If you work in confrontational politics at a high level for any length of time, you will lose friends.
People get involved in politics for different reasons.
Maybe a legislator angered them or perhaps there was an issue that really fired them up, so they got involved in local or state politics for a time.
Usually these activists are some of the best, salt-of-the-earth people that you’ll ever meet, who care deeply about the kind of country they are going to leave behind to their children and grandchildren.
But in my experience, most of them will lack the staying power and the long-term focus necessary to grow a large, political fighting force and will drift away, not to be heard from again.
Others will leave you and your organization because some legislator — trying to get out from under the heat that your organization was putting on him — offers your friend a job on his staff, and your ‘friend’ can’t wait to work on the inside.
Some Just Can’t Handle It
Others choke under the pressure.
The first time the media attacks you or a powerful committee chair says something nasty about you — many of your ‘friends’ will wilt and just disappear.
And others just get exhausted, weary of fighting all the time with a moderate legislature that won’t take action, and go back to whatever they were doing before.
Having worked in grassroots politics for close to a decade, I have seen people come and go for all of these reasons and more.
And when ‘friends’ drop off the map because they were bought off or choked under pressure, I can assure you that you are usually better off.
Far better to have them get out early, when you don’t depend on them, than later on when you do.
When good friends drop out, it can be tough.
But it is also normal.
Few people can master the art of confrontational, grassroots politics while building an organization big enough to become a true political power house at the same time.
It’s not because they aren’t smart enough or don’t care as much as you do.
Rather, most activists have a short-term vision and, when they do not accomplish their goals fast enough, throw up their hands and simply quit — then sit around and complain about why our country is in such a mess.
So if you want to stay in politics and actually effect real public policy change, it’s vital that you focus a tremendous amount of your time and energy in building the tools you need to be successful.
These are: lists, money, and people.
What Really Matters If You Want To Be Effective
You see, for the well-meaning activist who quits, he usually does so because he was trying to change the legislature on his own — fueled by just his own energy.
The successful activist knows that he can’t take on tasks this big alone. You need a list of people that support your cause and you need it fast.
For a new organization, you should be spending the majority of your time building your list of supporters.
Did you get that?
Get out of the Capitol, get away from the ‘cool kids,’ and start building a list of supporters who agree with you!
If you don’t have that, you will fail.
If you think your issue doesn’t need large amounts of grassroots pressure, then either you are pushing a weak and watered down bill that doesn’t matter, or you are simply dumb.
What kinds of lists?
Well, a list of donors who will support your organization would be nice.
So would a list of email address from activists that will flood the Capitol with phone calls when you sound the alarm.
Volunteers are worth their weight in gold most of the time, so a list of trusted volunteers is very important to have as well.
The voter file for your state, lists of candidates in upcoming races, lists of friendly media outlets — you need them all.
There are lots of ways to develop these lists. One of these is at events. To learn more about that, read my article here.
For specialized help in this area, including information on building your list via direct mail and online, feel free to contact me directly.
I’m sure that you have run into activists or candidates who are convinced that their issue or candidacy is so ‘right on the issues’ that they won’t need any money to succeed.
If you haven’t already done so, run from that person and never get involved with them politically in any capacity.
Others take a ‘holier than thou’ attitude to money in politics and try to attack your morality for seeking to raise needed funds to run your program.
Ignore them, too.
It’s simple: the best cause or candidate in the world will flop if no one knows what they stand for or what issue they are fighting for.
People are willing to stand alongside you, but they have to hear about you first! And you need money to do that.
It takes money to build lists by direct mail and email.
It takes money to run Facebook ads, run robo calls, and drop postcard mailings in districts to put pressure on a legislator to make sure he votes the right way.
It takes money to buy laptops, data management software, paper, printers, toner, and to pay for the office internet and phone lines.
It takes money to buy air time during the election season to expose bad legislators. After all, if you aren’t doing that, then why are you involved in politics at all?
It takes money to buy your volunteers pizza after lit-dropping a committee chairman’s district.
It takes money to travel around the state to events where you hope to build your lists and meet with activists.
It takes money if you want to hire full time staff or employ contractors.
This includes you, by the way. If you don’t think that you should get paid for working in professional politics, then feel free to never visit this site again.
If you are any good at this stuff then you will be making a real difference, something that few people can do.
We need more people like you. But how can you possibly stay in this line of work if you are not getting paid?
If you don’t get paid at least something, you are going to burn out and your spouse will leave you. I’ve seen this happen.
So after list building, a large portion of your time and energy absolutely must be focused on fundraising.
I can assure you that you can’t do this on your own.
Any organization that wants to be truly effective will need to find people who can specialize in certain areas.
Some of the areas that I need help in as I run Iowa Gun Owners include: database management and development, graphic art design, copy writing, website maintenance, gun show volunteers, election time volunteers, and much more!
Your organization and you must spend real time on developing these types of assets, be they volunteers or contractors.
The Organization is More Important Than Any One Person
Hopefully you are starting to realize that to be effective in politics, you need to have a long-term vision and a keen focus on the three things listed above.
You must build your organization to critical mass if you want to be effective. That is your goal. Without the organization, you will fail.
Put another way: you have to see yourself pushing a boulder up the side of a mountain. It’s hard, thankless, tiring work that few can do and fewer still actually complete.
But, for those that reach the top, it’s a lot of fun when that boulder begins to roll down the hill and crushes political opponents and passes good legislation.
Along with that, just accept that people come and go. Friends come and go. Enemies come and go. Legislators come and go.
What matters is whether or not your organization will be there, fighting for your membership a year from now, and five years from now, and ten years from now.
You will make it if you focus on the three categories I listed above, and if you accept the fact that you will lose some friends as you wage this fight.
If you need more help in launching, growing, or running your political organization, please feel free to contact me directly for one on one help or to schedule a day-long training seminar in your area.