Lessons from Single Payer Health Care Nirvana

VAThe last thing that people who want more government control of healthcare need is for people to see the bad things that can happen when the government controls healthcare. But that is precisely the problem that Democrats have now that the skeletons have tumbled out of the VA closet.

The scandal suggests that the “death panels” that Democrats said would never happen under Obamacare in fact already exist in government-run VA healthcare. They come in the form of the secret waiting lists that caused the deaths of dozens of veterans, and the bureaucrats who decide who goes on the lists and how long you have to wait.

Multiple reports have shown that Obama’s administration knew about the growing problem as far back as 2008, and a recent Washington Post report even documented that one VA Deputy Undersecretary went so far as to send a memo up the chain of command detailing seventeen different methods being used in the VA to cover up long wait times.

It will come as no surprise to learn that not one single person has been fired as a result.

For a president who finds time to pick up the phone to congratulate the 249th pick of the NFL draft, you would think that he would have found the time in over five years to make a few calls about this. Instead we get the usual rhetoric that Obama “just found out”, that he’s “mad as Hell” and that they are “investigating the problem”. This pattern is usually followed months later by “we’re still investigating”, then even later by, “that’s old news, what are you, a Fox News reporter?”.

They are turning on the fog machine because they have a fundamental political problem, given that this is exactly what they want the American health care system to look like, (that being big, government-run, and inescapable for the people who have to use it). Obama himself was quoted telling the labor unions that, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care program”. For those who don’t know better, “single payer” means government-run. You know, like the VA.

It is somewhat ironic that the liberals who have spent years pushing abortion “rights”, professing that “nothing should come between a woman and her doctor” are the same folks who dream of a health care system where nothing comes between you and your government, (i.e. your government hospital, your government nurse, your government doctor, your government bureaucracy and your government waiting list).

Considering that this scandal comes at a time when polls show that Americans are nearly split on which party they trust more on health care, it presents what is usually referred to as a “teachable moment”.

People who haven’t been paying attention to the health care debates in recent years need to see the VA held up as the bright, shining example of everything that liberals want health care to be: total government control, no consumer choice, all government employees, (and the unions and union dues that come with them), a secure, generous budget and no incentive to be efficient and please the customer.

Since the media is not going to do that job, it’s up to Republicans.

Here are a few tips for conservatives and candidates running for office this year:

  1. Hold every failure of the VA up as an example of what Democrats want health care to be
  2. Draw a parallel between the VA’s failures and every vote any Democrat has ever cast in favor of greater government control of health care
  3. Wrap it around their necks in everything you spend money on

Conservatives should make the most out of the opportunity to put Democrats and Obama on the spot to support (or oppose) real reforms that would actually help veterans get access to better care, and create a wedge that would make it easier to reform the rest of the system in the future.

Why not move to privatize the VA’s facilities and transform it into a veterans’ healthcare reimbursement agency? Or better yet, let it buy full private insurance coverage for veterans as a group and then let them shop for the best care? Win or lose, it’s an idea that offers something for the victims, and puts Democrats in a bad spot.

It’s messaging 101: find the victim, point them out, then tailor your proposals and rhetoric around helping the victim.

The ongoing messaging problem for Democrats is that, not only are they selling government, but they are selling the most unpopular kind of government, (i.e., the big, inefficient, one-size-fits-all variety), and the VA scandal reinforces the notions that Americans already have about the inadequacies of big government.

Republicans need to help voters get a really good look.

 

How the grassroots works

Any political strategy that depends on broad grassroots support for its success needs to be based on a sound understanding of how the grassroots works. Without such an understanding, the strategy will tend to miscalculate its approach to handling the grassroots, resulting in failure.

The fact is, the "grassroots" is not like anything else in politics. By its very nature, it's fiercely resistant to central control — yet it can be incomparably loyal and self-sacrificing. Properly understood and respected (and hence properly utilized), it has the potential to alter an entire culture. Approached incorrectly, it will turn on those who seek to exploit it.

For these reasons, today's major political movements tend to ignore the grassroots and focus almost exclusively on the use of media to gather winning support at the polls. This works fine as long as the media are susceptible to being courted. But a cause that seriously challenges the media's inherent or conventional tendencies cannot afford to rely alone on media exposure — including paid advertising. Positive gains by unconventional movements can easily be undone by the media through its powerful domination of the public mind. Freedom-minded Americans must therefore find ways to MOBILIZE THE GRASSROOTS if they are to have any hope of making enduring improvements to American society.

Definition

By definition, the grassroots is the bottom of the political pyramid, opposite the "establishment," which controls the top. While the establishment concentrates power in relatively few people in the highest echelons of power — typically party leaders, elected officials, appointed aides or bureaucrats, and others who wield considerable authority over others (and whose business is limiting others' choices) — the grassroots includes virtually everyone else, those common people who do not necessarily hold any political office and who may even be getting their first taste of politics in a particular cause.

It is important to understand, however, that the above model is overly simplified. The grassroots and the establishment can often be the same. People can function simultaneously in either realm, and many often do. In fact, a large proportion of grassroots activists are current office holders or party leaders who are deeply engaged, alongside common citizens, in what could only be described as grassroots activism — involving them in cooperative, advisory, or leadership roles with people of the lower echelons. At the same time, many at the grassroots are inseparable in the public mind from the highest levels of political power, because of their effectiveness in influencing elected officials to change public policy.

What this means is that, ultimately, "the grassroots" is an ATTITUDE. It is an attitude of freedom, of creativity, of unrestrained political enthusiasm, of willingness to band together with ordinary citizens for a common purpose. It has nothing inherently to do with holding a position. It is what some political leaders do outside or beyond their official duties when they get involved in popular causes. It is what regular people do politically alongside others of like minds, without undue concern for conventional roles or authority.

The grassroots is the very essence of politics. It is dumping tea in a harbor, or standing up and testifying at a local city council meeting, or taking a political candidate aside after a rally and giving him or her some advice, or handing out leaflets at a mall. It is that whole realm of politics beyond official station, although many of high station moonlight as grassroots activists — some unintentionally, by their willingness to rub shoulders with the citizenry.

Grassroots behavior

People at the grassroots are anxious to do something. They are especially anxious to do something MEANINGFUL — at least to them. They are politically-minded people who — when they find a cause worthy of their time, energy, and means — are willing to let go of inhibitions, fears, and preconceptions and jump into the cause with unusual passion.

Motivated grassroots activists can be counted on to carry the burden for any particular political cause. They will make phone calls, label envelopes, knock on doors, organize their friends and relatives, e-mail everybody on their lists, march in the streets, put up yard signs, attend rallies, volunteer for leadership, write letters to editors, lobby VIP's, distribute petitions, donate money, and in countless other ways make great personal sacrifice for what they believe in.

They do these things because of their belief in the ideals that define what it means to be an American. Nearly all true grassroots activists in our nation — unlike establishment authorities who control the political process (including those in academia and the media) — are thus FUNDAMENTALLY CONSERVATIVE. They are at least believers in the sanctity of American's founding ideals and are inclined to support the causes of economic liberty, natural law, and moral responsibility. They are rock-solid, sincere Americans.

And there are literally millions who fit this description. Given the right conditions, they will perform yeoman work indispensable to the success of any major political movement.

Activating the grassroots

The real grassroots strength of America has never been fully tapped, at least not since our founding, when a large proportion of common citizens rose up and made a difference. Whatever grassroots activity we see today is restricted mainly to those individuals who are the most assertive or outspoken. Millions of others would join these visible activists — in every movement from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-Second Amendment to pro-property rights — if they knew where to turn for adequate leadership, and if they understood how far America has steadily moved toward the brink of social and political collapse. Unfortunately, the grassroots remain largely dormant, due to the fact that even principled political leaders have never learned to fully inspire the grassroots to meaningful action or enlist their full help.

Again, it is important to stress that virtually all truly grassroots activists are sympathetic to moral conservatism. The lawless radicals we often see on the news holding America hostage are not genuine grassroots. They tend to be avant-garde elitists from academia whose main interest is dismantling America's traditions, in preparation for a world of government-dictated servility. They take their orders from above — not below. They are an extension of top-down plans for disrupting our society, not common Americans who sincerely want to preserve our nation from their position at the bottom of the political spectrum. True grassroots activism springs from ordinary citizens and tends toward principled American liberty, not dependency on increased government power.

That being the case — all those who would like to mobilize the grassroots for a particular purpose must, themselves, embody and follow ideals that are consistent with those of America's founding, or the grassroots won't rise to the occasion. This doesn't mean simply rallying citizens to the cause of preserving our nation — although that is essential. It means respecting and exemplifying the very principles that rallied our forebears: treating the grassroots as equals; respecting the grassroots' need for freedom; and recognizing that no one controls the grassroots from the top down.

Below are principles for working with the grassroots, based on the typical behavior of those who join grassroots movements. These principles cannot be divorced from any serious attempt to reclaim America through broad grassroots activism.

  1. The most important thing to remember in dealing with the grassroots is that the grassroots can't be "managed." You can enlist them, but you can't centrally contain, restrain, or coerce them. Any attempt to manage, manipulate, govern, direct, exploit, or otherwise "use" the grassroots from the top down will fail, because such oversight is intrinsically antithetical — even offensive — to grassroots activism. Instead, those who seek to involve the grassroots in their cause must largely defer to the grassroots, even cater to the grassroots' vision of the cause at issue. People at the grassroots can be led — within certain inviolable principles — but they can't be made subservient.
  2. The secret to enlisting the enthusiastic support of the grassroots is to inspire citizens with patriotic, common-sense rhetoric that defines a cause worthy of their wholehearted support. Most Americans respond positively to sincere appeals to preserving America's distinctive ideals, and the more intelligent and sensible the appeal, the more effective. Any demagoguery or other calculated "motivational" techniques may rally some people for the short-term — but only the truth, spoken plainly and courageously without attempts at manipulation, will mobilize broad grassroots activity for the long haul. The goal is to persuade with reason, in a way that naturally evokes passionate support for the movement at hand.
  3. Once inspired, grassroots activists want meaningful work to do. The role of organizers, therefore — besides inspiring the grassroots — is to give interested activists well-prepared resources that they can use to make their own unique contribution to the common cause. In fact, that is mainly all that enthusiastic activists need from those at the top of their movement. With a variety of good resources from which to choose — including self-instructional handbooks, guidelines for potential activities, effective literature, quality signs, comprehensive contact information, up-to-date voter and party lists, and other useful resources — volunteers are ready to hit the streets in search of opportunities to make a difference.
  4. Those at the top of the movement need to see THEMSELVES mainly as RESOURCES. Since they can't do anything directly to "control" the movement, once it begins to attract strong activists, they will be most influential if they adopt a posture of doing all they can to help those below them. In fact, that is the essence of good leadership. Motivated grassroots followers will respond well to leaders who see themselves primarily as supports to those in the trenches. They will respond poorly to leaders who cross the line and try to use those in the trenches to further their own well-laid plans.
  5. The grassroots absolutely must be trusted to take initiative. Because being "grassroots" is mainly an attitude that centers in wanting to preserve freedom, those who wish to mobilize the grassroots for a particular cause must respect and even nurture the attitude of freedom and creativity that is the very reason those at the grassroots are involved in the cause in the first place. Just as important, grassroots organizers must realize that there is more talent, wisdom, experience, and expertise concentrated at the grassroots than there is at the top of any political movement. Activists must be allowed — indeed, they must be ENCOURAGED — to take broad initiative and be creative in furthering the cause at issue. The results will exceed anything that detailed planning or micro-management by their leaders will ever produce.
  6. Although grassroots workers need freedom in which to function, they also appreciate reasonable guidance to help them know how to participate effectively with others in a cooperative effort. Few grassroots activists expect unrestrained freedom to do whatever they choose in a major political movement. Most prefer — and expect — sensible leadership from experienced grassroots activists to guide them in working productively with others. A movement's leaders would therefore be well-advised to offer grassroots volunteers clear written guidelines for working collectively. The only problem with doing so arises when published or "official"-sounding guidelines lack common sense or treat volunteers without due respect. All "top-down" policies in a political movement must be self-evidently reasonable, or workers at the grassroots will quickly lose confidence in those who seek to lead.

Conclusion

These simple principles for organizing grassroots activists will — if followed at least in spirit — unleash the power of the grassroots to accomplish great things in the political arena, on a scale never before seen.

America wasn't built by stifling the individuality of free-thinking idealists. Nor will it be saved by such means. Those who intend to renew American liberty and character need to lead the grassroots to cultural and political dominance on the grassroots' own terms.


A rally of 5,000 that resulted from the grassroots march depicted in the photos above — video of which was re-played for several days on local TV stations prior to the rally. Both the march and the rally, which occurred in 2000, were staged entirely by a small group of volunteer activists.

How to Frame the Debate

Frame the debateHave you ever noticed in the Bible that, whenever he was accused or interrogated by his opponents, Christ almost always answered them with a question?

When it comes to political debate, there’s a lot to learn from that example. It’s a way of “framing the debate”, which helps you strategically present issues in terms that help shape the debate in your favor.

Politically speaking, it’s a way of controlling the ground that you fight on instead of debating or fighting a campaign on the opposition’s terms. When you do that, you let them frame the debate instead of you – and it usually makes you look defensive.

Go on the Offensive

Framing the debate helps you go on offense. And for conservatives, the best way to do that is to get to the “heart of the matter”, which is usually the liberal’s Achilles’ heel on any issue.

Use terms that help frame your issue in a positive light and put your opposition on its heels.

For example, on abortion, focus on the life of the unborn “child” and its right to life, not the “choice”; on education, focus on providing the “choice” for a better education; on the death penalty, focus on “guilt” and “justice”; on guns, focus on the right to “self-defense”, etc.

Keep the spotlight on the victim, (or the potential victim). Who’s being harmed, or will be? And why is the opposition OK with that? Make them defend it.

If you fail to focus on the heart of the matter, you’re more likely to get sucked in to a debate that is centered on the liberal world view, which means that you end up fighting on their terms. Sort of like being asked, “When did you stop beating your wife?” There’s no way to respond that doesn’t make you look bad.

Responding to an attack

Keep in mind that framing the debate is easier when you are the one who starts the debate. But if you are responding to an attack, the same principle still applies. Frame the debate by “re”-framing it. In other words, pivot by interrogating the opposition in a way that redirects the conversation back towards the heart of the matter.

Once the debate is re-framed you can discredit their arguments.

Remember, When you control the debate, you control the ground you fight on and keep your opposition in a position of weakness. And you increase your odds of success.

 

How to Create a Political Elevator Pitch

political elevator pitchJust as every business needs to “sell” something, politics and public policy is about sales too. And people respond (or not) to political messages in pretty much the same way that they do to any other sales pitch.

Good messages that are relevant are more likely to cut through the clutter. Bad messages get tuned out.

When it comes to effectively communicating a message, there are a lot of great lessons from the business world that we can apply to politics. One of them is known as the “elevator pitch”. It’s a condensed way to get a clear and convincing idea or proposal across to someone else in about the time that it takes to ride in an elevator. A quick and succinct summary of what you’re doing, why, and what you want people to do.

What’s the thumbnail version? Why is it important? Can you bottom-line it in thirty seconds or less? In a way that defines a problem to fit your solution, and describes how your solution will fix it? Or, in a way that matters to your target audience?

Outline of a Political Elevator Pitch:

  • Describe your idea, what you’re trying to do or the result that you want
  • Why is it important? Make it relevant to people and their values.
  • Describe the key benefits of your “solution”. What’s in it for them?
  • Clearly state what they need to do. Make it easy and actionable.

Be sure to frame the problem in a way that fits your solution. Be passionate and use “benefit” focused terms. Be concise and clear. Write it down. Read it. Then delete anything that’s not critical.

Remember, the trick is to get all of this across in a few sentences, or about thirty seconds.

Making yourself go through the process of creating a good elevator pitch can help you clarify what you’re “selling” in your own mind, and get a better understanding of the point of view of your target audience.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of speaking out for a policy or proposal that you believe in, (or even run a campaign), then you may as well go to the (slightly more) trouble of crafting a clear and concise message that can help you be more successful.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

The Importance of Political Confrontation

political confrontationMost people hate confrontation. But given that “politics is people”, (and about people agreeing and disagreeing), effective political participation is almost certain to involve some sort of confrontation at some point.

Most people tend to want to “get along”, (or “play nice”, as your mother probably told you), and that’s admirable in pretty much every aspect of life. But if you’re the only one playing nice in politics you won’t be winning very many battles or making any progress on the things you care about.

Fighting over fundamentals

In recent years the level of acrimony in the political process has increased because we are no longer just arguing about the margins, we are increasingly fighting over many of the fundamental, core values that the vast majority of Americans took for granted not very long ago. The type of values that go to the heart of what kind of country we all want to live in.

But you can’t let acrimony make you shy away from what’s important.

In order to be successful in the political arena, we must practice “effective confrontation”. That means not being reactive, but being proactive and taking the offensive with the kind of tenacity that can endure the potentially long political or legislative process that might lie ahead.

And be very, very, very persistent.

It’s not enough just to know what’s right. If you do a bad job advocating a good principle, you probably haven’t made much progress. If you’re too timid or don’t frame your issues the way you want to begin with, expect your opposition to do it for you.

Unfortunately, conservatives tend to take a defensive posture right from the start on most issues, or we quickly allow ourselves to be put on the defensive by our opposition. As a result, we bear some of the blame for our country’s situation.

Sometimes you gotta’ fight

Democracy requires participation, and sometimes that means political confrontation.

Nobody says you have to be ugly about it. But as with most things in life, you don’t make much progress by being a shrinking violet. You must be willing to advocate what you believe with the same passion that you believe it. Just remind yourself that, as a conservative, there are more people who think like you do than your opposition.

The simple fact is that the differing needs and/or values of different people (sometimes VERY different people) are at odds with one another. Somebody wins and somebody loses, or somebody gets more of what they want than someone else.

If you decide to avoid politics and speaking out for what you believe just because you don’t like being confronted with people who disagree with you or who are mean and call you names, you can’t really be surprised by how things turn out on down the road.

And then it will be too late.

Free Speech Hypocrisy

free speech hypocrisyWhen it comes to free speech and the liberal hypocrisy that surrounds it, last week added two towering examples to an already impressive list.

In Washington, DC the Supreme Court held that the current cap on the aggregate amount that any one American can give to political candidates in an election cycle is unconstitutional, (but left in place the $2,600 per candidate limit).

The Court continued where it left off in the Citizens United case several years ago in loosening the restrictions on giving and expanding the doctrine that money is indeed “speech”, especially for political purposes. Of course everyone who paid attention in history class (if your school still has that) knows that freedom of political speech was what most concerned the men who wrote and ratified the First Amendment.

Liberals and naïve campaign “reform” advocates proceeded to have the requisite conniption fits, claiming that money is not speech, but if that is the case then why do they ask for money to fund their own campaigns? Precisely to get their “speech” heard by more people.

If a citizen speaks in the forest without a microphone, a video camera or an ad budget, does he make a noise? The simple fact is that “speaking” can cost money, especially if you want to be heard by a lot of people, or very often. And since the First Amendment doesn’t place any restrictions on how loudly you can speak, or how often, they paying to do so is a Constitutional right.

If you can’t spend your own money to say what you want to say, or support someone else who’s saying it for you, then freedom of political speech is a myth.

Money may “speak”, but it doesn’t vote. People do that. And the speech that money pays for only works if the message resonates with people and what’s important to them. And since conservatism tends to resonate with a public that is more conservative than liberal, liberals try to limit access to paid media. It’s the primary reason that we have such a complex series of campaign finance laws.

This agonizing over “big money” comes at an awkward time in history, as we now have this wonderful invention called the Internet that enables average citizens to better organize, and raise and spend money to have an impact on the political system. Further, it has enabled candidates to be less reliant on the wealthy donors liberals stress about.

Just ask Barak Obama. Most of the big money was with Hillary when he first began to run in 2007, but he went on to use the Internet to organize and raise money so well that he became the first presidential candidate to refuse public financing for a general election, since it would have limited how much more he could raise or spend. He knew that he could leverage the Internet to engage hundreds of thousands of small donors, and he did – to the tune of almost eight-hundred million dollars.

But I guess that was “good” speech?

Also this past week, Brendon Eich, the newly installed CEO of Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser, was forced to resign after the company was besieged by hypocritical progressives demanding his scalp to intimidate CEOs everywhere into keeping their sympathies (and their money) away from conservative causes. His sin? He contributed $1,000 to the 2008 California Proposition 8 campaign to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Of course this was the very same position held by Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton) in 2008, without which he probably would not have been nominated or elected President. But what’s a little hypocrisy between friends.

It’s another example of liberals trying to infiltrate and then purge one of the typical strongholds of conservatism. They are sending corporations the message that CEOs can’t be conservatives (openly) and must publicly genuflect to liberal orthodoxy, or else have their money making enterprises interrupted by liberals who don’t care about money, but power.

The hypocrisy is everywhere. On the one hand they have gone to court (as in the Holly Lobby case) claiming corporations “can’t have beliefs”, therefore they can’t have religious rights and policies based on those beliefs like individuals (still) do. Then they claim Mozilla has progressive “beliefs” that their new CEO violated. So which is it? Notice the answer always seems to be whatever stifles conservative opinion.

They are all about “tolerance” until they manage to get in charge or get their laws passed, and then they want mandatory compliance, endorsement and punishment of wrong thinking.

As Newt Gingrich recently said, it’s the “new fascism”.

Free speech be damned.

Defund and Repeal Obamcare Now!

repeal obamacareFellow conservative,

Do you think Congress should be exempt from Obamacare?

Do you think they should be able to keep their current insurance and not have to live under the massive health care law they passed without the country’s support?

That’s exactly what a ruling from the Obama administration will let them do.

When the law was passed, an amendment was added specifically requiring that Congress would have to live under the law and get their insurance from these new “exchanges”.  At the time, adding that amendment was the only way they could get the votes to pass it.

Now they don’t want to live under it.

Many members of Congress quietly lobbied Obama to give them a waiver from having to comply with the law.  They said it would lead to a “brain drain” of congressmen and staffers if they he didn’t!

Even the labor unions – led by the AFL-CIO – who campaigned FOR Obamacare are now asking for exemptions and waivers.

Let your members of Congress know that you don’t support ANY changes or waivers from this law – unless it’s a “waiver” that involves repealing or de-funding the whole mess!

Click here and join the campaign right now.
More Intrusion in Our Private Lives

Are you ready for your doctor to ask questions about your sex life and share the answers with the government?

That’s what Obamacare pushes doctors to do.

According to one recent report: “The president’s “reforms” aim to turn doctors into government agents, pressuring them financially to ask questions they consider inappropriate and unnecessary, and to violate their Hippocratic Oath to keep patients’ records confidential.”

Public opinion CONTINUES to build AGAINST it.

In the latest USA Today poll, Opposition to Obamacare has reached an all-time high of 53%.  Another poll shows only half the country even realizes that they will have to comply with the insurance mandate – and that’s less than two weeks before it goes into effect.

Opposition will increase as more people understand what is happening.  And that’s why we need to ramp up the pressure on Congress.

Are you ready to speak out?  Click here to join the campaign.

You can click here and send a blast fax to ANY or ALL members of Congress at one time.  Or you can click here for individual contact information.

More Job Losses and Higher Prices

More companies are being forced to cut employees below 30 hours per week in order to avoid the law’s insurance mandates, or even dropping health insurance benefits all together – a process that will only increase once the law goes into full-effect.

Many existing plans are getting cancelled, because they don’t meet Obamacare’s “minimum requirements”…which means Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise was a lie.

And the premiums for new plans that do qualify are sky-rocketing.

Have you had enough?  Let Congress hear from you.

Tell Them to DE-FUND and REPEAL Obamacare

The upcoming fights over the budget and the debt limit offer an opportunity for Congress to either DE-FUND Obamacare or DELAY it until after the next elections – when we can try to get rid of it again.

The bottom line is that we need to keep up the pressure to make changes NOW!

Say “NO” to Obamacare waivers for Congress and unions.

Say “NO” to giving the government your private medical records.

And say “YES” to ending Obamacare.

Click here to join the campaign right now!  And don’t forget, you can click here and send a blast fax to ANY or ALL members of Congress at one time.  Or you can click here for their individual contact information.

Let them hear from you today!

Sincerely,
Drew McKissick

 

A version of this column originally appeared in feedproxy.google.com.

Six basic online campaign tools and activities

knifeSince we’ve been discussing online activity and organization lately, I wanted to give some thoughts on some of the specific but basic things that you can do online in support of a campaign or organization, (or to augment any “offline” organization activity).

Here’s a handy list of six basic online campaign tools and activities that you should incorporate into your organizational strategy.

1) Create an online campaign:

Some services let you use their sites to host campaigns where you can set up online petitions, online faxes to members of Congress, private online groups for your supporters, etc.  These services are usually free, (or at least cheaper than creating your own website!).  (Check out AktNow as an example)

2) Online polls and surveys:

Conduct opinion polls of members or supporters.  These can also be useful when trying to identify prospective supporters, (ex. set up an online survey that asks questions that will help you identify likely prospects and capture their email addresses – then email links to the survey to your supporters, encourage email forwarding, post it on Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

3) Build your database:

Once you’ve got a spot online, you can have a central place where people can sign up for a newsletter so you can communicate with them on a regular basis.  (You can do it yourself with your own email programs, or online solutions such as Constant Contact, Mad Mimi or others).  Just be sure to provide a webform or clearly visible link to where they should sign up…and promote it!

4) Post Information:

Create a central place where supporters can come and get important information about your cause that they can use to help recruit others and/or communicate to elected officials in lobbying efforts, (such as talking points, flyers, voter guides, scripts for telephone calls, etc.).  You can also offer your information in a PDF format that supporters can download and print on desktop printers to distribute in “off line” environments.

5) Provide links:

Offer a list of important and useful links that supporters can use, (such as to key contact information for elected officials, local newspaper “letters-to-the-editor” information, talk-radio call-in numbers, voter registration links, etc.).  Also post links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, (if you have any).

6) Online scheduling:

You can use online calendar services to maintain a schedule of important dates, activities and events to easily update and keep people informed, (free services such as Google Calendar even allow people to sign up for email alerts from the calendar).  Make it easy for people to keep up with what’s going on and when they can get involved.

***

All of these online campaign tools and elements should eventually be incorporated into any online organizational strategy.  If you’re not online, or you don’t give people an opportunity to “sign up” online, then you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

A good Internet presence, (web site, blog, email and social media), better enables you to be found by potential supporters, to communicate and get them organized.

Remember, it’s not just about who YOU know, or who may stumble across your information, but it’s about your supporters – and who THEY know.

Be a resource!

Ready to learn the political fundamentals and make a difference? Get my "Beginner's Guide to Grassroots Politics" and get started!

Four tips for conservative online organization

online organizationWhether everyone in politics realizes it yet or not (still “not” for many people), online organization is not only here to stay, but it represents the quickest, most impactful and cost effective form of political organization.

And when it comes to organizing and campaigning on the Internet – (and before you get down in the weeds of all of the tools and things you can do online) – there are some fundamental tips you should keep in mind in order to be more successful.

Online Organization Tips:

1) Be Visible:

Voters or activist expect to be able to find you (and information about you or your cause) online.  A basic website is a minimum threshold for credibility of any serious organization.

If they can’t find you, they can’t interact with you.

Generally speaking, a website gives you an Internet headquarters, or “hub”, to operate from.  It’s a place to park critical information about your group or cause, to promote action items that your supporters can act on, and make it easy for your supporters to join your cause, reference your information and pass it on to others.

You can create a site or blog easily enough with services such as WordPress or Blogger.  Short of that, you can easily create your own online “group” (for free) with services like Ning, Google and Yahoo.  These can be public, private or moderated, however you see fit.

2) Keep it Fresh:

How often do you come across sites that look abandoned, or have out-dated information?  And how often will you go back if that’s the case?  Keep that in mind when maintaining your online presence.

Think like the type of person you want to attract.  What information are they looking for?  What are they likely to act on if you make it easy for them?  In addition to the “fixed” information you might add to a site (such as fact sheets and information about your group or issue), you can keep sites fresh by adding a blog, (even letting several supporters help keep it updated), or adding newsfeeds on related topics with RSS feeds, etc.

The better and more useful the content, the more people will visit, and the more often they’ll forward the site and/or its content on to others.  This means that the site can become an email list building machine.

3) Get Social:

If a website is your Internet “hub”, then think of social media as the spokes.  And it can take your Internet presence to a whole new level.

Given that social media is an “opt-in” type of medium and also tends to be much more personal in nature, it can give you or your cause much more credibility when people share your links and information with others.  In other words it’s like the Internet version of “word of mouth” advertising.

According to Pew Research, around 20% of all Internet users that were surveyed indicated that they either received or shared political information via a social network in the run-up to the 2008 election…and I’m sure it was higher for 2012.  These are real people that live in the “real” world where you may be looking to identify volunteers for a precinct and/or church based organization.

Social media enhances your ability to aggregate small expressions of support from a large number of people into a greater whole, (in fundraising for example) – which means that it provides leverage.

If people are a primary resource in politics, then the “other’ people that they know are potential resources as well. Social media makes it easier to leverage your chief resource.

4) Be Outgoing:

Don’t just create a web presence and wait for the world to come knocking at your door.  Do some promotion.

In the business world, you wouldn’t spend time creating a product for sale and then keep quiet about it. You would advertise.  The same principle applies here. You make use of the tools you have (and those you can get) to let people know you’re there and why they should be interested.

The Internet offers a constantly expanding menu of ways to reach out.  The most familiar is email and, given that virtually everyone who’s online has an email address, it’s the most fundamental.  The newer avenues are the social networks mentioned earlier.  Set up profiles for your site on those services and link them back to your site. Send an email to your list letting them know that you’re up on those networks, (“Hey, we’ve got a Facebook page up – click here to check it out, and then pass it on!”).

By regularly posting messages on those services with links back to pages or blog entries on your site, you “push” your content to a larger audience than would otherwise be exposed to your message.

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Can you think of any other general tips you’ve learned about successful online organization by way of experience?  Feel free to pass them along in the comments.

A version of this column originally appeared in feedproxy.google.com.

Three reasons for conservative online organization

online organization1Given that politics is all about people, it’s a natural fit for the Internet and online social networks. In many ways the Internet is the ultimate “precinct” in America’s politics, in that everyone “lives” there.

The overwhelming majority of registered voters have online access, and huge (and increasing) percentages of them regularly access political information online – which puts them only one step away from taking action – if they have the opportunity.

That’s where you come in.

The fact that so many people are using the Internet for political information and activity means that you should see it as a natural extension of your activism.

And while the Internet is becoming an increasingly effective tool, it’s also becoming easier to use, which puts everyone on a more even playing field.

All three of the fundamental elements of politics, (communications, organization and fundraising), have been impacted by the Internet.

As technology continues to change, it will have increasing political applications – which means you need to master and apply the technology in order to be as effective as possible.

Three benefits of online organization:

1) Better communications:

It can aid your communications efforts by making it easier for you to provide important information to your supporters, and making it just as easy for them to share it with others.

This also better enables you to inform bloggers and members of the “mainstream media” that may want to cover your efforts. The more of YOUR information that’s posted online, the more you fill a factual vacuum that would potentially be filled by your opposition.

2) Better organization:

It can aid your organization efforts by allowing your supporters the opportunity to engage with your campaign without having to come to a headquarters or go to a meeting.

It allows them to participate on their own terms – and makes it easier for them to “spread the word” to others they know, since it’s Internet based.

The Internet also makes it incredibly easy to do one of the most important preliminaries to “organization” – “identification”. You can’t really do much in the way of organizing people until you have identified “who” cares about your issue. You can do this with free online petitions, (with sites like AktNow for example).

3) Better fundraising:

Online organizing can aid with fundraising simply by providing a central place that you can direct supporters to for making contributions.

Once you’ve got a fundraising page, you can link to it in email, on printed material, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Even a simple PayPal account could get the job done for an ad hoc effort.

It can also make fundraising viral, as it makes it easy for your supporters to share a fundraising link with others, along with a message encouraging them to make a donation.

What to do?

You can approach online activity in one of two ways: either as an addition to what you want to do with an “offline” organization efforts (such as precinct or church based), or as your only method of organization.

Good online efforts can help enhance and increase the productivity of your “offline” efforts, such as recruiting volunteers, sharing information, coordinating action and raising funds.

Whichever route your organizational efforts take, you should seek to use the Internet as an integral part of your communications, organization and fundraising efforts.

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Can you think of any other examples of how the Internet makes online political activity easier or more important for conservatives?  Sound off in the comments.

A version of this column originally appeared in feedproxy.google.com.