In early 1961, I decided to try to be a Goldwater delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention. When Barry Goldwater beat the party establishment and won the G.O.P. Presidential nomination, I was his youngest elected delegate at San Francisco's Cow Palace. And I've been deeply involved in politics ever since.
In 1975, I wrote an article for the Young Americans for Freedom magazine New Guard entitled, "So You Want To Go To A Convention?"
Oklahoman Steve Antosh read the article and followed my advice. The next year, at age 19, Steve was elected a Reagan delegate to the 1976 G.O.P. national convention. Four years later, in 1980, Steve was the National Director of Youth for Reagan.
This will not be a cheery update because the news is not good. I shall do my best to summarize developments and not take you too far into the weeds.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney broke all precedent and used his power as the coming nominee to change the rules, to centralize power in the hands of the establishment, and to make it very much harder for any power in the party to flow from the bottom up.
For one example, the rules previously had required that, to be placed in nomination for President, a candidate had to have the written support of a plurality of the delegates from at least five states.
In Tampa, the Romney campaign changed that requirement. Currently, a 2016 presidential candidate will have to have the support of a majority of the delegates from at least eight states.
Rather than a piece by me to begin this Leadership Memo, I’ve decided to run a “guest editorial” by my friend and fellow Leadership Institute Board member Mike Rothfeld.
Mike took LI training 28 years ago and has had a successful career as a political activist, a campaign consultant, a direct marketing consultant, and a conservative organizational entrepreneur. He frequently serves as a volunteer faculty member at Leadership Institute training schools and runs good training schools through one of his own, separate organizations, Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership.
A groundswell of conservative complaints and considerable new information has led Congressmen Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan to ask Treasury Department Inspector General J. Russell George to “conduct an investigation to determine whether groups that possess tax-exempt status were targeted for audits or examinations based on their political beliefs or ideology.”
Your Institute is one such targeted group.
As Senator Rand Paul said, "If more conservative candidates have the same secret weapon I had -- top staff and key volunteers trained by the Leadership Institute -- you and I will see many more conservative victories in the future."
You can imagine how many LI staff, graduates, and donors have that line committed to memory. It cuts to the core of the Institute's mission -- and what graduates like you do every day.
Just see some of the highlights from this summer.
A common misconception is to keep recruiting until you have enough volunteers. The problem is if you are running an effective campaign you never have enough volunteers. Let’s face it --life happens. People will cancel and bail on you at the last minute. Unforeseen tasks come up and in the campaign world you need to learn to expect the unexpected; what can go wrong, often does.
In order to save you the often avoidable stress and wasted time of having to scramble at the last minute to find enough people to accomplish your goal, make sure you never run out of volunteers with these quick tips.
It has often and probably correctly been said that there are today more convinced Marxists on American college faculties than there are in the former Soviet empire.
Any conservative college student you know who is now enrolled at any but the tiny handful of explicitly conservative colleges could curl your hair with stories of leftist bias and abuses on his or her own campus.
And the professors, the college officials, and the national leftist groups which pour resources into student organizations know very well what they're doing: undermining the political, cultural, and moral foundations of America under the cover of "academic freedom."
The left does not take kindly to any expression of conservative principles on their campus strongholds.
Over the years, the left has wiped out and excluded from many colleges and universities anything supportive of limited government, free enterprise, strong national defense, or traditional values.
But our Campus Leadership Program (CLP) is over the moat and cracking their walls.
Today the Leadership Institute works with 1,379 conservative student groups and publications on 658 campuses in all 50 states.
In August, I will send 25 field representatives to college campuses across the country to identify and recruit conservative students and help them organize independent conservative groups and publications.
Perhaps you -- or a bright, young conservative you know -- will be one of them.
At 19, Justin Pulliam was named the "most dangerous man on campus" by the New York Times.
"I thought it was clever," Justin, now 22, said. He paused for a beat and grinned. "But true."
Justin entered Texas A&M University as an 18-year-old freshman in fall 2008. A Texas native from north of Dallas, he intended to be an Animal Science major, maybe show cattle like he'd done in high school, and be involved in some campus groups.
He had no idea that one year later he'd have a profile in the New York Times, a live interview on MSNBC, and a reputation as a tough, principled conservative activist and student leader.
In his orientation week at A&M, Justin met up with Tony Listi, a senior, a graduate of four Leadership Institute trainings, and a future LI staff member. Tony had founded a campus conservative group, later known as the Texas Aggie Conservatives, and he wanted Justin to be involved. The two reviewed Tony's plan for the year and, in less than two weeks, Justin was the group's Technology Director, responsible for video footage and the website.
At the group's first activism event in September 2008, Justin was “really timid,” as he explained. It was a counter-protest to the Brazos Valley Coalition Against the War, and he spent the time holding a camera -- not a sign.
National recovery depends on rolling back previous leftist victories. That means giving no more gains to the left through compromises, cutting government outlays on “entitlements” and “discretionary” spending, and cutting back both regulations and the legal authority for bureaucrats to impose more regulations. That’s the only way to save the economy, promote growth, and create more jobs.
The pendulum of public policy must be swung back. If that is not achieved, our country is headed straight for something much worse than the similarly-caused financial crisis today in European countries. It would be worse because, unlike for Europe now, there is no source on Earth capable of bailing out a bankrupt United States.
Rolling back big government is the greatest political problem in the United States since 1860.
Every expenditure of government funds has a constituency to support it fiercely. And the anti-reform constituency includes more than the direct recipients of government checks.
Lobbyists are a major part of the problem. Most of them make most of their money by seeking financial advantages from government for their clients. They will use their contacts and skills to prevent any reduction in government power to make decisions to favor special interests.
Similarly, trial lawyers are always and everywhere the most active foes of tort reform, even though tort reform certainly increases general prosperity.
Lobbyists and trial lawyers will fight conservatives in the political process, but the ideological left doesn’t limit itself to peaceful, civilized activity.
Let us suppose that the conservatives newly activated in politics succeed in electing a determined conservative President and a Congress with determined conservative majorities in both Houses. What would the left do?
Leadership Institute graduates Mike Watson, founder and president of Control Automation Technologies Corporation and, as of last week, newly elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, together with his Campaign Manager Annette James are this week’s Leadership Institute Graduates of the Week.
“Mike Watson and I met at LI just under one year ago and this past week, we brought home a victory for Mike as the new delegate over an incumbent in a district with a 53 percent Obama approval rating, and where the generic ballot test favored the Democrat,” Annette said. “It was an uphill battle, but we succeeded.”
Mike and Annette met at LI’s week-long Campaign Management School in December 2010.
“LI is one of the best things that you can do if you are interested in politics,” Annette said. “The amount of information you receive is a bit like ‘drinking from a fire hose.'"