To America’s Founders and the Sons of Liberty, who won our freedom; and to Saul Alinsky, whose rules we expropriate to win it back.
RULE 1: FREEDOM WORKS
What follows is for those who want to set America on a path toward liberty, and who understand that freedom works.
Few of our elected political leaders or bureaucrats give this simple axiom more than a brief thought. “Freedom works” – but what does the phrase actually mean?
When we understand that freedom works, we understand why it is such a dangerous idea, a revolutionary idea, an idea so many tyrants throughout the history of the world have worked to destroy, an idea so many organizations today labor to eliminate.
Freedom works as an organizational principle. It means that by giving people the freedom to strive and equal opportunity to succeed to the best of their own abilities, to risk what they will toward a goal they believe in, we achieve great things as a nation and a people.
There is always, of course, the other path—letting elitist leaders with plans control every aspect of our life, as if they know what’s best for us. But accepting a top-down imposition of equality of outcomes never works. The ends are never truly equal, corruption and vice are inevitable. The best laid plans of the elites are so out of touch with the aims of the people, eventually the economy and the government collapses.
This is what happens when there are people in power who you wouldn’t trust to watch your dog or manage a cash register being given responsibility over your life savings and trillion-dollar budgets.
There are some well-meaning people who deny freedom because they don’t trust people’s abilities to make choices for themselves. But the true enemy of freedom is the radical or the tyrant—people in love with power who always deny freedom, not because they think it doesn’t work, but because they know it works. A free world simply is not the world they want to see.
We saw this clash of ideals clearly during the Cold War, but this is a much older battle than that, dating back through centuries of human struggle over the rights of humankind. As in so many areas, America’s Founders understood far more than what we could have guessed. They knew that when we choose freedom, we choose a better future and a better life for ourselves and our children than any centralized government could ever achieve.
As he studied America in the early 1800s, Alexis de Tocqueville saw free citizens waking up to what they could achieve in a nation where freedom thrived. He wrote about how “countless little people, humble people, throughout American society, expend their efforts in caring and in the betterment of the community, blowing on their hands, pitting their small strength against the inhuman elements of life. Unheralded and always inconspicuous, they sense that they are cooperating with a purpose and a spirit that is at the center of creation. The Constitution of their nation undergirds and strengthens this activity.”
De Tocqueville’s description from two hundred years ago might well have been written about what we call the Tea Party movement, Freedom movement, or Liberty movement today. We are making ourselves heard as the unheralded community of hard-working, dedicated, honest people at the heart of a nation founded on liberty and opportunity. We are standing up in defense of the Constitutional values that made the America we love possible. And no matter what the Washington elites do to try and stop us, we will not be silenced.
Our message is clear: freedom works.
RULE 2: FREEDOM’S RIGHT
It is right and just for people to live free. This is a tough idea for many political leaders to accept, but it’s something the people who make up the Freedom movement understand innately. We support the straightforward principles that unite us—individual responsibility, economic opportunity, and constitutionally limited government—not just because they work, but because they are right.
Many politicians are used to the idea that politics is a game where you have to triangulate your position between opposing views in a way that makes enough people happy on both sides. They think this way because they’ve been trained to think like that by dozens of consultants and advisors over the years. But the truth is that politics is not a game. The policies implemented by politicians concerned about their short-term political success do real, wide-ranging damage to the people and society for generations to come.
We know better. Good policy is good politics. The measure of policy impact isn’t found in the political careers of Washington elites, or how things play on the cocktail circuit, but in what kind of nation we pass on to our children. We, through our representatives, make law that sets the course not just for our generation but for future generations as well.
The Freedom movement is rising up because we know we can’t leave public policy to the politicians, or to the self-styled “experts,” or to someone else with a parochial agenda. They come to politics with an approach that often comes at their benefit and your expense. This broad community of patriotic citizens, standing together to take our country back from an unholy alliance of government power and privileged interests, is making a difference because we speak in defiance of the conventional wisdom of politics.
The elites didn’t expect something like the Tea Party to ever happen. A political comedian once joked that anytime the political Left protested something, they showed up en masse with signs and bullhorns and prepped talking points, while when the Right protests something, you just see two VFW members with an American flag.
That’s why Washington elites and special interests have assumed that they are “Too Big to Fail”—they are used to just taking what they consider theirs, and never having anyone stand up in opposition.
What they never counted on was the great mass of America, the new center of American politics, to stand up for what they believed in, in defense of our liberty and the inheritance we want to give the next generation of Americans—the freedom to work and achieve by the sweat of their brow.
The Tea Party has evolved from a spontaneous political protest into an organized social movement, the Freedom movement. We the people are a force more powerful than one any special interest can create, and we are motivated by a drive to reclaim our great nation for our sake, and the sake of future generations. George Washington would expect no less, saying: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
It will not be easy. It is a demanding calling, and the rules that follow will be difficult. But we can employ them with confidence, not just because we know that freedom works, but that it is right.
RULE 3: FREEDOM REQUIRES WORK
When abolitionist Wendell Phillips said that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” he wasn’t referring to soldiers or professional political operatives, but to every American. We’ve learned through experience that we can’t afford to shirk our responsibility to defend our freedom in the public square—if we don’t stand up, the elites win. But what does this mean, and how do we get started?
Many of you may be new to the political process. But we’ve all seen how thousands of Americans have become true leaders in their communities, organizing protests and town hall meetings, lobbying their state and federal legislators, and leading get-out-the-vote efforts for limited-government candidates in elections.
In fact, a large reason the Freedom movement has been so effective is because it is self-organizing. Best practices and tactics haven’t been imposed from the top down, but learned through experience from the ground up. And while we agree on the basic principles as outlined in the previous rules, when it comes to advocating for those principles, the Freedom movement is an open market for ideas, strategies, and contributions—whether they are shared around the kitchen table or on Facebook.
The elites and their allies don’t have that advantage, because they’re used to systems of entrenched bureaucracies. Literary critic Lionel Trilling observed that the limited ideas that survive bureaucracies tend to “be of a certain kind and of a certain simplicity: they give up something of their largeness … in order to survive.” Big ideas, game-changing ideas, come from the ground up.
The Freedom movement is a frustrating problem for the elites in Washington, both on the Left and the Right. They are so used to just asking to talk to the man in charge, they don’t know how to deal with any movement where there is no “man in charge.” They desperately want to apply Saul Alinsky’s “thirteenth rule” of Chicago street politics: “Pick your target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” but this doesn’t work so well when they try to demonize millions of patriotic citizens—families, small business owners, grandparents who speak out because they want their grandchildren to have a shot at the American dream.
We have an incredible opportunity to rescue our liberties from the grasping hands of these political elites by working together, learning by sharing best practices and pitfalls to avoid. This pamphlet is designed to give you the basic tools necessary to become an effective advocate for limited government. By knowing how to organize a protest, be effective in town hall meetings, interact with the media, utilize online tools, hold events, raise money, recruit members to your group, and other essential information, you can be a more powerful force in American politics than any paid professional operative.
As you work, keep in mind that we are following the tradition of the original American community organizers, the Sons of Liberty. These grassroots Patriots helped lead a campaign to build public support for the American Revolution, and were the brains behind the original Boston Tea Party in December 1773. As they understood so well, in the words of Samuel Adams, “it does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires of freedom in the minds of men.”
RULE 4: WE WIN BY BUILDING
Ideas matter, but organizations win. As Alinsky wrote: “Change comes from power, and power comes from organization. In order to act, people must get together.” This doesn’t mean that we should shove ideas to the side—they’re the reason we do what we do—but keep in mind that an idea has never knocked on someone’s door, never given a speech, never printed a pamphlet, and never showed up for a protest.
That’s why we have to build toward victory, working together to organize and activate. And that’s why FreedomWorks believes in the chapter concept.
The chapter concept allows activists to function in small groups so they can easily relate to one another. It promotes a sense of unity and motivates members to take action in the political system. We currently have state chapters, county chapters, and town chapters all across the country. You can become a part of this network of activists by creating your own chapter and networking with others in your county and state.
Each chapter should have a clear mission statement consisting of one or two sentences that succinctly explain the explicit goals of the group and how they will be accomplished. The mission statement provides an important roadmap for sustained effectiveness months and years into the future. As issues arise, it’s helpful to refer back to the mission statement for guidance on which path to take.
A smoothly operating chapter has structure. Each chapter should have a chapter leader, communications director, legislative liaison, membership director, and social director. We recommend that these positions be delegated to reliable individuals in each chapter. However, if the chapter is small, multiple duties can be delegated to a few individuals.
Members have already formed thousands of groups, and you can create your own or join others on FreedomConnecter at http://connect.freedomworks.org. FreedomConnector is a revolutionary social media tool developed by FreedomWorks that allows you to connect with individuals in your area in order to further the fight for limited government in your area.
The Tea Party began as the product of a perfect storm of political events, and the resulting Freedom Movement is an extension of that.
Broken promises from the Right and an aggressive redistributionist agenda from the Left has brought many Americans into politics for the first time. At the same time, new technological innovations allowed us to find each other, to organize and share information in real time, to learn and adapt and have an impact like never before.
As liberty-oriented Americans, we have a great advantage over the left in the way we organize. We support and promote the decentralization of power. This allows us far more freedom and flexibility than centralized, top-down dictation. Ultimately, it is more effective. Use this idea when you think about your organization.
Our Founders may never have written a blog post or sent an email, but they knew the principles that are driving today’s politics. As Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, in a choice between “giving energy to the government or information to the people,” we must choose the latter, for “they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” And that brings us to our next rule.
RULE 5: GOVERNMENT GOES TO THOSE WHO SHOW UP
When a lawmaker heads to your state capital or Washington, D.C., they are instantly surrounded by special interests, well-organized and well-funded national groups who have a stake in how policy is set. So if you aren’t the ones showing up in your lawmaker’s office, on the phone, and in the mailbox, the only ones who are showing up are the entrenched special interest groups that don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind.
This is why it’s so important to start organizing at the chapter level, where you can work together to push back against the dominant, well-funded networks of political operatives with your own grassroots operation.
As chapter leader, you will be responsible for the operation and conduct of the chapter’s members. You’ll have to fundraise, serve as the public face of the organization, and already possess excellent personal relationships, leadership, and organizational skills. This person is often referred to as the chapter chairman or president of the chapter, but that title brings a great deal of responsibility, not the least of which is finding others to fill out the important roles on your team.
Choosing a press officer should be your first step. This is someone who should be responsible for internal and external communications. Press releases, editorials, and letters to the editor are examples of external communications, while e-mails and correspondences that remain in the chapter are considered internal communications.
Besides maintaining the chapter’s blog or Web site, the communications director should try to link the chapter with other local blogs and think of ways to increase traffic by partnering with larger sites. They should also be in charge of managing your Twitter feed, Facebook outreach, FreedomConnector community, and other online networks.
The legislative liaison should have strong knowledge about the local, state, and national political environments and processes. It will be his or her job to keep track of legislative issues, provide updates to the group, build relationships with legislative champions, and set up activities like lobbying visits, phone call and e-mail campaigns, and other campaign activities.
The legislative liaison should know what bills are being introduced, who the cosponsors are, and whether to support or oppose the bills. This chapter officer is critical to making an impact on the public policy process—there’s so much movement, you need one person in charge of tracking what’s going on.
The membership director will maintain membership lists and ensure that all members are receiving the proper materials. This chapter officer is also in charge of recruiting and retaining members for the local chapter. It is his or her job to look for opportunities to greatly expand the membership list through creative efforts and good old-fashioned peer-to-peer recruiting. It is important for a group to continuously grow over time in order for it to remain a political force in the community.
The social director’s job is to make sure that the chapter is having fun while getting work done. This person will plan events that build a sense of community in the group: think about things like movie nights, soirees, parties, and other fun social events. It’s important that the members of the chapter enjoy what they are doing, and know they are making a real difference in public policy debates.
Working in politics as a volunteer can be a grind, time-consuming, and often frustrating—but remember the rule: if you don’t show up, the big government crowd wins by forfeit.
RULE 6: WINNING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHO GETS THE CREDIT
Ronald Reagan once said, There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit,” This is a dynamic we see playing out across the nation today in Tea Party, 9/12 and other local liberty-focused chapters.
At FreedomWorks, we call this complex, diverse movement “beautiful chaos”—but it’s also a demonstration of what is now an accepted understanding of organizational management: that people maximize their contributions when knowledge is decentralized. Various people can apply their diverse talents to make an entire enterprise more productive.
For the Washington elites, this is a revolutionary concept—but we think it’s just common sense. At the local level, this translates to leaders who are regional activists, well-connected to their friends and neighbors, who already have the on-the-ground knowledge of local issues, personalities, and potential roadblocks and opportunities. By organizing together at that level, you can achieve far more than a top-down national organization—you can adapt, activate and anticipate better than any national, well-trained and overpaid political opposition.
Achieving this kind of collaboration within your chapter is one reason why, once the chapter’s leadership is in place and organized, the next step ought to be hosting a regular meeting. Chapter meetings should be simple, short, and informative, motivating members to take action.
The purpose of a chapter meeting is to make sure that everyone knows about upcoming events and campaigns. But meetings are also a great place to invite special speakers or to screen a film. Meetings should be held regularly so that it becomes a part of the members’ ordinary lives. If there are times when the group cannot meet due to timing, weather, or other reasons, consider hosting a conference call for everyone—you can feel free to utilize FreedomWorks’ conference call system, as many groups do.
Chapter meetings should typically last no longer than an hour or so. People lead busy lives and you don’t want them to stop paying attention and leave early. Cover as much as you can and then leave them wanting more from the next meeting. Be sure to have someone run the meeting who is good at moving things forward.
Try to save most of the debating and rhetorical questions for the very end of the meeting. Those debates will come, but you need to stay focused and get things done before you can open the floor up to banter and idea-sharing. Manage your meeting effectively and stick to your schedule. Your members will thank you for it.
RULE 7: THINK LIKE A REVOLUTIONARY
Build. Organize. Collaborate. And as you do, think carefully, tactfully, and be mindful of the American revolutionaries who did so first, in the attics and hidden rooms of the thirteen colonies, talking and organizing as they prepared to risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the cause they believed in.
Today, we call this practice “networking.” If your chapter is going to succeed, networking must be practiced at the local and state levels. Networking allows your chapter to focus on what it does best—to mobilize citizens to take action in the political process. This will be an essential test for the Freedom movement: Can we all work together on the core values we believe in without being diverted by small differences of opinion? Remember Ben Franklin’s admonishment to his colleagues: “If we don’t hang together we will surely hang separately.”
Collaborating with other organizations will assist you by providing information, resources, and people who may become members of your group. By building coalitions, you can recruit more people, spread the message in your local community, and open up lines of communication with one another. No one person or group needs to be in charge—it is merely a way to keep the lines of communication open and to allow for greater cooperation between likeminded groups around the state.
But the original revolutionaries weren’t just about meeting and organizing—they were also about action. Thanks to their actions, today you have the right to freedom of speech. We suggest you exercise it.
Thanks to their actions, Americans can enjoy our inalienable rights to free speech and free association.
We suggest you exercise it.
Work together with your coalition to set up events, like political protests, membership drives, or creative educational campaigns, ones that will be peaceful but focused on a particular issue. Pick a location, date, and time in your town— Main Street at an intersection with lots of traffic is ideal for protests. For educational events, consider hosting a booth at events like County fairs or farmers markets. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and other peers about your events. You can build an RSVP list through your email listserv, FreedomConnector, or Facebook to give updates and allow attendees to communicate with one another to organize rides. Create handouts or another tangible item to hand out to passersby.
You should also reach out to others to publicize your events. Call your local talk-radio hosts and ask them to announce the location, date, and time on the air for a few days leading up to the protest. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper announcing the protest. E-mail the bloggers in your area and ask them to post a notice about the protest. Write a press release and send copies to the local TV stations, radio stations, bloggers, and newspapers. Call the reporters who cover local events or politics and leave messages on their voice mail.
If your event is a protest, show up with your group; be loud, visible, and happy; and engage the public. Wave your signs, make lots of noise, and move around to get attention. It goes without saying, but be peaceful; the original revolutionaries knew that a nonviolent approach (destroying tea instead of people) was the right and wise path. Think tactically, but come in peace, and never break the line or the windows.
Reporters may interview you, so think ahead about what you’ll say to give them some good sound bites for their stories. Stay on message and keep your answers short and coherent. Beware of reporters asking leading questions to try to get you off message or to respond to something you haven’t fully thought through. When they do this—and they will—simply repeat the topic that you are there to talk about and have no comment on the other distracting topics they are bringing up.
Remember, reporters are not there to be your friend; they are there to do their job, get a story, and possibly to make a name for themselves, sometimes by any means necessary. There is nothing wrong with simply repeating what you have already said. Some reporters will ask you questions until you give them the quote they have already decided they want from you, which will often not be what you wanted. Don’t let them force you to fit their preconceived—and often misconceived—narrative. Stay on message so they can only quote you saying what you are there to say.
Bring sign-in sheets to capture the names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of those who attend the event and/or say that they support what you are doing. You will then have a big list of people who can plan the next, much bigger and louder event.
Add your photos, videos, and an after-action report to your FreedomConnector or Facebook group, and send this material to the bloggers and reporters whom you originally contacted. Ask them to post the photos, story, and video, and be sure to thank everyone who attended via e-mail and phone.
Set up a meeting to plan your next event. Now you have a list of people in your community who can help make the next event huge. Encourage everyone to commit to bring at least one friend to the next protest. Organize a carpool and go find a friend in your neighboring town or county and help them organize an event there.
Just like that, you and your people are now veterans and should be able to keep the momentum going around your area. You’ve exercised the rights the original American revolutionaries fought and died for—and you’ve only just begun to realize the potential impact you can have for the cause of freedom.
RULE 8: DRIVE THE CONVERSATION
It may be that the protest you organized with your coalition and chapter was the first time you’ve interacted with the traditional media. Traditional media may be falling on hard times generally, but they still provide you outlets where you can become a printing press, distributing your ideas to a wider audience and making sure that false statements are answered with truth.
There are two types of media coverage: earned and paid media. Earned media is free exposure for your organization—it’s what happens when the media shows up at an event and covers it or publishes your opinion. The content of earned media is up to the reporter and is difficult to control, but earned media is more credible and—best of all—it’s free. Paid media like advertising, on the other hand, costs money, and not many people take it at face value. So it’s time to earn that coverage.
One way of obtaining earned media coverage without organizing an event is to comment regularly in local media by writing letters responding to articles and editorials appearing in local newspapers. Studies show that people read the letters section of newspapers more than they read the editorials by journalists, and these letters are widely read by community leaders to gauge public sentiment about current events.
When you write a letter to the editor, you should always write legibly, include your name, address, and telephone number (newspapers generally will not print anonymous letters), and be brief and specific. Letters should never exceed one page, and editors might just print an excerpt from it. State the purpose of your letter in the opening paragraph and stick to that topic. Always adhere to the paper’s guidelines.
The most important thing to remember is to write nothing but the truth. Do not include false information or rely on dubious sources for your letter, and write about the issues that matter to people, debates that are going on right now, such as responding promptly to stories about pending tax-increases.
FreedomWorks created an Action Center that allows you to easily create letters to the editor and submit them to many new sources. Best of all, the formatting is already set up; you just need to create the content. The Action Center tool allows you to easily and quickly create letters to the editor and saves time and postage. You can access the Action Center at http://action.freedomworks.org.
Editorials appear in most newspapers and are vehicles by which citizens can make extensive comments on articles and policies. When writing an op-ed, be sure to keep your piece concise and include specific information.
The average length of an op-ed should be between four hundred and nine hundred words. Check with your local paper concerning length requirements. Your op-ed should be timely, concise, and to the point. Make sure that you drive home one or two main messages in the piece. Organize it well and make the strongest case for your point of view. Utilize every word to the fullest and don’t waste time with ad hominem attacks or other distractions. Get right to the point.
When arranging the publication of an op-ed piece, a phone call to the editor can be helpful. Leaders of organized groups often have a much better chance of getting an editorial published in the local newspaper than the average person. You will have a much better chance of publishing a letter to the editor than an op-ed, but this shouldn’t discourage you from submitting one.
Radio and Television
Calling the talk shows in your area is a great way to help get your message across to thousands of listeners for free. Call your local radio and television stations and ask if they have open forums—talk shows where callers can discuss any subject with the host. If so, try to get on the air to make short, concise, positive statements about limited government. You can take comfort in knowing that your brief statement in support of our position was heard by the station’s listeners.
You can also call talk shows and ask the producer if there are any scheduled shows coming up that will discuss our issues. If one is scheduled, try to get a representative booked to appear on the show. Be sure to monitor your local radio and television stations and participate in these shows and alert fellow volunteers so they may do so as well.
FreedomWorks often has opportunities to book activists who we work with on national media outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, PBS, and the broadcast networks. If you prove to be an effective media voice for limited government, we will be happy to include you in future opportunities. Producers are always looking for good spokespeople who can go on the air live.
Building Media Contacts
Build a media list, or assign that responsibility within your group. Keep this information handy, as you’ll want to refer to it when you’re ready to mail your letters, place your telephone calls, or send e-mail.
Every local leader should have a big list of the reporters and producers who have covered local, state, and national politics. Many reporters are assigned to covering political events in the city or state in which you live. Get to know them personally and communicate with them often. They need you as a source just as much as you need them to write a fair piece about your group and your events. As frustrating as the mainstream media can be, there are good reporters and producers who are honest, objective, and looking for the true story. Work with these folks and you can help shape the narrative about our movement.
Offer to take your local beat reporters out to lunch or for coffee to get to know them. You’d be surprised at how few people actually do this, which is a major missed opportunity. Good journalists will take you up on your offer because they need to know their subjects very well in order to cover them correctly.
Try to focus on building not only the list of media contacts but also the quality of the list. This will go a long way toward making you a more effective communicator through newspapers, radio, and television. We can and should get our message out on traditional media outlets. To just throw up our hands because of media bias would be both foolish and counterproductive. And remember that you represent all of us when you speak to the media. Stay focused. Everything is on the record!
RULE 9: EVERYONE IS A PRINTING PRESS
In the days of the original revolutionaries, few things held as much power as the printed word, equipping thinkers with the ability to write and rapidly distribute words and ideas to the broader population. Where Ben Franklin measured his distribution in weeks and months, today you can measure it in seconds, instantly connecting, sharing, and coordinating with others around a common goal—and just by using free tools that already exist.
The online world can be immensely intimidating to someone who is just figuring out social media. There is a constant influx of information and content, and making sense of it all may seem overwhelming. The trick is harnessing that information and using it to engage other activists. It has helped the Freedom movement grow and connect in new ways, and the power of these tools is undeniable. Using them may not be quite as difficult as you think.
It’s important that you view your printing press role as one of meeting people where they are. People check their Facebook and Twitter accounts on a daily basis, and that’s where you can engage them easily, frequently and free of charge.
Facebook is the most widely used social media platform. It’s incredibly user- friendly and easy to learn. Be sure to “like” us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/freedomworks.
Getting started on Facebook is free and takes about five minutes. Use your real name—it’s tempting to use the name of your group—but that is what the Facebook “Pages” are for. Your profile should be about you.
Remember, this is the Internet, where nothing is truly private. Facebook, however, has privacy settings that you should take full advantage of. The safest way to approach online privacy is to simply not post things you’re not comfortable sharing. You have the ability to hide your age, location, and networks. Don’t want people to know where you work? Don’t post it.
The next step is to connect with others. When you sign up, Facebook will search your e-mail contacts for people you know who are already on Facebook, and you can automatically add them as friends if you choose.
There are several ways you can approach your Facebook account. Most people will only add and accept requests from people they know. However, as an activist, you should use Facebook as an opportunity to connect with other people who want to network with you.
It’s also useful to create a “fan page” for your chapter or group. There’s no cap on the number of people who can “like” your page, so invite your friends or even run an inexpensive targeted Facebook ad.
Blogs are a huge component of the online news world. Today’s bloggers have expansive audiences, and many function as investigative reporters, digging up dirt and pointing out political trends. Some bloggers now have equal standing with commenters at newspapers and other forums. They shape the conversation at constant speed, and you may want to subscribe to some of their sites by email.
Starting a blog is simple and free. Platforms like WordPress, MoveableType, and Blogger make it a point-and-click process. Just sign up, choose a catchy name and a template for your site, and you’re free to start writing.
Linking is maybe the most important way to get your blog noticed. Has another blogger covered a story that you can add something to? Post a link to their piece, quote the relevant part, and then add your response. Some sites will display the links to people who have linked their story— they’re called trackbacks and are a great way to drive traffic to your site. SEO (search engine optimization) is important to make sure more people see your posts, so choose headlines that are descriptive, with words that people will use in their Google searches.
Blogging is time-consuming, and it isn’t for everyone. There are, however, ways you can contribute to the conversation without maintaining your own site. At RedState.com, everyone can be a diarist in just a few minutes. Have a story or some coverage of an event? Post it as a diary. Sometimes the editors will promote it to the front page.
Also, if you don’t know how to get attention for an event or story, pass it on to a local blogger. Chances are that people who matter will read that person’s site. An example would be a blogger we know from Kansas. Now, he doesn’t have the traffic of one of the major sites, but he has a feature that allows people to subscribe to his blog by e-mail. His subscribers include the mayor, every member of the city council, and the staffs of both. What this means is that when he voices concern or support for particular policies or initiatives, people are listening.
Video has become the most powerful medium in the online world, and YouTube provides you with a simple way to share footage and clips with the world. Be sure to visit our YouTube page athttp://youtube.com/freedomworksaction.
You can start your own YouTube account for free. It’s linked to your Google account, so the people in your contacts will show up as suggested subscriptions. Upload original videos for your subscribers. The title and description for the video are important— make them as clear as possible so more people will find your video when they search for a particular topic.
Even without making your own YouTube account, the platform is a great resource. You can link videos, share them on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog, and promote other videos if you think they are interesting and useful. Having news clips, videos of candidate speeches and interviews, footage of events, and other media clips available can prove invaluable.
There is an incredible amount of information on Twitter, a short-form blogging platform where users can share brief thoughts, links and information. Don’t be intimidated by it, but try to use it toward your own ends, and as a source for news and information. Our Twitter handle is @FreedomWorks.
We suggest you use a real photo for your avatar, and to spend some time to get your bio right—it’s the only thing that people will have to figure out who you are, and you only have 140 characters to do it. At FreedomWorks, we simply list our tagline— Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom.
Twitter is based on a system where people “follow” each other, to read others’ thoughts. Follow people you admire and follow the people who they’re following. Pick an active Twitter personality you are familiar with and pay attention to who they talk to and to the lists they create of people they follow, which are all linked on the right-hand side of their profile page.
Engage others in conversation, and open the lines of communication. One of the best uses of Twitter is to cover an event—you can easily post photos from your smartphone in the middle of a crowd and keep people informed. People want new information, and Twitter feeds that demand. There are also a host of applications that make using Twitter easier, such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
That said, don’t let Twitter become a distraction, a time-suck from more important things, or a place where you just argue with people who are on the other side. As Alinsky put it, “a good tactic is one your people enjoy,” and “a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
RULE 10: THE DAY AFTER ELECTION DAY IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT
In Washington, D.C., everything revolves around the next Election Day. There’s a great example of this in The Candidate, where a liberal politician played by Robert Redford spends an entire campaign season fighting as an underdog in a race, without the expectation of victory, but ultimately prevails. The film ends with Redford asking his campaign manager, in a befuddled way, “What do we do now?”
It’s actually an experience that many politicians have every year—they work for months and years to achieve power, but don’t have a clue what they’re going to do when they get in office. This makes many well-intentioned local politicians easy pickings for the experienced national politicos, slick lobbyists, and well-heeled special interests, driving the newly elected to break their promises to their voters for the sake of favors, luxuries, and campaign donations.
That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on. Remind your representatives in Washington or your state capital who they actually represent. The most effective lobbyists are constituents, and politicians are keenly aware of the fact that you as a voter hold the keys to their political futures. The simple act of making a visit to your local district office or making a phone call can make a big difference. Most offices have a formula when it comes to constituent contact where one phone call equals another hundred people who feel the same way, so your voice is magnified many times over.
Effective grassroots lobbying can be done at the local, state, and national levels. The same general principles apply, and the following advice can be read in that context. Always remember: the number one concern of all politicians is to keep their job. This means you have the ability to influence their views, and to make a powerful and winning case for freedom.
Whether local, state, or federal, the personnel of the offices of your elected officials are similar. Most legislators have a staff to assist him or her during his or her term in office. To be effective in communicating with these offices, it is useful to know the titles and principal functions of the staff.
Administrative Assistant or Chief of Staff
This staff person reports directly to the member of Congress or state legislator. He or she usually has overall responsibility for evaluating the political outcome of various legislative proposals and constituent requests. This person is in charge of overall office operations, including the assignment of work and the supervision of key staff. You should always attempt to speak to this person if you can’t speak directly to the legislator. The next time you are in Washington, D.C., be sure to stop by your congressional and Senate offices and pick up business cards with contact information for key staff members, usually available at the reception desk.
Legislative Director or Legislative Assistant
The legislative director is usually the staff person who monitors the legislative schedule and makes recommendations regarding the pros and cons of particular issues. In some congressional offices there are several legislative assistants and responsibilities are assigned to staff with particular expertise in specific areas. Depending on the responsibilities and interests of the legislator, an office may include a different legislative assistant for health issues, environmental matters, taxes, and so on. If you can’t get ahold of the administrative assistant or chief of staff, the legislative director or legislative assistants are your second most important points of contact with the office.
Press Secretary or Communications Director
The press secretary’s responsibility is to build and maintain open and effective lines of communication between the legislator, his or her constituency, and the general public. The press secretary is expected to know the benefits, demands, and special requirements of both print and electronic media, and how to most effectively promote the legislator’s views or position on specific issues.
This person is often the most sensitive to bad PR or good PR, so keep that fact in mind when you are trying to get a public statement of some kind from the lawmaker. Oftentimes a well-placed call to the press secretary will go a long way toward making sure that the legislator knows he or she will face bad PR by going against the wishes of his or her constituents on a legislative issue, and that matters to every office.
Personal Secretary or Scheduler
The scheduler is usually responsible for allocating a legislator’s time among the many demands that arise from congressional responsibilities, staff requirements, and constituent requests. The scheduler may also be responsible for making necessary travel arrangements, arranging speaking dates and visits to the district, and so on. If you are looking for dates and times of town hall meetings or if you would like to invite your legislator to speak at or attend one of your events, call his or her office and ask to speak to the scheduler. There is often a district or state scheduler as well for members of congress and senators.
The caseworker is the staff member usually assigned to help with constituent requests by preparing replies for the legislator’s signature. The caseworker’s responsibilities may also include helping resolve problems that constituents present in relation to federal agencies, such as Social Security and Medicare issues, veterans’ benefits, passports, and so on. There are often several caseworkers in a congressional office.
Other Staff Titles
Other titles used in a congressional office may include executive assistant, legislative correspondent, executive secretary, office manager, and receptionist. The legislative correspondents, or LCs, usually are the ones who write responses to constituent letters and e-mails. If you can’t reach the chief of staff, legislative director, or a legislative assistant, try to talk to an LC who works on the issue that you are concerned about.
Grassroots Lobbying Tips
The most effective way to articulate your views to your elected officials and to affect the outcome of legislation is to sit down and speak with your legislators face-to-face (or with their key staff if they are not available). Usually, either one-on-one meetings or a small group is best. While these personal visits are extremely productive, they also require the most amount of planning.
If you already have appointments scheduled with your lawmakers, be on time. Explain how the proposed legislation will directly affect you. Use specific examples. Always be polite. You will never convince your lawmaker or their staff with rudeness, vulgarity, or threats. Even if you disagree with the position of your legislator, be courteous and calm. There will be other issues in the future and you’ll want to be able to meet with the legislator again.
Follow up on your visit with a letter. Regardless of how your meeting goes, send a letter to your legislator or the staff person you met thanking him or her for their time and reiterating the points you discussed. This gesture will help the cause and pave the way for future meetings.
When in doubt, ask FreedomWorks—we’ve helped thousands of “citizen lobbyists” affect policy at the state and national level. Remember our resources are at your disposal, and the FreedomWorks grassroots team always stands ready to assist you. If you need ideas on what to write, or even if you have problems locating the mailing address, contact FreedomWorks and we will be happy to assist you.
You can’t underestimate how important it is to directly communicate your views to your lawmakers—remember Rule 5, that Government Goes to Those Who Show Up. If you don’t show up, know that the special interests and Washington elites absolutely will.
RULE 11: LEVIATHAN WON’T GO AWAY IN A DAY
Ending Big Government won’t happen overnight. It took years for Washington elites to expand it, and it will take years for us to tear it down.
But that process has already begun, from the massive Tea Party wave election of 2010 to the increasing quality and assertiveness of both the Freedom Caucus in Congress and the growing Freedom Movement among the grassroots.
Attending town hall meetings are a great way to obtain access to elected officials, where you can make yourself heard on a regular basis (which won’t require a trip to the state capital or Washington, D.C.). This is a long fight, not a brief one—so you should be sure to utilize these opportunities as they come.
Elected officials often host town hall meetings in their districts to showcase their achievements and to solicit feedback from their constituents. Such meetings are a prime opportunity for you to ask your lawmakers to state their position on an agenda of lower taxes, less government, and more freedom, on the record and in an open and public forum.
Town hall meetings are typically held throughout the year, especially during the congressional recesses. Thousands of Americans attended these town hall meetings in 2009, letting their opposition to the Obamacare bill be known and effectively slowing down (and nearly stopping) the legislation.
Thousands of Americans attended these town hall meetings during the now infamous 2009 ObamaCare debates, letting their opposition to the bill be known and effectively slowing down the legislation.
You should get on the invitation list to attend the meetings by calling your local office, and bring as many members of your group who can attend. When you receive word that a town hall meeting is scheduled, be sure to make plans to attend, and share this information with the members of your chapter through e-mail, FreedomConnector, Facebook, group meetings, or other forms of communication.
Sadly, some cowardly congresspeople and senators will not make their town hall meetings public or will not do town halls at all—they don’t even want to answer the questions. This is an opportunity for your group to wage a brief public relations campaign to convince the legislator to hold open forums for his or her constituents. We encourage groups to write letters to the editors of local newspapers and call local talk-radio stations, asking why the legislator refuses to either hold town halls or refuses to make the details public.
One thing FreedomWorks activists have done in the past is to organize a town hall meeting of their own and then invite the legislator to come. If he or she refuses or ignores the invitation, the group should have a table, empty chair, microphone, and name plate for the legislator. Invite the press to attend the town hall meeting and fill the room with a hundred constituents—then you can turn up the heat, following up with more letters to the editor from other constituents who are disappointed that the legislator is not even listening to what the people have to say.
If your legislator does hold town hall meetings, be sure to prepare questions ahead of time. Have specific questions in mind, and ask for your legislator’s position on a specific bill or issue that you care about. And use your phone or video camera to record the answer so that you can post it on YouTube, Facebook, and your blog. There is no better way to hold politicians accountable for statements they make than to record them and post them online.
Make sure you are the first one to the microphone and that your group members are close behind. Often the first few questions in the town hall will define the entire event. Ask your question clearly and directly and expect a direct answer. If your legislator sidesteps or doesn’t answer your question, calmly repeat it. Be prepared for spin but always have some other folks ready to ask the same question a different way, in order to get a real answer on an issue.
Be polite but firm, and be prepared to applaud answers you agree with and let it be known when there are answers you don’t agree with. Be respectful, but don’t be afraid to be animated and passionate.
Whether you had the opportunity to ask your question or not, follow up with a letter to your legislator. Let him or her know you attended their last town hall meeting. Ask your question in your letter if you didn’t have an opportunity to do so at the meeting. This letter will ensure your lawmakers take you and your views seriously, and will allow for you to obtain a written response addressing your concerns.
We always encourage a multipronged effort when it comes to these high-profile events. Have one team of activists stand outside the town hall meeting and hold up signs with questions or statements that make your points. This will give the media something to report on that includes your messages. It will make a powerful narrative if the people attending the town hall and the media both see protesters outside and concerned citizens inside the meeting with similar messages.
Town halls and personal visits aren’t the only way to make your voice heard in a sustained way. During the months-long debate over Obamacare, FreedomWorks members placed hundreds of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers in Washington and around the country. The phone lines were so busy during some days that the Capitol switchboard was giving everyone busy signals. If you can’t attend a town hall or make it to a personal meeting, at the very least you should call your representatives’ office regularly as issues arise to make yourself heard. When you call, identify yourself as a constituent; as someone who lives and votes in the district or state, your phone calls carry the most weight. Encourage your friends and fellow activists to call after you have placed yours. State your point quickly and clearly; be sure to limit your telephone call to one subject, and be brief and specific. Your phone call should last only a few minutes. As with any communication with your elected officials, always be courteous, and request that your legislator follow up with a letter.
You should also identify yourself as the leader or member of your local group; over time this will begin to resonate with the offices of elected officials as you build relationships with them.
If possible, explain how the proposed legislation will directly affect you. If you are a small business owner, mention the effects the bill will have on your business and your workers. If you are a teacher, cite your experience in education and explain how the proposed bill would affect what you do. Personal anecdotes are often the most remembered and most powerful forms of communication.
Sometimes the legislator will even quote you on the House or Senate floor when giving a speech about the issue. It may seem like a minor thing, but the Congressional Record of that quote will be around for as long as the United States of America exists—and you will have made your mark on these debates.
RULE 12: RECRUIT FOR THE FUTURE
The political potential of the broad grassroots movement we’re seeing across the country today shouldn’t be underestimated. People from all parts of the political spectrum are coming together, committed to taking America back from special interests, arrogant politicians, and activist groups that would subjugate individual liberty for government mandates. We can stop the monumental legislative threats to our liberties. We can do so by developing and growing a national community of citizen activists—organized on the ground and connected online—that will hold our next generation of elected politicians accountable. Best of all, we can bring together people of all backgrounds and ideologies to support basic liberties and fiscal responsibility.
Alinsky wrote of the importance of “the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.” That pressure can’t happen, however, without engaging in two challenging tasks, which are essential to your efforts. You must recruit people, and you must recruit funds. When building coalitions and recruiting members also keep in mind the short-term and long-term effects of deciding who to focus on as the opposition. Be mindful of the “long game.”
You must work to steadily increase your membership numbers until you reach critical mass and even beyond that. It is hard work, but it will pay dividends.
When recruiting new members, be sure to get their name, e-mail address, cell phone number, and home address. The more information you have, the easier it will be to keep in touch with them and figure out how best to mobilize them in your community. Build a database to store all of your group contact information, and make sure that FreedomWorks has their information so that we can stay directly in touch with them.
Events are a great way to tell people about your group and recruit them. Hold small social events or participate in another group’s event, and take advantage of opportunities to recruit additional members. Spreading the word about your rallies, precinct walks, or lobbying trips is a great way to keep your chapter active and attract new volunteers.
Local issue battles can often act as the building blocks of recruitment. Many FreedomWorks activists got their start with us by fighting a local tax hike or fighting for spending controls at the local level—utilize grassroots petitions to sign up as many people as possible who share your values and sentiments.
Your chapter’s Web site can also be an excellent recruitment tool. Keep the content on your site fresh and current, and make sure the contact information for your chapter is accurate. You can also recruit via the tools we’ve mentioned earlier, such as FreedomConnector, Facebook and Twitter.
Yet of all the recruitment tactics, FreedomWorks recognizes the personal touch as the most important. You play a huge role in whether the person you approach ultimately decides to get involved. You might meet potential recruits at the grocery store, your kids’ school, church, the post office, a community center, your university, or any other number of places. The other tools can be in more places than you can, but they are no substitute for personal contact.
The tireless energy needed to fuel your grassroots efforts will get you far, but you will need to fundraise as well. Many of the various activities and events that your chapter will engage in require funding in addition to planning and hard work for them to be successful. The national FreedomWorks office will assist you in covering costs where we can, but raising money specifically for your chapter will further enhance and expand its scope of activities and events. Similar to recruiting people, personal contact is critical to attracting donors.
It’s important to set a fundraising goal for your group. Working with the FreedomWorks national office, establish a realistic fundraising goal and physically outline how you plan to get there in the form of a brief fundraising plan. FreedomWorks can help you figure out what is working with your plan and what needs to be adjusted.
As you get started looking at who you think would be likely donors to your chapter, start to create lists. Begin with those people you know and create a list of friends, family, church members, business acquaintances, members of service clubs, and so on, who know you. Draw from sources such as Christmas card lists, Rolodexes, and address books.
Create two categories, “ideological” and “issue-based,” and classify your prospective donors as one or the other. Your ideological list will comprise the donors who will give because they believe in your mission. Issue-based donors will most likely be businesses that have a stake in the issue that you are working on at the time. After you have created your lists, you can then begin to form a plan of attack.
Phone campaigns are the primary tool you will use to reach out to the people on the lists you have created. Depending on those you are calling and how well you know them, you might feel more comfortable at first just talking about your group, how you have taken on the responsibility of a group leader and created a chapter in the area, and what you are trying to accomplish. Then you can ask the prospective donor if he or she would like to set up a meeting to talk more about how they can get involved.
During that meeting, make your fundraising pitch or ask the person to join your advisory committee (more on that below). Make sure before your meeting that you make use of the fundraising experts in FreedomWorks’ national office. They can help you better prepare for the meeting and work out your “pitch” to the prospective donor.
Develop an Advisory Committee
In many of the states where FreedomWorks has been actively involved on the ground, the advisory committee approach to fundraising has proven quite effective. An advisory committee consists of a group of people within the community whose responsibility it is either to give themselves or to solicit gifts for your chapter from others, generally in person.
When you approach prospective members of the advisory committee, be sure to stress the importance of your chapter and its work, and be specific about what you expect from them. You have a goal, and the members of your advisory committee should be committed to helping you reach it.
Plan ahead and set your fundraising schedule in advance. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, barbecues, receptions, birthday parties, house parties, and other functions can help you raise money for your group. Remember that these events are different from others your chapter will engage in because the primary goal is fundraising, not impacting policy or drawing a crowd.
Keep your costs as low as possible; no higher than 20 percent of the amount you hope to raise. Use your imagination and not your checkbook to make these events memorable. In North Carolina, selling tickets to hot dog dinners and pancake breakfasts has yielded positive results. In Alabama, a series of barbecues raised money, captured media attention, and promoted the chapter within the state.
The wave of the future in fundraising for grassroots groups is online donations. Online donations can be in the form of e-mail solicitations that direct people to your Web site, “money bombs” to raise a lot of money in the same day, a static donation button on your Web site, and fundraising campaigns for a specific effort.
FreedomWorks has had the most success by asking for various amounts of money that appeal to a broad cross section of society. Utilizing online tools for fundraising is one of the easiest, quickest ways to support your efforts. A group that does not take online donations is missing the boat and should immediately open up a PayPal account to start accepting funds.
You should always be on the lookout for good advice and examples from the people you meet who are running other chapters about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to recruiting people or dollars. It’s not easy to recruit or fundraise, and where your political opposition can afford to pay people to protest and turn to massive special interests and wealthy donors for funding, you are counting just on people remembering what they’re fighting for.
So many times in our political history, the principle of liberty has proven to be a far more powerful motivating force than a special interest – so the advantage is yours to realize. Remember that you are a revolutionary missionary for liberty, and you should see everyone you meet as a potential recruit for the cause of liberty.
RULE 13: DON’T TREAD ON ME
Every two years, a fresh crop of candidates arrives in Washington from both political parties with thousands of promises to American voters. They claim they will spend taxpayer dollars more prudently; they claim they will bring with them a new era of nonpartisanship, or civility, or transparency; they claim they will “drain the swamp” along the Potomac of the undue influence of special interests. All of them promise to change the culture of Washington, D.C.
Many of us fall for it. We want to believe it. We simply want to be left to the lives we have, and hope the government will do the few things it should, do them well, and otherwise stay out of our lives.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the case? Instead, all those promises vanish as soon as most politicians set foot on Capitol Hill. Instead, they turn to the same big government positions that have been supported by socialists and elites for decades. “More power to government” is always their answer. Angry about the unholy collusion between banking committee chairmen and the big banks? Give Congress more power. Frustrated with the bureaucracy that manages big insurance? Let the government experts ration your health care.
The culture of Washington won’t change. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,” and politicians return to an ironclad political equilibrium that robs us of our freedoms and our hard-earned dollars in the service of special interests, consolidating power behind the notion that they can run our lives better than we can.
The larger solution here is a simple one—simple, but hard. Politicians won’t change, so we have to change.
We can’t accept the naïve notion that public officials leave their self-interests at the door the moment they take the oath of office. Imagine what kind of nation we would have if the original revolutionaries had decided that their ideas could speak for themselves, and had abandoned the streets to be controlled by their foes. We must recognize the American tradition of citizen activism as not just a calling for some, but a calling for you and me.
We need to change the culture in the other Washington—in Tacoma, in Seattle and Yakima and Everett and Olympia. We need to change the culture in Jacksonville, and in Philadelphia, in Evansville, Little Rock and Houston. We need to change the culture outside the D.C. Beltway, in America as a nation, starting in your hometown.
This is the true power of the Freedom movement, a revolt from the bottom up against a political establishment run amok. Alinsky wrote that “the price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative,” and our alternative is clear, built on a coherent, straightforward, unifying set of American values derived from the very seeds of our nation’s founding—values which honor respect, humility, and hard work.
This is a long battle, not a short one. But we can win it. We welcome everyone from every walk of life to join our cause. We pick up our trash. We protest peacefully but insistently. Empowered by the connective tools of the modern age, we will join together to change the culture, to achieve what some thought impossible, and to hold a new crop of elected officials accountable for their actions.
Changing the culture starts with you. Are you ready?