The Incredible Power of Small Groups in Politics

small groups leverageYou’ve heard the old expression that “two heads are better than one”? Well, it’s true in politics too. In fact, the more like-minded “heads” that you can get together, thinking, planning and working in the same direction, the more leverage and energy you can bring to any project.

Why wouldn’t you try to bring that same strength to bear on political problems (or opportunities)?

If the type of people that we hang out with impacts the course of our personal lives, then it follows that the type of people that we work with to impact the things that we care about influences our chances of political success. Remember, “Irons sharpens iron”.

The Benefits of Small Groups:

  • More skills and resources become available
  • Broader networks of contacts are created
  • Relationships grow stronger
  • Group brain-storming leads to more ideas
  • Action items are developed
  • Group members get encouraged and are held accountable

It’s one thing to have a good group of people that you tend to hang around politically, but it’s another thing to have a specific group of people who come together for a specific purpose.  In other words, it creates leverage.

Why are you together? What does everyone want to accomplish or what do they want to see changed? Does everyone have the same expectations about what kind of time and resources they need to invest in it?

As Solomon put it in Proverbs, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed, but in the multitude of counselors they are established”.

Before You Start a Small Group:

  • Know the purpose – (if everyone’s not on the same page, then there’s no point)
  • Know who you need – (when you know the purpose, it’s easier to figure out “who” you need to recruit…people who are committed to the goal and the idea of having a group)
  • Know what everyone brings to the table – (look for unique benefits…and how they relate to reaching the goals of the group)

Don’t invite everyone just to “build a crowd”. You’ll end up going in ten different directions at once, get nowhere fast and frustrate everyone. The bigger this type of group gets, the more unwieldy it will become. Keep it smaller and more personal. Be selective.

You’re looking for key people who are committed to the cause – all with unity of purpose and clarity about what to do and how to go about it. People with different strengths that benefit the whole. In other words, think of it as a recruiting process for a team.

After You Start a Small Group:

  • Meet Regularly – Not meeting defeats a key reason for having a small group to begin with, so set up a schedule. Maybe you decide to meet for breakfast once a week…or on a certain Saturday every month. Just make sure it’s as often as you need to in order to accomplish your goals, and that it’s something regular (and with time limits) that everyone can plan around.
  • Meet Conveniently – Meet somewhere that allows the group to have the kind of interaction that it needs in order to get things done.
  • Meet with a Purpose – Share information, brainstorm ideas, create projects, make plans and set action items, and hold each other accountable

You’re looking to have regular meetings with a group of people with common goals in order to facilitate organized thought, which leads to thoughtfully organized activity.

If other side projects or even a larger organization is born out of it, fine. In fact that’s part of the point of small groups, to give rise to other projects and opportunities that relate to your goals. But keep the group itself smaller, manageable and focused.

Remember, there really is no replacement for organized, collective thought and action. As Sam Adams put it, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority…”

So start a small group and BE that “tireless minority”!

Political List Building for Success

political list building

In most any serious political endeavor, one of the first things that you (and those working with you) need to do is to start making lists.

Whether you’re just a budding activist with a burr in your britches about something, or a potential candidate for office, you won’t have much success without knowing who could help out and then making an effort to get them involved.

Remember, politics is all about people. But taken further, successful politics means organizing people…and it’s hard to organize people if you don’t have a good idea “who” to organize, “where” they are, “how” to get in touch with them, “what” they care about and what resources they could bring to the table.

That’s what political list building is for.

Look for people who think like you do. Who’s upset about the things that you are? If you’re running for office (or helping someone), who could support the campaign in any possible way? In election campaigns, this can also help identify the people needed to form an actual “campaign committee” that may be required in your state.

Political List Building Ideas:

  • Family and friends (for obvious reasons)
  • Fellow conservatives who care about your cause or campaign
  • Possible volunteers (who’s willing to work?)
  • Possible donors (who has money and might support the effort?)
  • Grassroots organizers (who is well organized and good with people?)
  • People who have big networks and credibility (who can help you connect with others that you don’t already know?)
  • Business associates (they know your reputation)
  • Church members (a great place to find fellow conservatives)
  • Pastors (they know who the political junkies are in their churches)
  • Social networks (aka, social media friends who can help you get viral exposure)
  • Helpful political officials (past and present…who know they system and are well connected)

These are just some ideas, but you get the picture. As you are listing people, categorize them based on what other types of lists they could eventually be added to. Some people will obviously fit into several categories. Make a note of it.

After you have filled up a few sheets on a legal pad, you can take the next step and organize it on a spreadsheet (maybe even adding a new tab for each list)… eventually adding their contact information to make it easy to import into your own contact lists, an email program or other more sophisticated database (if necessary…but not usually). Spreadsheets are also formats that are easily shared with others that you may be working with.

What you are doing is building your “activism database”. Without fellow activists, you’re just a Lone Ranger. And even he needed Tonto.

Get out a pen and paper and start writing.

Political Resolutions for Conservatives

resolutions - conservativesSometimes we get so caught up in campaigns or what’s going on in politics at the moment that we lose sight of what’s important and what to do next.  In other words, conservatives need to stay focused in order to be politically successful.

With that in mind, here are some political resolutions for conservatives:

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.

It’s a big country out there, with a big government and a multitude of issues that we can all get sidetracked by.  Conservatives need to focus on issues that unite us – whether social, fiscal, liberty or security related – and that have the possibility of strengthening our position in the future.  But cooperation is the key.  Pick your battles…don’t let them pick you.

Coordinate, Coordinate, Coordinate!

In recent years the conservative movement has grown tremendously.  Many people have gained valuable experience, and new networks and connections between activists have been created.  But what is needed is to leverage that muscle with greater emphasis on sharing information and coordinating activity.

Start a web page listing your endorsements and local candidates’ information and donation links.  Start a listing of key dates and locations for Republican Party meetings in your area.  Add any important details that people need to know about how the party works and what opportunities are available to get involved.  Email it to every conservative you know.  Start an online group (use Google, Yahoo, Ning or Facebook) and coordinate with others to decide who wants (or is willing) to do what.

The bottom line is to leverage our muscle by coordinating and focusing on places where that muscle can be overwhelming and have a long term impact, (especially at the local level).

Don’t Be a Cannibal

No matter who you are for in any given race, don’t “go cannibal” on fellow conservatives over who they support.  You might win for the moment, but you’ll lose productive relationships in the long run.  Every few years campaigns come along like tornadoes and divide so many conservatives against one another and then they’re gone, but many times the personal divisions remain.  We need to make it a mission to avoid that – and call out the campaigns that encourage it for their own interests.

Whoever the Republican nominee is in any election, they will never be perfect and will probably take a lot of “maintenance” from a policy standpoint.  But as a movement, conservatives are much better prepared to deal with such politicians than in years past, so long as we avoid division, coordinate and present a united front – at every level.

Focus on the Republican Party

Ronald Reagan used to say that “personnel is policy”, and it’s no different when it comes to the people who comprise the GOP’s party structure, or those who run and get elected to public office under the Republican banner.

It’s great to have conservatives start their own local groups, protest and be heard, but it’s even better when those same folks also make an effort to influence the Republican Party by joining local precinct organizations, run for precinct office, run for delegate to county (or district) conventions, county office, state delegate spots and so on.  Get involved and volunteer to serve on committees.  Local party organizations are usually borderline desperate for volunteers.  If you’re willing, and you’ve got a pulse, then you’re usually welcome.

The more conservatives who show up, get involved and network with one-another, the fewer problems we will have with the “establishment” when it comes to pushing a conservative agenda.

Get Local

Remember, the presidency isn’t everything, and neither is Congress.  Who do you think ends up running for Congress anyway?  It’s usually the guy (or gal) who has already served on a school board, city or county council.  If you want to have a long-term impact on the upper levels of politics, then you need to have a long-term approach to influencing who’s playing at that level to begin with.  And that means you need to get local.

The local levels are important in their own right, (you pay property taxes, right?), but they also serve as the farm team for the big leagues.  Don’t ignore them.  Plus, races at that level have the benefit of being easier to influence.  A little money and organization in these races goes a long way.

A coordinated effort by conservative activists to let other conservatives know who they have endorsed and where to send money can have a bigger impact on Joe Smith for school board than it ever could on Suzzie Smith for Congress.

Hold them Accountable

Conservatives now have a better understanding of how to take political matters into their own hands.  They have better access to the tools that can connect them with one another, to organize and become more effective – which is exactly why the elites are so concerned.

We need to use those strengths to hold those in elected office accountable for what they do (or don’t do).  Watch them.  Attend meetings.  Meet with them.  Offer to work with them when you can.  Let them know about your concerns (and the concerns of others like yourself).  Let people know what you find out, or what’s going on – and how they can contact them and have an impact.  “Adopt” an elected official and make a project out of them.

Self preservation is an instinct that runs deep – especially for politicians – and conservatives need to take full advantage of it.

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The experience that conservatives have gained, the connections that have been made and the techniques that have been learned can pay big dividends.

Adopt one of these resolutions and get busy!

Are You Building the Political Farm Team?

uncle samMost every professional baseball player that you see has spent time in the minor leagues before they got a chance to play in the big leagues. Nobody lasts forever, and eventually somebody has to move up and take someone else’s place. It’s why teams spend so much time and money recruiting and developing new talent.

It’s called the farm system, and it’s the same way with politics.

Most elected officials have spent time in the political version of the minor leagues – local grassroots organizations, party organizations, civic groups, school boards, etc. Players at this level are usually “recruited” to run for office at higher levels, or to work in campaigns or as government staffers.

While you have surely seen local activists go on to become leaders or even elected officials at various levels, what’s not always evident is the recruiting and training of the volunteers that made their campaigns successful – and the past leaders that recruited them to the cause.

Politicians come and go, but politics is forever.

Think Local

All too often people allow themselves to get distracted by national issues, or what’s going on in Washington, DC and they overlook what’s going on right in their own neighborhood. As a result, they miss opportunities to leverage their activity and have a real impact on things they care about.

The fact is that local politics is the training ground for everything else. It’s the farm system. Practice at this level prepares you for the next. Participation builds the network of conservatives who can collaborate together on a state and national basis. Fundamentals are learned.

The result is that thinking locally serves two purposes: 1) it focuses and leverages attention and resources to have an impact on things that impact where people actually live and 2) it builds a healthy farm team for the conservative movement.

Recruit New Players

Politics is a game of numbers – whoever has the most usually wins. It’s amazing how many people overlook that fundamental point. As a result, one of the most important functions of any grassroots activist is to recruit others to their cause by identifying those who share their beliefs and concerns.

But the job doesn’t end there. It also involves teaching those like-minded citizens how to effectively engage in the political process and remove the mystery that surrounds it for most people. The more knowledge a new recruit has the more confidence they will have, the more likely they will be to actually do something, and the more effective they will become.

As Yoda put it to Luke Skywalker, “Pass on what you have learned”.

Groom New Leadership

This process is even more important for grassroots leaders. You can’t be much of a leader if you don’t recruit…and you can’t be sure that whatever you do will go on without you (because eventually you WILL be gone) if you don’t focus on replacing (or even multiplying) yourself.

There’s an old saying in politics that, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody”. In other words, if you don’t have a candidate, or better yet, a candidate who is viable based on experience, exposure, network and resources, then you you’re probably not going to win. To beat the “somebodies” on a regular basis, you need a deep bench. And you only get that with a good farm team.

That’s why every good leader should work to identify and train the next generation of leadership.

The success of the conservative agenda hangs on bringing new people into the process, and then promoting them up the ladder and grooming new leaders and potential candidates.

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Take a moment right now and make a note of anyone else who needs to get involved with you, or who might have leadership potential. Then make plans to reach out to them soon.

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.

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