With roughly 60 days to go until the 2016 elections, we’re in the heavy season of campaigns when most Americans are actually starting to pay attention to politics. But post-November 8 , most of those who identify as Center Right (think conservatives, Republicans, libertarians) will go back to their everyday lives, which of course is what we should want to do: focus on our families, our jobs, our hobbies. But there’s a real problem here because the Left doesn’t stop after election season. Their ongoing grassroots work begins anew November 9 because election season to them is not a few months every other year. It is every day, every month, every year of working, building and, quite frankly, winning.
Eight years ago, some of us on the Right started to really realize what the Left was doing with its organizing, its training, and its building of permanent infrastructure that never rested and was always on the move. We noticed that the Left was ahead of us with regards to training, from campaign tactics, technology, and strategy. We knew that the Left was using not only campaigns, but 501(c)3 and (c)4 organizations to build a permanent grassroots presence that would be active in and out of campaign season, from training people to run for office to registering voters, effectively weaponizing its non-profits. We realized that if the Right didn’t start focusing on substantive metrics, from online engagement, to authentic relationship-building, to building a farm team to equip conservatives with those skills, the Right would never be able to achieve the traction that the Left has, and we would continue to lose ground.
In 2008, I founded American Majority with a clear mission: to lead the battle in training and equipping the next generation of liberty-minded candidates, activists, and community leaders. I believed, then, and even more so now, that the real, national, generational change begins at the state and local level, and that there is a need — then and now — for comprehensive training in the fundamentals of campaigning and conservative activism. American Majority wants to lower the barrier of entry for people considering running for office and empower people to make real change happen in their communities.
We know that the American values of free markets and limited government are amazing ideas that have made us who we are. But if all the conservative movement is doing is talking about ideas without a systematic approach on how to implement those ideas, all we’re doing is having really good conversations without accomplishing anything.
American Majority’s first training was held in March 2008. We had 50 people in the room. Since then, we have trained more than 37,000 activists — nearly 3,500 of whom have run for office. Here are just a few of our most successful alumni:
Chris Koerber (California) won a city council seat with 1,535 votes, focusing primarily on a fundamental, get-out-the-vote door-knocking campaign. The second place finisher held 1,290. Not only did his campaign receive the highest vote total of all three city council races, their efforts helped defeat a 20 percent city utility tax increase.
County Commissioner Lisa Weik (Minnesota) is currently in her sixth year on the commission board. The five-member county board sets the yearly $180 million budget and determines the annual county portion of the property tax levy. While in office, she opposed a local $0.005 sales tax increase and property tax increases, and supports rescinding a tax on transit projects.
Katie Kress and Chris Smolik (Wisconsin) helped flip the Menomonee Falls Village Board. In 2010, the Board handed out a $17 million interest-free loan to developers, who promptly went bankrupt. After a few election cycles (with Katie and Chris winning seats), the Village Board is back on the track to fiscal responsibility.
Ted Lillie (Minnesota) won his state senate seat in 2010. While in office, Ted helped turn a projected $6.2 billion deficit into a surplus without raising taxes.
Jill Turgeon (Virginia), Vice Chair of Loudoun County School Board, slashed $13 million from the county’s exorbitant education budget. With American Majority’s training, she gained the skills she needed to carry her campaign across the finish line. “American Majority helped me by laying out the basics of what needs to be done on a campaign. They showed me anyone can do it. It’s truly a grassroots approach — American Majority is training citizens, not politicians,” stated Turgeon.
Now, after eight years of training, we are celebrating our 1,000th in-person training event in Wisconsin this Saturday. To put that in perspective, we’ve had a training about every three days since our founding. It also means that since inception we’ve trained 12 people every day for the last eight years. While we’re proud of what we’ve been able to do, compared to the Left, this is just a fraction of the work that needs to be done in order to truly win.
While this event on Saturday is the culmination of the past eight years of hard work, I want people to see it as the beginning of a new vision for the future. It’s time for the conservative movement to stop searching for its next “silver bullet” in hopes that in one fell swoop we’ll make everything right again. That’s not reality at all.
We have massive bureaucracy, nearly $20 trillion in national debt, and invasive government making more and more of life’s decisions for us because we’ve been hoping for, waiting for, the next great leader, the next great idea. We’re also in this place because we seem to think we can swat back the tanks and battleships of the Left with yet another white paper: we’ll never win unless we change our approach and tactics. It’s time to get back to the basics, to the fundamentals and then do them again and again.
The 2016 election will be over in about two months. But the fight for the future of the country continues. Regardless of who our next president is, the conservative movement must begin focusing on uniting its words and ideas with action on a broad scale. It’s only then that we’ll see real change start to take place.