John Tsarpalas: Well, today on Commonwealthy I want to talk about activism and I want to talk about some ideas that maybe you haven’t thought about that have been going on out there for quite a while by the left, by progressives. I want to talk about different ways you can change the political spectrum in America using different means, different capabilities, different capacities if you will.
Think about it. Laws change through courts. They change through winning elections. They change through lobbying. They change through the media and press. There’s lots of ways to change the political landscape. We are going to talk about that today because this is something I’ve worked on in my past quite a bit and helped to build some organizations to deal with some of this.
But the left is way out in front of us on this and has been for a long time. And a lot of this is George Soros’ money. You’ve heard that name. He funds a lot of these kind of organizations or gets them started, seeds them and then the left goes out, finds donors, and funds these groups and grows them. They are very, very effective.
I’m not here just to tell you about those kind of groups. This is about activism for you. How can you do some of these same roles and functions that I am going to talk about today as an individual, on a local basis? How can you do more investigating on your school board?
How can you do more to change something locally besides running for a seat and winning on that board, which I am all about because that is what this is about? Commonwealthy is about activism. It is about winning elections. It is about how to run campaigns and win campaigns. But it is also about organizing.
So let’s get into this today. This is Commonwealthy #74, Seven Types of Political Capacities.
So welcome to Commonwealthy. I am excited to talk about these ideas of other ways to affect political change because I have literally helped raise money for groups and helped put together some groups that are working on the conservative, free market, limited government side.
You need to understand just how much the left has done in this area and how you can apply that locally. So let’s really get into this because this is huge.
It takes your political consciousness to a new level because when you hear something about Media Matters on Fox News, you’ll know what that means and what their real goal is and their purpose. When you hear about MoveOn.org, you’ll understand how they fit in this complex network of progressive organizations. And you’ll wonder where are our organizations because we don’t have them.
And all of this is happening besides the Democrat National Party, labor unions and all that they are doing, and issue specific organizations like Sierra Club and some of their environmental organizations and things like that. But they also do fit into this plan, too, because they also not only work on certain types of techniques, they also work on specific issues.
And they all come back around and Get Out the Vote for their candidates come election time. I mean, Sierra Club is a Get Out the Vote organization. ACORN is a Get Out the Vote organization. They talk about helping people in the city, etc., but the bottom line is it is about getting out the vote for Democrats and progressives.
Let’s jump in and get started. Way back when somewhere in the 2000’s, there was a group formed by the left called the Democracy Alliance. They put together this plan for these different capacities that they saw political people needing, that their political world needed for support to support their candidates.
Bear with me; I’ll get back to local soon. But I thought I would start with a little bigger picture. They started forming groups and putting them together. And these groups were done on state level, federal level, and some on local levels. I want to talk about the local level as we go along.
Let’s start with the first thing that needs to happen. This might not be for you, but it might be. Are you a person that likes to research politics, write policy papers, think about how things should be? We have a great network of free market limited government think tanks in America thanks to a group called the State Policy Network.
Every state in the Union, in all fifty states, have at least one policy think tank in it. These are not-for-profits. They are 501(c)3’s. They are educational. They don’t lobby. They don’t talk about candidates. They don’t talk about parties. They just write ideas and then try to educate people on those ideas.
I think this is really important. It is sort of where the whole thing starts. If we are going to elect politicians, we’ve got to give them some ideas on what they are going to vote for, especially on some of these bigger issues. How do you repeal Obamacare and replace it with something? Who has thought this through? Obviously the left has thought it through.
John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign manager, headed up the group Progress For America. And that was a think tank that wrote progressive legislation and policy and then passed it on. And a lot of people such as Robert Creamer, who is the husband of Democrat congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, helped write Obamacare along with Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ezekiel. A lot of people who wrote things on Obamacare, this was done through not-for-profit, educational money paying these people to do the work. And it was tax deductible.
Our side was smart enough, more through the Libertarians than necessarily the conservatives. On a national level, the conservatives have Heritage. The Libertarians have Cato. And then state based, they range from Libertarian to conservative and kind of in between. It is a good thing that we have them out there. They write policy.
But there are also people, individuals, who write ideas on policy on their local organization, on their local government body. And this is important. So if you want to do some serious study work and write some educational papers, there is definitely a need for you.
I would get a hold of your state-based think tank and see if they can help you get that out or at least put it up on their site and refer you to somebody to help you. If you are looking to find who that is in your state, go to spn.org.
But intellectual ammunition and think tanks are the first capacity that needs to happen. So think about that. Are you someone that would enjoy doing some research? I mean, this is something you do at night, weekends. It is a hobby. You have an idea to make it better politically, economically, improve your schools. How can you find that issue that is interesting to you? And then work on it.
And then figure out how to get it out and market it. Because one of the most difficult things with policy is you can write a paper, but if nobody reads, nothing happens. How do you get that disseminated? Who do you give it to? How do you get it published?
And it is possible to do little press releases on things like that. Your local paper might be willing to print it as a little series of articles if they find it interesting. Hours and hours we can talk about that. But that is something I just wanted to give people an idea who are more interested in thoughts on that.
The next idea out there is investigating and exposing corruption. And there is corruption in a lot of levels and in local levels. We had Lennie Jarratt on here back in Commonwealthy #24 and #25 of September. Not last September, but the one before that, in 2015. Lennie talked about how he found corruption in his local school board and how some local bureaucrats were fired. This was huge.
Have you thought about how you can do some investigative reporting and digging around, taking a look at budgets, asking questions of school boards, having a blog on that local school board, getting this stuff on the board, asking questions, and creating some problems for some corrupt bureaucrats?
Well, on a national level, the left has lots of groups out there. I mean, Al Gore had something called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. They had investigative reporters. Now the right has done better. They’ve got a thing called the Watchdog network that usually looks at state budgets and things going on in the state.
And they have investigative reporters researching. And a lot of these reporters also work through their state-based think tanks to investigate. So the second capacity, the second thing that needs to happen in the world is to investigate and expose corruption.
And the left does that all the time. The left is attacking us and they use groups to trump up faux and false corruption and create things. Let’s go back to Texas governor Rick Perry. I mean, he was recently exonerated of trumped up charges, which the left drummed up. And then by using (and I won’t use the word corrupt) extremely partisan, biased attorney generals, the left prosecutes people.
This happened in Milwaukee to friends of mine who raise money for Club for Growth. Milwaukee County started investigating and then seizing their computers and their lists and everything. And then telling them they had a gag order and they weren’t allowed to talk about it.
Thankfully they did talk about it and the Wall Street Journal did a lot of work on it and got a lot of the message out. The corrupt attorney general of Milwaukee, these things all had to finally be dismissed because they did nothing wrong.
So how do we use our selves as local investigators and how do we use those elected officials? You know, if your county has an attorney general in it, is that person investigating, figuring things out? Maybe they are not called an attorney general in your county.
But have you brought things to them if you find something that smells and they are of our ilk? You are not going to take it to the other side because they are not going to do anything about it. I mean, will Hillary ever go to jail? They whitewashed that and covered that up.
And I am not saying she is guilty, but there should have been some further investigations and at least a grand jury because things going on not only in the emails, but also in the foundation, their Clinton Foundation. Money that goes there just smells to high heaven in my book.
Think about how you can be an investigative reporter and use that to create political change.
The third idea is the use of setting up groups that can organize, do grassroots efforts. Tea Party is a perfect example of this. They can be set up without raising much money and you don’t need any kind of an organizational structure. They can be set up as a state PAC so that they can raise money under the PAC laws of that state. Usually PACs give money to campaigns, but you guys can do campaign work as a PAC.
Or set up a 501(c)4, which is a not-for-profit. Donations to it are not tax deductible, but you guys don’t have to file any income tax or pay any income tax. And can you set up some organizations through these structures locally? I mean, if you are doing Tea Party, that’s great.
The left does it with ACORN. The left does it with MoveOn.org. The left does it with, as I said earlier, Sierra Club and things like that. Is there a local issue that you’d like to drive home and be allowed to do some lobbying and some legislative work?
501(c)4’s can say things like, “John Doe voted to raise your state income tax. Give him a call.” You can say, “Vote against him.” You can’t say, “Vote for him.” But you can point out what he is doing wrong and you can lobby through a 501(c)4.
Something else you can do with this is do ballot measures. The left has been using ballot measures, referendums. In California, it is rampant. If you can things on the ballot, you get voters to vote for it directly, you can change things.
The perfect way to do that is to set up your own small organization. Recruit people. Get the issue out. See if you can get the referendum on the ballot, whatever that takes. In some places it is hard. Especially the more to the east you are, the worse it is. In the west they have more rights for individual direct democracy for referendums and ballot initiatives, ballot measures.
And see what you can do. Unions use this a lot, this technique. But so do we. A lot of our spending cap legislation that got passed in states and term limits were passed through ballot initiatives.
What about doing that on a county basis or a local basis? Can you pass some kind of spending cap on your local county board? I don’t know what your state laws are, but it depends.
And you can target candidates on specific issues. There is a group in Texas that has been very, very effective, Texans for Lawsuit Reform. It was formed by some small businessmen. Their concept was simple: raise money and target politicians in the state legislature that were not voting for lawsuit reform.
What was lawsuit reform? Getting rid of unnecessary laws that were being passed by bar associations to feather the lawyers cap. How do you get rid of the frivolous lawsuit? How do you make it more fair? How do you end up having the loser pay for both sides’ costs? Things like that.
So this group got together and they started by targeting Republicans, rhinos if you will, that weren’t voting for them. And they started running campaigns against them. They started using robo calls, mail, and just putting pressure on them, even when it was not an election. A vote was coming on some type of tort reform measure. And if someone looked like they were not going to vote for the measure, they would light up the phones in that district and have taxpayers call that legislature and threaten to vote against them. Worked very effectively.
Is your group doing something like that? If you’ve already got a small group, what are you doing? Pick something and target something and focus on it. And get more local with it.
One of the things that frustrate me is we all want to talk about the presidency and Congress. We’ve got to think more locally. When you are an advanced politician, an advanced politico, it starts locally. And it trickles up. It doesn’t necessarily trickle down. Yes, some of the big legislation does, but we don’t want that anyway. Let’s make changes at a lower level.
Think about that capacity #3. How can you put together your local organization? Local organizations for grassroots efforts to win legislative victories, to block tax hikes.
This next one you have probably heard. On Fox they talk about “Media Matters said this and Media Matters said that.” The left set Media Matters up many, many moons ago.
And what is its job? To respond rapidly, to attack anybody that is writing something they disagree with. It is to attack the media and to attack anybody that is being quoted in the media. And to disseminate disinformation.
It spreads lies. It spreads that this is false or why this is false. And it is usually their perspective and often it isn’t false. They don’t care. I mean, they just do it. And they’ve done it on state bases. There is a Colorado Media Matters. There are different ones in different states and there are some local ones.
So what can you do as an individual to offset media bias and to knock down some of this leftist garbage in the media? Well, are you writing letters to the editor? It has got to be respectful, but you can do that. It is simple. They still exist. They do have people read them. People need to speak up and let them know we are there.
Do you have a local blog? Are you putting things out on your blog? Are you posting things on bigger realms? You know, you could write about a local issue and get it posted on somebody else’s blog or some other website that deals with your local issues or your state issues, your county issues. Are you familiar with what is out there? Will they allow you to guest post every now and then, put something up?
There’s lots of room for activism if you want to write. How about a podcast? You don’t need thousands of listeners. How about a podcast that has got fifty person who listen in once a week about something happening in your county or once a month with what is happening in your county?
You know, your Cook County Update. “Here is what the Cook County Board voted on this week. Here’s why I think it is wrong. Here is what I like. Here is what I don’t like.” And then if you are not a writer, maybe take a transcript. Put it up on your blog. And then if you want, edit down that transcript and set off little press releases. See if you can something out somewhere, local papers.
You never know what is going to come of it, but you’ve got to start somewhere. So how can you be your local offset to media? How do you offset media biased? You have to respond quickly usually. That is important. And how can you push back on disinformation, because there is tons of it? That was concept #4.
Number five is difficult for most of us. How do you use litigation? You know, the ACLU has been suing for things and it is not necessary your civil liberties. I mean, it is supposed to American Civil Liberties Union, but basically it is for American progressive liberties union. It is always leftist based.
However, we’ve gotten better in the last few years. We have a few places in America on a national or local basis to do some litigation work such as Goldwater Institute in Arizona and the Institute for Justice. There is one in the Pacific states, Pacific Legal Foundation. There are a few of them, but there are not enough of them.
So if you are an attorney or you know an attorney, how about doing a little pro bono work for the good of your community and for the good of solid decent conservative ideas or Libertarian ideas? Have you thought about it as something you can take on?
This is an area that I don’t know a lot about. I do know that has been very effective. Lawsuits do change things. And the threat of lawsuits does change things. Can your local school board back off of something if they think they are going to get sued?
Now you’ve got to be careful about that. I wouldn’t go making threats without having consulted an attorney and getting some legal backing. And you’ve got to be willing to pull the trigger. You know, this not Barrack Obama with the Red Line in Syria and then nothing happens. We’ve got follow through because the left will call our bluff. But how can strategic litigation be used for your political outcomes?
Number six, well, number six is about what this podcast is all about. How do we recruit and train candidates for office? Well, at Commonwealthy, we are here to help you. Feel free to get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help with your campaign.
Listen to this podcast. This podcast #74. I’ve got seventy of these on how to run for office and four of them are about activism. Maybe a few more. But everything about activism ties right back in to campaign politics anyway.
And what are you doing about recruiting locally to build slates to run for school boards, county boards, etc.? You can be a one-man political organization, one woman, and start recruiting people. Put them together.
Offer them training. Offer for them to go American Majority. Reach out to them. If you’ve got a slate of candidates, they’ll help you. If you have a slate of candidates, I’ll help you. There’s also Leadership Institute who does training online and things like that. So there’s ways to get candidates some training and some help.
But what have you done to try to recruit some people to try to run for local office? And then we’ll get them trained for you. But I think that is absolutely important and imperative, hence why I do it for a living.
And the last area that the left is way out in front of us but we are getting better at is getting our message out through new media. Donald Trump used Twitter for an amazing, amazing outcome. It works.
What are you doing as an activist? And don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick a topic. Pick a region. Pick something and narrow your scope that you are tweeting on.
You can find me @jtsarpalas on Twitter. I am always tweeting about political activism things. A little bit of issues, but usually I am trying to relate the issue to actually sometimes their capacity, what the left has done to do things, or certain issues I am passionate about. But feel free to follow me on Twitter.
I use new media through Facebook and other means. What are you doing with new media? Are familiar with some of the things that can be done? And if this is not your thing, it is not your thing. But I think you need to narrow your scope and focus.
It is interesting what new media can do? In many ways, it is kind of like putting up a yard sign. You are helping other people reinforce their ideas. And most powerful of all is you are someone who does some investigative reporting and you’ve got a blog and then you are tweeting and using new media to put all of this out. You are one man or one woman news agency. I mean, this is huge.
So think about new media and how you can use more, be more effective with it. We had a good podcast on some of the basics for social media. The interview was with Aubrey Blankenship of American Majority. It was Commonwealthy #27, the Use of Social Media in a Local Political Campaign. But that also ties into issues and organizations and everything else. So feel free to go back to Commonwealthy.com and take a look. Perhaps you can find what you need there.
Last but not least, I’ve talked about seven kinds of things you can do for sort of organizing and doing things outside of a campaign. But running for office is the most direct way to change something. Run for your local office and win. We need to win. It is important. Winning elections changes things. If I can be a help, I am at email@example.com.
You can do me a favor. Could you go to Facebook and go to the Commonwealthy page and like us? That would be really helpful. We are trying to grow our community and we are trying to grow the people listening to Commonwealthy.
If you know anybody who is an activist, politically savvy or not savvy, someone who likes to talk politics and seems interested, let them know about Commonwealthy. We’ve always got ideas for activism and for campaigns.
And hopefully they can grow their level of sophistication from beyond, “AHH! We’ve got to get a new president. Oh my gosh! We’ve got to have a super majority.” What people complain about, you know, the filibuster and the blah blah blah in the Senate. Let’s make something happen. Make it happen locally because that is where you are going to do it.
As usual, thanks for listening. Let’s go win some campaigns.