are you tired of so few people who seem to know much of anything about what your local government is doing?  What are you going to do about it?  Start a Facebook page, online newsgroup or a simple website.  Maybe set up an email list and keep people up to date with what’s going on.  Encourage everyone you know to share it with others.

Sick of elected officials who don’t listen, or who make promises but don’t deliver after they’re elected?  What are you going to do about it?  Have you tried to help someone else get elected?  Volunteered or made a contribution? How about talking with others who think like you do and trying to recruit someone to run for office?

Get Involved

The main reason to “do something” is because it’s your responsibility, since you live in a country where you have the right to political activism.  But another reason is because even if you just simply speak up, it lets other people like you know that they’re not alone.  When they see that, they’re more likely to speak up or take action too.

If you don’t “do something”, odds are you’ll have even more to complain about later.  But when you get involved, things change.

Take a moment right now and make a conscious decision to “do something”.  Then make a note so you don’t forget.

***

Have any examples of how you were able to get involved that you think would encourage others?  Share it in the comments below.

How Did that Idiot Get Elected? (Impact of Apathy in Politics)

apathy in politicsEver sit at home and watch the evening news or read the paper and see a story about some elected official who does something so incredibly stupid that it makes you mutter (or yell) to yourself, “How did that idiot get elected?”  If so, you’re not alone.

So how did they get that job?  The short answer is usually, “he (or she) showed up” – plus “apathy”.

  • They went to the meetings nobody else wanted to go to.
  • They volunteered to do the things nobody else would do.
  • They were then asked to serve on some committee.
  • Eventually they were put in charge of something because there were so few people willing to do anything.
  • When that vacancy for school board or some other commission opened up, there they were.  Somebody decided they should get promoted (or just wanted to get them out of the job they were in to be rid of them).
  • When a city or county council seat opened up, there they were.
  • Then it was the state legislature…and before you know it, they’re a congressman, governor…or even President.

The Result of Apathy in Politics

It’s sort of a political version of the “Peter Principle“, which states that “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence”.  I call it the “Unified Theory of Political Incompetence”: people in politics rise beyond their level of incompetence due to the apathy of others.

Apathy in politics is why only around sixty percent of the people in our country register to vote, and about half of those bother to vote in the average election.  Fewer still will vote in primaries, local or special elections.  And only a fraction of those people bother to participate any further, which leaves political parties and other civic groups starved for participation.

Politics, like everything else in nature, abhors a vacuum.  Of course suffering under incompetence is one thing, but it can be worse.  As Edmund Burke put it, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

“Apathy plus showing up” is not a formula for good leadership.

Everyone started somewhere.  Whether we like it or not, the lower ranks of American politics serve as the “farm team”.

Don’t abandon the lower ranks to idiots and you’ll have less to complain about.