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Tuesday, 08 January 2013 23:11

Am I Doing It Wrong?

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How .0008% of the Population Changed the World

Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Recently, while discussing political activism with a local group of like-minded folks, I postulated that part of our focus should be "infiltrating" the local party organizations so that "good people" (you know, real conservatives) would be in positions to affect platforms and policies up the chain that would eventually influence politicians, candidates, and party leadership. I was chided with the response, "Well, we tried that and it didn't work!"

If it were my children explaining they had looked but couldn't find something, I would tell them, "Well, look again!" or in this case, "try again".

Could we agree that ultimately politicians are only influenced by voters (in large numbers) or money (also in large numbers)? I don't mean to infer that all politicians are on the take (wink, wink, nod, nod), but that they want to keep their job. Voters and donors are what they need to keep their job, so they respond to those who wield large enough numbers of either or both to affect their election. Everyone else gets a form letter.

Aside from those variables, the only thing that has more affect on a politician's actions is their sense of morality (or lack thereof). That is something that you and I can not influence.

Now, we must visit Basic Government 101 before proceeding. Who makes laws? Is that task given to citizens in the Constitution? Not specifically. Is it given to super-organized groups of citizens? No, not them either. The legislative branches of federal or state government are given that responsibility and the executive and judicial branches are given some input. At the local level a county commission or town board of aldermen may make the laws and in your neighborhood a HOA has the power to make certain rules.

The commonality between all of these folks empowered to make laws and rules? They're all elected.

That is a significant factor in this process because unless you are elected to change the rules, you can only hope to influence someone who is. To do that, we get back to the basics of needing sufficient numbers of voters or dollars to either un-elect bad politicians or threaten them with removal in order to get the result you want.

On this particular evening, the group with whom I conversed suggested that organized political activism was needed, but they were adamant about not going through a party system. The group numbered less than 20 and they reminisced about the halcyon days when they had 100 or more "involved". So, let's crunch these numbers.

On August 1, 2012 hundreds of thousands of people showed up at over 1,600 Chick-fil-A locations across the country to voice support for the owner's statements regarding gay marriage. It was a great occasion, but no legislation was on the line and legally not much changed as a result. I'm not saying we should not have done it. I'm just pointing out that a large group of people can get excited about something, yet not change policy.

There was great public outcry against the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, yet it was still passed into law. In 2004, that bill was allowed to sunset without much fanfare. The difference was not that more super-organized groups protested in 2004. In fact there was less demonstration. The real difference? In 1994 there was a Democrat President and Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. In 2004, there was a Republican President and Republicans controlled both houses.

In 1913, the Federal Reserve Act passed through a full Democrat House, Senate, and Presidency. In 1935, the Social Security Act passed under total Democrat control. It's the same story for the Wagner Act that ushered in Unions, and the formation of the Department of Education in 1978. Roe v. Wade was passed 7-2 by an activist Democrat-appointed Supreme Court in 1973. Not to let Republicans off the hook, moderate Richard Nixon formed the EPA in 1970 with a Democrat Congress.

How many state and local laws have followed the same course? By contrast, what organized protests have yielded any similar policy changes? Did you know that since January 22, 1974 250,000+ pro-life supporters have consistently gathered every year in Washington, D.C. to call for the overturning of Roe v. Wade? Yet this month, we will observe its 40th anniversary and it's still the law of the land.

We all feel better when we have marched, yelled, and carried clever signs. But, how much does that truly accomplish? Without some underlying activism that produces change in leadership, I'm afraid it's not much.

On the other hand, a young Barack Obama was successful in eliminating primary opponents and garnered all 16,254 votes in the 1996 Democratic Primary for Illinois Senate, District 13. He went on to win 48,476 votes (82.2%) in the heavily Democrat district that fall to become an Illinois State Senator. Less than 1/1000th of the population at that time made a decision that has impacted the world.

The number is actually much smaller than that because Obama really owes his 1996 victory to the very small group of activists that cleared the way for him to have an uncontested primary in a heavy Democrat district. Do you see where I'm going with this?

To my friends I ask, "Would you rather be one of the quarter-million protesters that meets in January every year to protest Roe v. Wade, or one of the handful of local party leaders that might make a decision that puts a true conservative in a great position to win?" The answer is, "Why not be BOTH?" One brings public awareness, the other does the thankless work behind the scenes, but both are important elements of activism.

Or, am I doing it wrong?

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