It’s no secret that conservatives trail liberals when it comes to digital activism. To those who were paying attention at the time, Howard Dean’s failed 2004 presidential bid showed the power of the Internet in rallying far-flung supporters to a single cause. Democrats got the message; Republicans didn’t. Eight years later, Mitt Romney’s campaign watched helplessly as its much vaunted digital “get-out-the-vote” platform proved a complete failure on Election Day.
Time will tell if the Right has learned its lessons, although judging by record-breaking turnout in this year’s primary contests, perhaps the so-called “digital divide” is thing of the past — except in one area. Liberal activists have used online petition sites, such as Change.org, to great success. From recently pressuring the candy-maker behind M&Ms to stop using artificial dyes to calling on the Boy Scouts to lift its ban on homosexual members, Change.org has given liberal activists a major advantage in the culture wars.
It’s time that conservatives joined the fight. While Change.org doesn’t prohibit conservatives from starting petitions, the success of a petition depends heavily on how well the Change.org community receives it. And put simply: most of the 100 million users of the site are liberals. Conservatives cannot compete on the other team’s home turf. But compete they must, or else they will continue to watch liberal activists slowly but steadily whittle away at the fabric of American culture.
Change.org has shown the power of the petition in our political process, but it’s not the only site used extensively by liberals to get what they want. Twitter is another social platform that has been used in the past to force individuals or companies to bow to liberal demands. In 2014, a Twitter-led campaign forced Mozilla, developer of the popular Firefox web browser, to fire its recently promoted CEO, Brendan Eich, for supporting a ban on gay marriage ten years earlier. Indeed, the so-called liberal “Twitter-sphere” has more than a few heads on its mantle.
Conservatives look on at these developments and cringe. But what conservatives need to understand is that companies bow to pressure from liberal demands because there usually isn’t a countervailing force. All the company sees are the thousands of angry tweets against it or the Change.org petition with tens of thousands of signatures. Rather than endure that bad publicity, they buckle. And who could blame them? A company doesn’t exist to fight the culture wars of our time; it exists to make a profit and when it sees a mountain of negative publicity aimed at it, it sees profit loss.
Conservative and Republican pundits might write an op-ed or go on TV to defend someone like Eich from the Twitter hordes, but that does nothing to stop the madness. The only way to fight a horde is with a horde of your own. A petition of 50,000 signatures calling for the head of someone who dared go against liberal orthodoxy might sound scary — unless there’s a petition of 100,000 signatures supporting that person.
In so many ways, our digital world is a numbers game: whoever has the most, wins. It’s time for conservatives to provide a much-needed counterweight to the vocal minority of liberal activists who are more than happy to ruin someone’s career because of politics. Would Eich have been forced to resign if there was a united force supporting him and Mozilla? I can’t say. But to think that kind of liberal witch-hunt won’t happen again is to whistle past the graveyard.
I know that conservatives can turn the tables on liberal activists because I’ve seen it. Last year, conservative activists successfully petitioned Congress to repeal the Medical Device Tax created under Obamacare; to ensure that new trade agreements protect American workers; and to demand that Hillary Clinton turn over her private email server. At the state level, grass-roots activists in Portsmouth, Virginia, used my company’s petition platform, StandUnited.org, to successfully save the city’s Confederate War Memorial from historical revisionists.
Other popular campaigns have included petitions to support term limits for Congress, to oppose Common Core, to build the Keystone Pipeline, and to posthumously award Navy SEAL Chris Kyle the Medal of Honor.
This is just the beginning. Much like voter outreach efforts, conservatives might have lagged behind their liberal counterparts in online petitions, but no longer. It’s time we fought the liberal effort to fundamentally transform our great country one petition at a time. And the only way to do that is to beat the liberals at their own game.