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!

Basic Political Negotiation Techniques

Sun Tzu1Grassroots politics or lobbying isn’t always just about conflict. Sometimes it’s about negotiating and compromise.

As Sun Tzu put it, “Better to take all under Heaven intact than to fight”. If you can “win” without having to fight, expend resources, or potentially make enemies that you might need as friends in the next fight, it’s always better.

There can be a lot of reasons to negotiate and compromise. From the reality that “you’re going to lose” to “even if you win it will cost too much to fight it out”…or maybe you just need to stall for time to fight later.  However you arrive at the decision, you need to be just as clear-eyed as to how to go about it as you would if you were starting a campaign.

Define Success

Before you negotiate anything, make sure that you do your homework. What’s the objective? What do you want or need? What represents a good deal? What could put you in a better position to fight the next battle and make more progress in the future?

What do the other guys need, and why? What kind of pressure are they under to make a deal? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are theirs? Who needs to make a deal more?

Decide what you can afford to give up in order to get a good deal – and what you absolutely can’t negotiate. The more information that you have the stronger your position will be…and the less likely you’ll be to make a bad deal.

Have a Plan

Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Make sure that you have a reason for every concession that you make…and that you get something in return for everything that you give up. Otherwise, it’s not much of a compromise.

Negotiate From Strength

Sometimes the whole point of going on offense with an over-reaching, unreasonable position is specifically to be able to win an easier victory by “compromising” the position back a little later on. Of course this just reinforces the principle that you should always be on offense to begin with.

But if you’re in a weak position, your best bet is to try to get something that will either make you stronger next time, or buy more time to get stronger.

Never Go First

It’s a basic principle of negotiation that you should never be the first one to name a price. Usually, that person loses. When you throw out the first offer, you’ve given away some valuable information to the other side about how weak or strong you may be. They will also know what you’re willing to give up…and then they’ll want more.

Shut Your Trap

Let the other side talk. You’ll learn more that way. Listen to what they’re saying…and what they’re NOT saying. They might tip their hand. You’ll get a better idea of what they really want or need.

Take Your Time

Don’t get in a hurry. When you do, you usually screw up somewhere. Make the other side invest time. People usually get impatient and want to “get it over with”…and then they mess up. Make sure that it’s the other side, not you.

Have an Out

Always keep something in your pocket that’s your “out” if things start to go the wrong way. Something you can blame it on when you have to call it off, without damaging a relationship that you might need later.

Be Willing to Walk Away

If you seem too eager to make a deal, you’ll look weak and they’ll take advantage of you. But if you go into a negotiation willing to just walk away, it will show – and make your position look stronger.

It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Stay focused on the deal and the moving parts. Don’t let it get personal. In politics, the odds are that you may need to work with them again in the future. Don’t be so pushy that the other guys feel trapped. Give them some room. As Confucius put it, “Build a golden bridge of escape for your enemies”. Let them see the way out that you want them to take.

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Remember, political negotiating and compromise are just means to an end, the same as political conflict. Just be sure that you know what defines a win that will help advance the “ends”.

Republicans should target the IRS and the Tax Code

IRS CaponeFormer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall stated that, “The power to tax involves the power to destroy”.  This is true enough, but it also involves the power to control.

In fact, control is the number one feature of our tax code, at least in terms of how much of our behavior it controls.  This is as opposed to how efficiently it raises revenue while doing the least possible damage to the economy and personal liberty.

Like a hydra, it sits at the center of American life with tentacles that reach into our finances, our politics and – coming soon – our health care.

It is the great enabler of big government, and it makes potential criminals out of everyday Americans who can’t possibly keep up with its over four million words and fifty-five thousand pages of rules and regulations.  A code so complicated that it takes a collective 6.1 billion hours to comply with each year, the equivalent of over three million full-time employees and about 170 billion dollars in costs to the economy.

Generally speaking, it is said that if you want less of something, you tax it, and if you want more of something, you subsidize it.  With that in mind, our tax code is a veritable road map to what our betters want more and less of.

We tax success, whether in the form of income, capital gains and essentially savings as well.  We tax free speech with regulations and the time and resources necessary to comply with them.  And of course we subsidize unemployment, poverty, poorly performing government monopoly schools and failing businesses.  Trillions later, how’s that been working out for us?

Its primary beneficiaries are accountants, lobbyists, lawyers and the businesses that get the loopholes they want, and the politicians who get contributions for keeping the loopholes in place. In other words, the complexity invites corruption.

Of course such a large, complicated tax code gives rise to a large agency to administer it.  And since it is a virtual certainty that everybody is violating some element of it at some time, it becomes a matter of bureaucratic discretion as to whether you’re targeted for enforcement or not.

The more the agency has to regulate, the more it “needs to know” about those it regulates: like your finances, the content of your prayers, your political beliefs, what type of health insurance you have, etc. – all information that can be exploited and shared with others who have no business seeing it.  Just ask the Tea Party supporters.

Just this week a Treasury Inspector General’s report revealed that confidential tax records of some political candidates and donors were “improperly” reviewed by the IRS, and that they “targeted for audit candidates for political office”, and that there was “unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records of political donors or candidates”.

But these scandals are mere symptoms of the problem that is our incomprehensible, inefficient, corruption-inducing tax code.  All of which presents an opportunity to Republicans, and they should use it to “go big”.

Call for the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS abuse scandals.  Pass a resolution in the House every day if necessary to bring public attention and pressure Obama to make the appointment.

Eliminate the IRS role in Obamacare.  Of course that would essentially gut program financially, so Democrats would oppose it, but it would put them on the record voting to keep the IRS involved in American health care, much to the appreciation of the voting public.

Eliminate the IRS all-together and restructure government revenue collection.  We upended entire bureaucracies after 9-11, why not now?  Further, push for real civil service reform that has real punishment for political favoritism and abuse.

Reform the tax code to eliminate all deductions and lower all rates.  Start with a blank sheet of paper and design it like it was on purpose, not the result of some grotesque experiment in regulatory evolution.  It would mean easier compliance for taxpayers and less control for bureaucrats.  Ignore the howls of protest from lobbyists and adopt a “no loopholes, no exceptions” policy.

Eliminate the corporate income tax, since it is just a pass-thru to the shareholders who own corporations to begin with.  This would also have the virtue of eliminating the need to file for tax-exempt status in order to create political speech groups and get the legal protections of a corporation, (the source of the recent IRS abuse of Tea Party groups).

These are all issues that Republicans can use to beat Democrats over the head from here to 2016.  Never let a crisis go to waste, remember?

Best case, we actually improve something that desperately needs fixing.  Worst case, we put Democrats in close races next year in a really bad spot.

It’s all about preparing the ground we’re going to fight on.