It’s been a week since conservatives overpowered the public sector unions in Wisconsin and gave the taxpayers of that state a decisive victory in the battle to rein in government spending. The win gave the American majority hope that they can retake their government from union forces that have burdened most of us with seemingly insurmountable debt. As Wisconsin’s lessons for the conservative movement become clear, no message can be clearer than the viability of a sustainable fiscally conservative human infrastructure to counter the left. Exploring how that infrastructure came together in Wisconsin gives us a blueprint for success in other states buckling under progressive overreach.
To that end, it’s important to note that the Wisconsin battle didn’t begin in 2012, or 2011 for that matter. Our own work in Wisconsin began in the fall of 2010 with the launch of American Majority and Media Trackers in the state. Full-time American Majority staff in Wisconsin conducted more than 30 training sessions across the state since the spring 2011, and last year as the budget battle heated up American Majority was able to leverage the local infrastructure it helped develop into a potent voice in favor of Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms. When 10,000 people turned out for the Tea Party and American Majority rally on the capitol steps in Madison on February 20, 2011, we knew that the taxpayer wasn’t going to be bullied by the state’s protected ruling class of unionized bureaucrats. The fight was on.
We also launched at the time a new and potent force for accountability and transparency: Media Trackers. Started in Wisconsin as the conservative answer to the liberal Media Matters, but on a local scale, Media Trackers with two full-time staff, has, over the last fifteen months, relentlessly exposed public corruption, incompetence, media bias, and the fleecing of the taxpayer. Since February of 2011, Media Trackers has compiled more than 750 articles to drive a message of change, all about Wisconsin issues.
Perhaps Media Trackers’ most important contribution to the blueprint in Wisconsin was ensuring that Walker’s administration didn’t take a sharp turn to the left. The organization helped highlight and quash the Walker administration’s support of Assembly Bill 210, the forerunner to healthcare exchanges, which mirrored many of the same flawed principles of Obamacare. When the conservative movement inside Wisconsin fell silent, too afraid to risk challenging the Walker administration on the issue, Media Trackers was the only in-state group that was willing to take on AB 210 and kill it.
Then in April 2012, after months of work in identifying and training new leaders, American Majority-trained candidates won seats on eight different county commissions in the state. There were other American Majority trained candidates that won seats at other levels of government, but remember that Scott Walker himself was launched from a county commission seat to the governor’s office, where he enacted reform based off the issues he saw and dealt with at the county level.
Finally, in May the last component brought the grassroots into the 21st century and catapulted it past the left. It’s called Gravity, and the American Majority Action Liberty Headquarters program introduced the latest campaign and grassroots management technology into Wisconsin. The high-tech smart phone and tablet compatible program was deployed that allowed already well-trained and highly motivated grassroots to effectively target and contact high intensity voters. The results were 40,000 voter contacts and a 14% increase in turnout for Walker over 2010 numbers in the key counties where the technology was utilized.
Working in combination in Wisconsin, grassroots training, candidate training, issue advocacy, bipartisan accountability, grassroots mobilization, and technology together fueled a conservative revolution in a state many thought was hopelessly torn apart by Walker’s reforms. Successful efforts in the future will require this same multifaceted approach developed over a long period of time.
Gone should be the days the right leaning and liberty-minded trying to develop and mobilize volunteers in the last six weeks of a campaign every two years. This is about action every day, every year.
This is about perpetual war against the left and the forces of statism.
For too long, we spent all our time focused on developing big ideas, writing white papers, and thinking great thoughts while the left was out in the streets beating us time and time again. We now see the results of that flawed strategy — a nation on the brink of bankruptcy and a ruling class of civil servants forcing the majority to pay for what they cannot afford.
Conservatives need to change the paradigm. Victory against statism is possible with constant, sustained and coordinated action. It’s about a systematic, constant approach to fundamentals of accountability and transparency.
Wisconsin teaches us that we as conservatives must fight to protect American values. If we don’t, no one else will. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for being right. We have to get into the trenches. We can’t rely on the Republican Party, which all too often works to maintain shades of the status quo that don’t paint a picture of a viable future.
We are fundamentally trying to shift the dynamics and leverage what we already know: the American people are by and large conservatives. Armed with the facts, and American principles, a real, organized, locally driven conservative movement can give us real hope and real change.