In my first column in this series, we looked at why the main entryways for concerned citizens into politics — getting involved in campaigns, or trying to educate the public — lead to dead ends.
In this column, we will look at what is effective.
First, we need to debunk one of the core myths of politics: that once elected, politicians don’t care what their constituents think.
On the contrary, most politicians live in constant fear of alienating their constituents. Many seats in the legislature are won and lost by just a few percentage points. Congressmen and Michigan state representatives are up for re-election every two years. Senators have a little more leeway with four-year terms in Michigan and six years in the U.S. Senate, but they too must be careful.
Even in what we call “safe seats” — seats where the baseline is so high for one party or the other that the seat is unlikely to be “flipped” in the near future — those politicians worry constantly about “losing majority.” They want to raise money for the caucus to spend in more fragile seats, for the sake of majority (and for plum committee assignments, which are awarded to those that raise the most money).
The result of this is that politicians are motivated by real-world pressure. They want to avoid political pain (e.g. angry voters), and maximize political pleasure (e.g. money).
“Education” does not transfer to real-world consequences for politicians. This is especially true for “education” over the Internet, because politics is so geographical.
Here’s a concrete example. Today, two Republican congressmen from Michigan, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer, voted to impeach President Trump, who leaves office in less than seven days.
It was a reprehensible vote. It was not just a slap in the face of the Trump-supporting Republicans that elected them, it was a betrayal of the entire American constitutional system.
President Trump would have been wise to have placed far greater emphasis on encouraging demonstrators to be peaceful prior to the event. But nothing he actually said on January 6 encouraged violence or criminal behavior in any way. It was completely protected speech, and to impeach the President on these grounds was a gross abuse of the Constitution.
It also provided ammunition to the Democrats to abuse the Constitution again and again, having legitimized politically-motivated impeachment.
All that’s well and good, and explaining that to people would be a form of education.
But what will be the real-world consequences for Rep. Upton and Rep. Meijer?
Peter Meijer just took office two weeks ago. He won office by less than six percentage points. If just 11 percent of his voters decide to stay home in 2022, or vote 3rd party, he loses his seat.
If a strong candidate emerges to challenge him in the 2022 Republican primary election, there’s a good chance he loses his seat to a Republican challenger, who can make the credible argument to primary voters that if Meijer is even nominated for a second term, his betrayal of the Republican base will cost the party the seat altogether.
Even if he survives the challenge, the money and resources he will spend defending himself is money he doesn’t have for the general election, and certainly doesn’t have to share with the caucus. Which means he doesn’t get the committee assignments he wants.
All of this is intense pain for a politician.
This is why real-world grassroots leadership is so important. Voters in Texas can’t do anything about Peter Meijer. Activists in Meijers’ district can. If angry voters organize, they could recruit a primary challenger. Educating people on the Internet won’t accomplish this. It takes people getting together and forming a plan to deliver maximum pain, to send a strong message to the new congressman that there will be a severe punishment for bad behavior.
Meijer is especially vulnerable because his name is on a massive business across the Midwest, owned by his father and uncle. If activists begin a #BoycottMeijer campaign, the blowback to his vote to attack the President, the Constitution, and his constituents will be economic and personal as well as political.
This is how politicians learn what boundaries they can and cannot cross with their base. How well they learn is proportional to how much political damage they take. Maximum pressure produces maximum results.
This is why grassroots leadership — the real-world organizing of people to have real-world consequences for the political class — is so critical.
Education alone won’t do it. Complaining on the Internet won’t do it. (Although I certainly encourage you to do your part to get #BoycottMeijer trending!)
What ultimately changes public policy, and the composition of the legislature itself, is grassroots movements.
The left has understood this, and that is why today’s Democrat party is so radical. They have systematically targeted the moderates, and replaced them with hard-core leftists.
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or (“AOC”) defeated incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democrat primary of 2018, she damaged the Democrats severely. Crowley was the chair of the House Democrat Caucus. He was their top fundraiser after Nancy Pelosi herself.
But the Democrats got the message: there is no place for moderates in their party.
That’s the message the grassroots must send to every RINO in Washington and in Lansing.
AOC had no qualification to be a member of Congress. But she was a “community organizer,” just like former President Obama had been.
Community organization works for the left, but tactics are ideologically neutral. They work just as well for both sides.
This is why grassroots leadership is so essential. It really is what ultimately shapes the circumstances that create political and policy outcomes.
Want to save America? Then you must get involved at the grassroots level.
In the next column, I’ll begin discussing how to do so.