Advice to a Just-Elected Conservative Friend
Morton C. Blackwell
November 13, 1998
Advice to a Just-Elected Conservative Friend
You should be getting a lot smarter now. That's not because almost everyone will now tell you how smart you are. They will, of course, like never before. Even your old friends will laugh much harder at your jokes. But saying you're smart doesn't make it so. The reason you're likely to be smarter is that you're no longer a candidate. Every candidate promptly loses about 30 I.Q points. Most people recover some of that loss if they win. Losers sometimes make an even more rapid recovery of good judgment. As a winner, you face a new set of problems and opportunities. And as an old friend and close ally, I hope to catch you now, while the possibilities are all open, with the best advice I can give. The most important decisions you will make right now are personnel decisions. Personnel is policy. If you pick staff who genuinely share your policy priorities, you're likely to achieve much of your agenda in office. If not, you probably won't be able to do very many of the important things you now hope to do. The people you hire necessarily must make decisions. If you could make all decisions for them, you would not need to hire them. As my grandmother often said, "Why keep a dog if you're going to bark yourself?" Instructing people who don't share your beliefs to make decisions based on your beliefs doesn't work very well. Sometimes it causes disasters. In a subordinate, principles without competence can be dangerous and certainly is ineffective for you. But competence without principles can be deadly. Hire people whose loyalty to you is based on your principles, not on your ability to advance their careers. Conservatives make a great mistake if they think: I'm as conservative as one can be and still be responsible. Anyone to the right of me is to that extent irresponsible. So I'll hire only people who exactly share my philosophy and those who are to the left of me. If you base your hiring on that thinking, you'll inevitably be dragged to the left by your staff. You'll undermine your political base. And you'll fail to do most of what you now hope to do. You can't hire only people who share your exact beliefs. No two people truly agree on everything. You should hire as many people to the right of you as to the left of you. Governing is campaigning by different means. You should always keep a secure home base. Those you hire in government should be broadly representative of the coalition which elected you. Nothing reassures elements of the coalition which elected you more than to know they have good representation among your staff. If significant political forces which supported your election decide you can no longer be the object of their affection, they will make you the object of their pressure. And when you run into a few troubles, as every elected official does, they won't instinctively jump to support you. They will ask themselves, "Why bother?" Keep the faith. You can't make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends. Learn to live with the reality that some people won't like you if you do what you were elected to do. No matter what you do, some people will be your enemies. They will never love you, so don't worry about trying to make them love you. You can make most of them respect you, though. If you work at it, you can learn better the art of how to say unpleasant things pleasantly. If you keep your word, you can keep your friends and win at least respect from most of your enemies. For most people in your coalition, you are not the center of the universe. You were a cause they thought worth fighting for, but most of them have fought for other good causes before and fully intend to fight for other good causes while you're in office and long after that. They know they are in a long ball game. You may have the ball right now, but their long-term interest is to win the game. So you have to show them by your actions that your main interest also is to win the game for them, not just to be the star who gets his picture in the newspapers. The media are not your constituency, even if they think they are. Your constituency is the voters, especially the coalition which elected you. You can't count on the news media to communicate your message to your constituency. You must develop ways to communicate with your coalition which avoid the filters of the media. Focus on your base. Write to them. Meet with them. Honor them. Show yourself to be proud of them. Support their activities. Show up at their events. Help other politicians and activists who share their priorities. People expect politicians to be selfish, so they specially love politicians whose actions show them to be unselfish. Liberals in the media failed to defeat you. Now they will use carrots and sticks to tempt and to intimidate you. They will define any betrayal of your coalition as a sign of "growth." Don't fall for that nonsense. The only way you can get the liberal media on your side is always to betray your supporters, which you know would be political suicide. Media people on the left operate on a double standard. They can forgive a liberal politician almost anything. They hold conservatives to an absolute standard. You could occasionally please them by breaking with conservative principles, but they would make sure to rub it in so your supporters would never forget how you disappointed them. And when you get into any political difficulty, you can never expect any mercy from the liberal media. The local, state and national political landscapes are littered with the moldering wrecks of the careers of politicians who won conservative support by giving their word on conservative principles and then broke their pledges. Every issue that is a key priority of an important element of your coalition should always be a priority for you. In a system of separation of powers and checks and balances, most people realize you can't accomplish everything you'd like to. But you must say and do things which prove you are doing the best you can to live up to your supporters' reasonable expectations. Complete victories are delightful but rare. You should prove yourself willing sometimes to win only incremental victories and sometimes to fight losing battles for good causes. Curious as it may seem, a politician rarely hurts himself when he fights in a principled way for a cause which loses or against a cause which wins. Be cautious about making promises, but once committed, keep your word no matter what. You have two things, your word and your friends. Go back on either and you're dead in politics. Let me know whenever I can be of help. All the best.
Anti-PAC Agitation is a Liberal Power Grab
Morton C. Blackwell
October 6, 2015
Anti-PAC Agitation is a Liberal Power Grab
Before there was a Federal Election Commission, way back in 1943, the militantly liberal Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) formed the very first political action committee (PAC). For the next thirty years, the labor union PACs enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the PAC field. Liberals in that area knew how wholesome PACs were: What a marvelous vehicle by which union members might pool their resources to support the candidates of their choice. Of course, more than 90% of the union PAC money has always gone to the Democratic Party candidates, but liberals for thirty years could see the civic value of this outpouring of citizen participation. But curiously, for the past fifteen years, liberals have gradually changed their minds about PACs. Now hardly a week goes by without some thundering liberal media attack on PAC money in politics. Liberal print and broadcast journalists pour forth editorials and stories, supplemented by enough graphs and statistics to frighten almost anyone with a sociology Ph.D. or a press card. "Stop this cancer on the body politic," they scream. Our political system, they allege, is being taken over by big PACs, sinister forces with big money. Central now to the liberal case against the 4,157 PACs of all types is the charge that PAC money is, in effect, a lobby strong enough to buy any politician. And liberals most often claim that the dangerous PAC powers today are the corporate and trade association PACs. That is nonsense. The biggest, most powerful special interest in American politics is organized labor. The union bosses have an effective veto power over Democratic candidates in almost every region of the country. Virtually anywhere, a Democratic candidate is wasting his time running for Congress (or for dogcatcher) if the barons of organized labor are against him. He probably can't get nominated. But if he beats the odds and wins a Democratic nomination, he's almost surely doomed in the general election if the unions don't support him. No single interest group has such a stranglehold on the Republican Party, surely not business corporations or trade associations. Unions are virtually a monolith; business is split up all over the lot. The adjacent chart, compiled from the latest Federal Election Commission data, shows PAC giving over the last four election cycles. At first glance, union oriented, Democratic Party liberals might be expected to be happy with the PAC system as it is. After all, Democrats consistently get more than half of all PAC contributions. Well then, why the hue and cry against PACs from liberal Democrats? The answer is they don't like real competition. The closer they could get to a monopoly of political action, the better they would like it. They know they can't go back to the good old days when unions had a virtual monopoly on PACs. But, if they can cripple or destroy all PAC participation in elections, the unions' literally secret political weapon would give them close to a monopoly once more. Happy days would be here again. Elections would revert to being contests of the Republican Party vs. the Democratic Party plus their union masters. Here's why: PACs are now only the tip of the iceberg of union political power. The unions' greatest influence on elections is through "in-kind" goods and services for union supported candidates. These activities are not disclosed to the public. They are entirely outside the Federal reporting requirements, which apply to PACs but not to union-funded political activity such as voter registration drives, booming propaganda efforts, telephone phone banks, and most important, union staff time. Expert labor columnist Victor Riesel estimated that in 1976 these "in-kind" union campaign activities cost more than $100 million. Today the secret total is surely several times larger, far, far more than all the candidate support by all types of PACs put together. Right now, about half a million (500,000) staff are working for local, regional, state and national union organizations. That's more than 1,000 paid employees of unions per congressional district. Each year these union staffers, mostly paid with compulsory union dues, flood into the campaigns of the unions' hand-picked candidates, almost all liberal Democratic candidates. It is no coincidence that virtually all the politicians agitating against PACs are liberals cozy with Big Labor. Limiting or abolishing PACs will have no effect on this massive "in-kind" campaign activity by labor unions. That, in my judgment, is why unions and the liberal politicians they have elected are willing to sacrifice their PACs. They want to regain their monopoly of private political activity. PACs should be defended on free speech grounds, as the Federal courts have done repeatedly. The liberal news media are free to print and broadcast unlimited endorsements and condemnations of candidates as they choose. It's downright unseemly for them to urge clamping down on political speech for anyone who doesn't own a media outlet. By law, every contribution to a PAC of any kind must be entirely voluntary. And all PAC gifts to candidates must be promptly disclosed on the public record. If Americans want to join together politically for any shared electoral purpose, to pool resources for or against any political cause, they should have the right to do so. The amount of money contributed to PACs is growing but not excessive in a country of 240,000,000 people. We spend much more money each year on car washes or even on dog food. In truth, PACs have broadened, not limited, public access to politics. They have greatly expanded the number of people who voluntarily contribute to election campaigns. That is surely healthy.
Do You Want to be a National Convention Delegate?
Morton C. Blackwell
October 6, 2015
Do You Want to be a National Convention Delegate?
Download the PDF Version Here 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 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 nineteen, Steve was elected a Reagan delegate to the G.O.P. National Convention. Four years later, in 1980, Steve, who was then chairman of Oklahoma State YAF, was the National Director of Youth for Reagan. For you, as for Steve Antosh and for me, conservative activism could be the route to the Big Convention and, perhaps, a career in the public-policy process. Hard Work Pays Off For Conservatives If you're a liberal Democrat, and you're a black lesbian militant with a Spanish surname, the Democrats' convention rules are written for you. If you are a conservative -- Democrat or Republican -- chances are you'll have to work hard to win a seat on your state's national convention delegation. Each state has its own rules for national convention delegate selection. States may and often do change their state laws and party rules between national conventions. Under their national rules and U. S. Supreme Court decisions, state Democratic parties may adopt rules for national convention delegate selection which are inconsistent with state laws. The national Rules of the Republican Party now also provide that state Republican Party rules for national delegate selection prevail over state law on this subject. Most delegates are elected in states with primaries, but primary and convention rules vary greatly from state to state. Learning your state's applicable laws and party rules is a key, first step toward becoming a delegate. If your state is one of the many which have no presidential primary, you may have to mount a major operation to attract people to a caucus or win support from local delegates to a district or state convention. If you already know how to draw a crowd, work a convention, use parliamentary procedure, form alliances, and count votes, you have a head start on the road to the Big Convention. If your state elects delegates in a presidential primary, your problems will be somewhat different. A primary can involve precinct organization, TV, radio, mailings, other advertising, social media, a great deal of money, and many, many more people than a convention. It helps to be an expert at convention politics and primary election politics, but your personal reputation and your candidate preference are likely to prove much more important. Some states have "winner take all" presidential primaries. Other states use proportional representation. Under this system, presidential candidates who get a majority of the primary votes may get only a majority of the state's delegate votes, and candidates who received a sizable minority of the primary votes may get some delegate votes from the state. Rules for delegate apportionment in proportional primary states vary widely. In all states with primaries, delegate votes are bound for one or more ballots to specific candidates at the national convention by state rules, depending on the results of the state primaries. Candidates may “release” delegate votes that were bound to them. In some primary states, delegates are elected by the party separately from the presidential primary. Neither state conventions nor primaries can oblige the delegates to vote a certain way on other issues which may come before the national convention, such as credentials contests, the party platform, or proposed changes in the party's national rules. You can see how important it is to work hard to familiarize yourself with the rules which govern the delegate selection process in your state. In every state, whether delegates are selected by primaries or by conventions, the system is wide open at the bottom. Anyone can be a member of any party and participate in its delegate-selection process. You win if you get the most people to turn out for a primary, a caucus, or a convention. Building Your Base I began in early 1961 to consider the available routes in Louisiana to become a delegate to the 1964 G.O.P. nominating convention. There seemed to be only two sorts of people elected delegates to national conventions: those who had worked long and hard for the party over many years, and those who had contributed substantial sums of money to the party and its candidates. Neither avenue was open to me. I had neither the time nor the funds to qualify. To develop a third route, I settled on youth politics. I helped organize Louisiana State University's YAF chapter in 1961. In 1962 I helped organized L.S.U.'s first College Republican club and was the first elected College Republican state chairman for Louisiana. In 1963 and early 1964, I ran the youth campaign for Charlton Lyons, the G.O.P. candidate for governor of Louisiana. Mr. Lyons won eight, smashing, upset victories in college student mock elections, which raised my credit in the party. Later in the spring of 1964, I was elected state chairman of the Young Republicans. I wore out my old Rambler organizing youth activities across the state. Having worked closely with party leaders in all eight congressional districts, I became one of the handful of Republicans known to virtually every local leader who would be at the state convention. Senior party leaders were comfortable with me. I ran for national delegate with the simple slogan: "Elect one young person." The 1964 Louisiana Republican state convention elected four at-large delegates to the 1964 G.O.P. convention: three well-off, veteran party activists and me. The Team Of course I would never have been a delegate if my presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, had not been popular in the state party. I ran openly as a Goldwater supporter. This brings me to the central fact for aspirants to delegate slots: In a national presidential nomination contest, each candidate's district and state organizations may run slates of delegate candidates. If you are not slated by a candidate's organization, you are very unlikely to be elected a national delegate at a district or state convention or in a state primary. While occasionally, particularly in a convention state, a party senior statesman can be elected as an uncommitted delegate, newcomer mugwumps (those who sit on the fence with their mug on one side and their "wump" on the other) go nowhere. Why might a candidate's state organization want you on their team? Here are some questions your candidate's organization will consider when you ask to be slated as a delegate or alternate delegate: 1. Are you committed to our candidate? 2. Are your commitments ever shaken by pressure, threats or bribes? 3. Do you have personal supporters whose help would strengthen our candidate's entire slate of delegates? 4. Will you be a hard-working campaigner for our slate? 5. Are you sure to attend the national convention? 6. Will you be useful to our candidate in winning more delegates to our side at the national convention? 7. Do you have support and contacts in our candidate's national organization? 8. Is there any likelihood you will say or do something foolish to damage our candidate? 9. Is there anything in your background which would embarrass our candidate? 10. Do we like you? If you are philosophically sound, technologically proficient, and movement oriented, you should pass muster on all these questions. Being a well-known volunteer leader would increase your chances of being slated by your candidate's organization. Alternatives May Work For You You don't have to be a delegate to go to a presidential nominating convention, of course. An alternate delegate has all the rights and privileges of a delegate except voting. An alternate delegate may have a better time, because at contested conventions delegates are encouraged not to leave the convention floor even during dull speeches. In fact, you do not have to be either a delegate or an alternate delegate to have an impact on the events at a convention. When I was a Goldwater delegate in 1964, my major accomplishment at the national convention in San Francisco was minor, as a volunteer stuffing campaign envelopes for other delegates in the Goldwater mailroom. In 1968, as a Reagan alternate delegate, I was able to help convince a couple of uncommitted delegates to vote for Reagan. At the 1972 G.O.P. convention, I was neither delegate nor alternate. But I worked successfully with the conservative forces fighting the well-organized, well-funded liberal attempt to change the national party rules governing delegate allocation and bonus delegates. A plan I drafted, which came to be known as the California Compromise (or the Briar Patch Plan), was adopted by the 1972 convention after a major, nationally televised, conservative vs. liberal fight. The principal speaker for my plan was California Governor Ronald Reagan. Since 1972, that delegate allocation plan has withstood liberal challenges in court and at all subsequent G.O.P. national conventions. It still governs the allocation of delegates to the convention. The circumstances back in 1972, when I was not even an alternate delegate, permitted me to have my biggest impact to date on what went on at a presidential nominating convention. Since 1964, I've participated actively in each of the GOP national conventions, usually as a delegate or alternate delegate and, since 1988, as a member of my party's national committee. So don't miss a national convention just because you can't be a delegate. Start Now In politics you can start late, but you can never start too early. Maximize your effectiveness by joining your candidate's campaign organization as soon as you can. Call your candidate's office. Sign on early as an activist. The election laws put a premium on volunteer efforts. You should be welcomed with open arms. Your work for your candidate, not whether or not you are a delegate, will determine your position in your candidate's convention organization. The Big Convention comes only once every four years. It's too good an opportunity to miss. If you are serious about becoming a delegate or alternate, you should get a copy of your state party's rules from local or state party officials, or from your candidate's state or national organization. Conservatism is now politically fashionable. But few people will beg you to assume leadership. As author Paul Johnson wrote, leadership, in its essence, is a combination of courage and judgment. If you plan carefully, work hard, and keep alert for good breaks, you may make a difference at a national convention. And you'll learn a lot.
How to Stop Them From Stomping Out the Grassroots
Morton C. Blackwell
September 9, 2015
How to Stop Them From Stomping Out the Grassroots
Knowledgeable conservatives, in moments of candor, will admit our grassroots activity is far less today than a dozen years ago. Several causes come initially to mind: We do not have a Ronald Reagan, persuasively reliable on all our issues, around whom to rally. The success of conservative economic policies has brought an unprecedented period of economic prosperity, lessening our fears for the survival of the free enterprise system. The success of conservative policies of peace through strength has helped engender the utter extinction of the Brezhnev Doctrine and hastened the collapse of much of the Soviet empire. Our ancient liberal enemies have ceased to trumpet much of their old ideology and seem to be doing all they can to sound as if they are conservatives on many issues. Most of these causes are the natural results of successful policies of a newly formed, governing majority coalition, signs of the cyclical process familiar in a healthy, two party system. When the threat perception declines, activists tend to lose much of their old enthusiasm. Coalition members tend to start bickering. But these reasons are not sufficient to explain the extent of the current decline in grassroots activism. New governing coalitions in the United States tend to last for a generation or two. Other factors are at work. Today I intend to discuss two other factors, the increasing domination of political consultants and growing failure of conservatives to run candidates. These are factors which affect our opponents as well. But the extent of the damage done to us by these two factors is largely in our power to correct. First let us consider the career path of a successful political consultant. Here is what happens: A smart campaign staffer helps win a high visibility election and decides to become a consultant. The new consultant is soon involved in another win or two and is suddenly able to sell his services to many campaigns. While able to give his few, early clients a great deal of personal time, working through many levels of their campaign organizations, the consultant quickly finds it impossible to give the same type of service to half a dozen candidates simultaneously. Unable now to supervise detailed operations involving many layers of people in many campaigns at once, the consultant directs his client campaigns toward media-intensive, rather than people-intensive activity. Media decisions are few in number. They require skill but little time. The consultant also realizes it is very much in his own financial interest to have as much as possible of his clients' budgets spent on media. Most consultants take a 15% commission (over and above client-paid production costs and his retainer) from media vendors for all placements. The consultant knows he gets no commission for campaign funds spent on people-intensive activity, such as: Precinct organization Voter ID phone banks Voter registration drives Youth effort The election day process to get out the vote With their budgets warped towards media spending, candidates and their in-state organizations are led to measure the progress of their campaigns only in terms of dollars raised and tracking polls. (When I ask a candidate in a close race how he is doing and he answers by first describing his fundraising progress, I know he is in trouble.) In defense of his practices, the consultant develops an outspoken contempt for any proposal, significant campaign expenditures except for paid media. Many of his clients lose due to their failure to organize large numbers of people in their campaigns. But some of his clients do win. These winners are the ones the consultant talks about as he recruits clients in the next election cycle. Having helped several candidates, the consultant is likely to be hired again to run their reelection campaigns. The incumbents have the ability to amass huge campaign funds, often from local donors. Even in the closing days of a reelection campaign where an incumbent is virtually unopposed, the consultant has a strong incentive to urge their incumbent on to raise more and more money. Never mind that conservative candidates in other contests in the area might actually win close contests but for the incumbent's having vacuumed up so much money from available donors. After all, for every additional $100,000 spent on broadcast media, the consultant will pocket a cool $15,000 plus his fees for creating any new commercials. The consultant, now prosperous and enjoying a changed lifestyle, has ready access to and influence with some incumbent officeholders. He decided to branch out into lobbying, where his influence enables him to pull down some really fat fees from major corporations, trade associations and even foreign governments which have major financial interests in the decision of elected and appointed government officials. By now, most of the consultant's income does not come from election campaigns. But he continues to take some candidates as clients, partly to keep his valuable ties with incumbents and partly because there are in each election cycle some rich candidates and others able to raise big war chests, which will be spent largely on campaign media, still a fine source of income for the consultant. Every experienced conservative campaign activist has seen outrageous examples of this behavior. My luncheon for conservative campaign activists has met bi-weekly, without exception, since 1974. I keep close touch with the election process. I'm not raising this as a theoretical problem. Not all successful consultants behave this way. A great many do. But others, particularly those who specialize in one or more aspects of campaign technology such as direct mail, telephone canvassing, coalition building and youth efforts, do not. This growing problem with consultants has many bad effects: The unnecessary losses of many conservative candidates each year The looting of millions of dollars misspent on media The suckering of many right candidates who are falsely led by consultants to believe they can win The increasing perception that campaigning is mostly mudslinging TV commercials Worst of all, the general decline of citizen participation as activists and, often, even as voters in the political process Historically, volunteer participation in elections is the greatest preparation for competent campaign management and good candidates in future elections. That source of new activists and candidates is drying up. Can grassroots activists do anything to limit the damage done by the increasing dominance of campaign consultants? Certainly. One big reason for reliance on campaign consultants is the increasing complexity of modern election technology. But in the years leading up to the election of 1980 conservative organizations ran massive political education and training efforts. Activists were prepared by the thousands. That grassroots infrastructure building should be vigorously resumed. If you are a donor to a conservative organization you should demand that a substantial portion of its budget should be spent on increasing the number and the effectiveness of its activists. If a group fails to do this, give to other groups instead. If you are a donor to a party organization, demand that it spends your money, in part, on a serious program of political education and training. There is hardly any area of political technology which cannot be mastered by a willing local activist. The Republican party was spending a much higher percentage of its revenue on political education and training twenty years ago than it is today. The GOP is giving only peanuts to its volunteer base. Be careful that the training programs actually teach useful skills. Many seminars which purport to teach local activists are taught by consultants not interested in preparing volunteer competitors. Such programs serve only to teach the participants that the consultant knows his topic and is worthy of hire. If you contribute to a candidate, you have the right to demand that his campaign give a healthy budget to people-oriented programs: precinct organizations, women's activities, youth efforts, etc. These activities build grassroots infrastructure like no others. Let us now turn to the problem of the growing failure of conservatives to run candidates. More and more it is proving impossible to recruit conservative candidates against incumbents or even for open seats. Challengers for even local incumbents often cannot be found. The next Congress will have only four Republicans among the ten congressman from my home state of Virginia. But ten years ago we elected nine of the ten. And the lone Democratic congressman was more was more conservative than some of the Republicans. And all six of the Virginia Democratic congressmen are quite liberal by Virginia standards. And, what is worse, far worse, is the dreadful fact that we did not run Republican challengers against any of the five incumbent Democrats. They got off scot free. But don't for a moment think the Democrats gave our five incumbent Republicans a free ride. No, there were Democratic challengers to all five of our congressmen. And the challenger who beat Congressman Stan Parris reportedly raised more money than any other challenger against a Republican incumbent in the United States this year. This problem in my state is typical of the situation in many parts of the country. In fact, there is a fundamental misconception which is shared by many conservatives and many Republican leaders. This political error is not unique to Virginia. It is, I believe, a misunderstanding of how best to build grassroots strength through running candidates. Too many of us think we should run a candidate only when we think there is a good chance we can win the election. And, since nobody believed we could beat any of the five incumbent Virginia Democratic congressmen, nobody ran against any of them. I submit that, in the case of these ten congressional races, the Democrats acted smarter than the Republicans. But not running a candidate often sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Why spend the time and money it takes to run and almost surely losing race? Why ask a candidate to take on an almost surely losing candidacy? Why embarrass the party or the conservative cause by losing badly? Why take the chance of diverting resources from our candidates elsewhere who have a chance to win? Why anger a safe incumbent opponent? All these sound like pretty good reasons not to challenge apparently safe liberal incumbents, don't they? Many Republican incumbents, in particular, don't want to rile many of their Democratic colleagues by challenging them. And most of those arguments sound just as good as reasons not to run a candidate in an open district where the liberals seem virtually certain to win. Yet those are arguments which ultimately lead to slow growth, no growth and eventual decline of a movement or a political party. If conservatives in Virginia had operated in this fashion for the past 25 years, Republicans would not have won our first U.S. Senate race, the party would not today hold even four congressional districts and the party would not have the record strength it enjoys today in Virginia's General Assembly and in local offices. Take for example my own congressional district, the Tenth. Conservative Republican Frank Wolf was an unknown in 1976 when he first announced against the incumbent liberal Democratic Congressman Joe Fisher. Frank Wolf campaigned hard but lost the nomination to a state legislator, who was then beaten by Congressman Fisher in November. Frank Wolf again took on this seemingly hopeless task in 1978. He was nominated and did better than the state legislator had two years earlier. But Wolf lost again in 1978. Finally, in 1980, frank Wolf won both the nomination and, narrowly, the general election defeating the incumbent who very few people thought was vulnerable four years earlier. The two earlier races had so weakened the liberal Democratic congressman and so strengthened our organization that we were able to take the district. We have been winning it by convincing margins ever since. Think about this seriously. Everyone who knows much about politics knows of many cases where races against supposedly entrenched incumbents weakened the incumbents so they could be defeated in subsequent elections. Isn't that a fair situation? Isn't that a strong, solid reason to run candidates, almost an obligation to run candidates, even when there is thought to be no chance to win in the current election year? The best known political consultants, by the way, usually advise against running candidates who are very unlikely to win. But such candidates provide the big consultants with no revenue, except in case of rich, hopeless candidates. In this latter case, consultants are often willing to take them as clients. Often to "take" them in both senses of the word. Conservatives who know how important it is to build for the future also know how a losing race can soften up an opponent for future defeat, build credibility for our challengers and build strength of our own organizations. These are powerful reasons not to leave vacant places on the ballot. While we know of losing races which made possible later victories, there is another situation which often occurs. Some conservative activists can remember our Virginia United States Senate race in 1972. An unusual congressman from the Eighth District, Bill Scott, made what most so-called "experts" thought was a hopeless race against the supposedly invulnerable incumbent, U.S. Senator Bill Spong. Now not everyone thought the Scott for Senate cause was hopeless. A conservative Republican leader, Richard Obenshain, thought this so-called "impossible" race was actually winnable. So he set out to win with Scott, certainly one of the most difficult candidates our party has fielded in our lifetimes. But Dick Obenshain was a political genius who saw opportunities where others saw only problems. Bill Scott won. Six years later he turned his U.S. Senate seat over to another Republican whom many of us hoped would have been Dick Obenshain. Senator John Warner won very narrowly in 1978, winning again in 1984 by a big margin. This year Democrats did not challenge Sen. Warner, which is great for Republicans and, in my opinion, bad news or Democrats. But we should remember that almost everyone at first thought Bill Scott could not win this seat when he ran for it 13 years ago. Please think about it. How many times have you, yourself, been pleasantly surprised when a race supposedly hopeless for us has resulted in a thrilling conservative victory? Most of our best conservative members of both houses of the Congress first won in just such circumstances. Sometimes the liberal nominee self-destructs unexpectedly. Sometimes our candidate and his campaigns turn out to be much better than we expected. Surely all of us can think of predicted losers who instead became glorious winners. It that not therefore another good reason to run candidates whom we really don't expect to win? Frankly, looking at the ten congressional districts in Virginia today, how the Democrats treated us and how we treated them, it's a scandal that we have left all their incumbents unchallenged. At the congressional level, Virginia has only a one and a half party system in 1990. How about your state? This situation I call a scandal is not to be blamed on any particular party leaders at the local or state levels. The general idea of not challenging supposedly invulnerable incumbents is common almost everywhere in our country. In my home county of Arlington, our party has very often in recent years failed to run candidates against many of the worst liberals in Virginia. There is plenty of blame to go around. And I'll accept my share. What I am proposing today is not recriminations but a badly needed change of policy, a change of our behavior. Let me put it clearly. Not running candidates is almost worse than putting up losing candidates. Sometimes we produce upset victories. Sometimes we build up candidates for future victories. Always we involve new people who can later help us win future victories. Always we force the opposition incumbents to gather and spend for themselves some resources which might otherwise be spent against our conservative candidates elsewhere. Not running candidates is no way to build a movement or party. If one chooses to be active in a party structure, one necessarily must support that party's incumbents except in extraordinary circumstances. But conservatives primarily active outside a party structure are free of most such constraints. In sum, conservatives should run candidates against liberal incumbents and for open seats regardless of whether or not the potential candidates appear to be possible winners. The only two tests should be these: 1. Will the person act responsibility in the campaign? 2. If elected, would the person be a credit to our cause? If a potential candidate passes these two tests, then encourage him or her to run. Do this regardless of whether or not there appears to be a real chance to win the election. You may not happen to find or be able to recruit to run any independently wealthy, thirty-five year old conservative business leaders with degrees in both economics and political science. If not, you might recruit a politically savvy housewife; we have a lot of them across America who would make good candidates. Or run a distinguished retiree. Or even a dedicated and intelligent young person. Each new candidate brings to your cause not only his own time and effort but also the resources and enthusiasm of his own circle of family, friends and supporters. And many people who don't like the liberals are happy we have given them a choice. Of course I don't advocate misleading a potential candidate to think you can provide money or manpower which aren't actually available. Already this happens too often. Give a realistic estimate of this chances of winning. Say what the limits of likely movement resources and party support. The national and state party resources will be and should be focused in the main on candidates with some prospect of election. Curiously, you will find that some people don't mind being run as sacrificial lambs in a good cause. To fill out a Republican ballot, I ran for the state legislature in Louisiana 22 years ago. I was duly sacrificed, but with no lasting ill effects. You will find that some potential candidates will respond to your less than optimistic assessment of their chances by declaring candidacy despite the long odds. Many will convince themselves that they do have a chance. And some may surprise you by actually winning. Look at this from your own experience. Aren't most of the conservative winners you know and almost all of the key workers for conservative winners you know, aren't these people experienced in prior, but losing campaigns? We are trying to build a stable governing majority. Winning today isn't everything. Losing today may open doors to victories tomorrow. Let's fill the ballot where we can.
The Media and Election 2004
Blanquita Cullum
October 6, 2015
The Media and Election 2004
By Blanquita Cullum First of all, I have to tell you that I would do anything for Morton and Helen Blackwell because they're probably the two greatest people in the conservative movement. They're not in the conservative movement to try and gain their own prestige and their own power. They're in it to empower. I have such great love and respect for them; they are what the conservative movement is all about. I've been in radio since 1973 — since I was 20 years old. One of the great things that happened to me during President George W. Bush's first term is that he asked me to be one of the members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. I'm one of the first radio talk-show hosts to ever hold a position that high in the history of our broadcasting industry. We sit as CEOs overlooking the U.S. government's international broadcasting which includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and other broadcasting entities around the world. It was such a heartening experience on Election Day to see the American people not be conned by the Michael Moores. I think talk radio played an important role in this by getting the truth out. We also saw bloggers take on the networks and fight CBS and Dan Rather. They got Dan; they caught him in a lie. The network anchors thought they were Father, Son, and Holy Ghost –- Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather. Oh, how they patted themselves on the back. They thought they were smarter than the rest of us, that knew more, and that they understood what the people really thought. They believed their own press reviews. You have seen them for the last time in the position they thought they were. They are dinosaurs. They are gone. You're going to see the networks get a grip on the fact that they are no longer in control of what people think. The people have a voice. The people have more alternatives to get information. Yesterday I was getting a lot of the exit polls just like a lot of the mainstream press, and I looked at them and said, “Wait a minute. These are the people who laughed in the face of those who said “The Passion of the Christ” wouldn't make it. These are the people who made it the number one movie. These are the people who gave Mel Gibson a number one movie.” The press and the polls didn't have a handle on the minorities. They didn't get it that the biggest minority group that did not support same-sex marriage was African Americans. They didn't have a handle on the Mexican-American community that has a significant number of Congressional Medal of Honor winners. They also forgot that Hispanic families — regardless of whether they're from Salvador, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico -- they believe in God and family and they don't like same-sex marriage. Sometimes people will ask why conservatives don't fight harder. We like to fight with a more gentlemanly type of rules because we still believe in the respect and dignity of human beings. Sometimes we get criticized for it, but, on the other hand, it's nice to know we have a gentleman in the White House. I also predict that this will be the last election where you see the American people have the stomach to suffer the Democrats saying “I was robbed.” There is a point where people are going to say, “Get over it. You're losers.” I believe that the president understands there is a divide in this country. And I believe he will try to bring up some sort of reconciliation of the parties. I believe, frankly, it's going to happen on its own anyway. It's interesting to see what's happening in the press. We have seen blatant and real corruption of the fourth estate. CBS attempted, on not only one occasion but on two occasions, to try to unseat a president. Then ABC sent out the memo about how they needed to be harder on President Bush than on Senator Kerry. This is the pollution of the fourth estate. That's why places like the Leadership Institute are so critical. I have a 501(c)(3) organization, the Young American Broadcasters, and when I was first starting it, Morton allowed me to come over here and train the kids here. Now one of those kids, Ben Ferguson, has gone on and spoke at the Republican Convention this summer. Ben Ferguson is one of our Young American Broadcasters. I couldn't have done that without Morton because he knew it's all about trying to get these young people involved. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if in the next 10 to 15 years we could look to any major media outlet -- whether its internet, radio, TV -- and know that someone trained by the Leadership Institute is working there? I was very concerned if the president had not been re-elected there would have been a real problem with Radio Marti', which is broadcasting into Cuba. It's something that [Broadcasting Board of Governors] Chairman Ken Tomlinson and I have fought hard to protect. The other side doesn't understand the importance of Radio Marti. Conservatives have been fighting tooth and nail to protect our broadcasts in the Middle East. One of the programs I've worked on is a television program that goes into Iran every single day. It's a 30-minute live television news show. And as much as they've tried to jam us, 13% of the population is watching that show. Think about that. Let's compare that to even Fox that has, maybe, a five-percent share. We're also striving to make sure programs on Radio Farda, which goes into that same area, and Al Jura, which is our new Middle Eastern network carry news like the president's State of the Union addresses. When I was in Bosnia, I met with a journalist who had his legs blown off while trying to cover stories for Voice of America. This makes you realize the importance of American broadcasts around the world. It's an important thing that we're doing. It is good to celebrate our conservative election victories. But I've got to tell you the vermin is still out there. The dissenters are still out there. They will still try to wreak havoc. They're going to try to mess with conservatives. They're going to try to work the media. They will try to discount the victory. They will try to discount the fight that the president is dealing with. For a long time, they've tried to make anyone who believes in the principles of conservatives seem crazy. And if you think they're going to stop even though we've had a victory, they won't. It will just be worse. Don't stop working for this movement -- not for one minute. Have a glass of champagne today, but tomorrow you've got to work again. You've got to protect the country. You've got to work hard and fight longer. It's a battle -- not just for our lifetime, but for our kids' lifetime and for their kids' lifetime. It's going to be a long war -- not just in Iraq with the terrorists who aimed and targeted this country, but the internal terrorists who hate everything that we stand for. The people who think it's a disgrace that we want to protect the flag, who think that it's disgusting that we want to have the Ten Commandments on the wall, who think it's a crime that we want to say marriage is between a man and a woman and who think that it's noble to kill a baby. I'm telling you the battle is not over. But congratulations today, we should celebrate our victory.
Mistakes of Losing Candidates
Morton C. Blackwell
October 6, 2015
Mistakes of Losing Candidates
Some candidates lose because they can't raise enough money, no matter how hard or skillfully they try. Others lose because their election districts are demographically wrong, because the trend is against their party or because their views are not close enough to those of the voters. But many losing candidates could have won, if they had avoided making one or more of the following common mistakes: Failure to develop in advance a comprehensive campaign plan, including a timetable and a realistic budget. In politics you can start late, but you can't start too early. Losing campaigns almost always misorder priorities, putting too much effort on things which can have little effect on the election outcome. Managing their own campaigns. Spending too much time at headquarters rather than going out personally to solicit votes or raise money. Hiring consultants who personally absorb too much of their campaign budgets. Spending too much of the campaign funds on paid media and polling and not enough on building an organization of large numbers of people in campaign activities. Adopting (and sometimes changing) positions on issues because of pressure from major contributors or the results of public opinion polls. Polls can be useful to determine which of their personal positions on issues should be stressed in their campaigns. Misreading public opinion polls, which usually measure preference but seldom measure intensity. Intensity, not preference, motivates people to act in politics. Failure to stress properly the issues which motivate the core elements of their supporters. Responding to every minor criticism rather than focussing on the carefully considered issue thrust of their own campaigns. Campaigns lose when too much on the defensive. Failure to respond properly to continuing negative information, whether from an opponent, the news media or both. Ignoring a continuing negative issue won't make it go away.
Mistakes of Winning Candidates
Morton C. Blackwell
October 6, 2015
Mistakes of Winning Candidates
Some candidates win but disappoint their supporters and even themselves. They achieve little or nothing of what they hoped to do. Here are incumbents' worst mistakes: Hiring staff who don't personally share their policy agendas. Personnel is policy. Staff who lack enthusiasm for their bosses' priorities prevent elected officials from doing what they intended to do in office. Not keeping campaign promises. These days voters have little tolerance for incumbents who break their word. Not paying attention to the interests of the coalition which elected them. Incumbents lose their allies when they don't vote right, sponsor key legislation or sign allies' fundraising letters and aren't there when their friends need them. Seeking approval of their enemies, particularly their media enemies. Many incumbents start craving to have everyone love them and no one hate them. But trying to make friends of their enemies makes enemies of their friends. Failure to handle constituent relations effectively. All politics is personal. Service can be as important to voters as policy. They appreciate prompt, personal service when they contact those elected to serve them. Succumbing to temptations newly present when one achieves some power. Election to office tests anyone's strength of character, family ties and personal morality. Getting greedy for money or higher office. Becoming arrogant. Many people, constituents who request help and especially the officials' staff, treat incumbents with deference bordering on obsequiousness. A consequent loss of humility can destroy a politician's base. Accommodating opposition incumbents who now are "distinguished colleagues." Excessive collegiality is a trap for incumbents who really want to accomplish things. Not helping to nominate and elect allies in their home states and elsewhere. A well-run team takes care of its own. Serious politicians work hard to elect others who share their public policy principles.
People, Parties, and Power
Morton C. Blackwell
October 6, 2015
People, Parties, and Power
In my years of political activity beginning in 1960, I have found no shortage of conservatives willing to tell the political parties what they should do. But I have noticed a great shortage of conservatives willing to take the time, spend the money and pay the political price necessary to achieve and hold power in a political party. Unless more conservatives accept the responsibility of political participation inside the parties, thirty years from now conservatives will still be complaining that the parties fail to do what they ought to do. Only a tiny fraction of Americans participate in party activities. There is a great turnover of participants and leadership. In the business world, corporate leadership tends to last for decades; labor union leadership tends to last for life. Some years ago I looked up the tenure of all the Republican Party state chairmen in the United States. The average state party chairman had held that post for about eighteen months! I believe it is the same among the Democrats. State law and party rules determine state and local party structure. And no two states are exactly alike in party organization. But in almost every city and county in America, there are many vacancies in official party committees. The same is true in unofficial party structures, including the party's auxiliary organizations. Many, if not most, of the un-glamorous jobs in party committees and organizations go begging. In states where local party committees include representatives from each precinct, there are invariably vacancies on the official city and county party committees. Most localities do not have Women's Republican clubs or Young Republican clubs. Most colleges do not have College Republican clubs. Most high schools do not have Teenage Republican clubs or adults willing to serve as advisors to Teenage Republican clubs. Most campaigns do not have precinct leaders in every precinct. The same holds true in the Democratic Party. And all party committees, campaign organizations and auxiliary organizations have jobs left undone because of a lack of volunteers. A newcomer who says "I am here to tell you what to do" is viewed with suspicion and even fear. But a newcomer who says "I am here to help you. Tell me how I can help" is greeted cordially and usually given things to do. After one election cycle of constructive volunteer activity, the newcomer becomes a veteran, respected by the old-timers. After two or three election cycles, the newcomer has become an old-timer. In this context, something President George H.W. Bush said is particularly valuable: "Eighty percent of success is just being there." Unfortunately, much of what is said and done at party committee meetings at every level, including even National Committee meetings, is uninteresting, even boring. To succeed inside a political party, one must cultivate the ability to sit still and remain polite when foolish people speak nonsense. An open structure gives access to the foolish as well as to the wise. Wise people inside a party must cultivate a high level of patience. They must allow for human frailty in others and strive to appear to suffer most fools gladly. Like many other conservatives, I have come to realize that the time spent sitting through dull parts of meetings is the price one pays to be there to take part when the really important decisions are made every now and then. A principled conservative who wishes to succeed within a party should heed the following ten points: 1. Make yourself useful to the party's candidates and the activities of party organizations. Choose carefully what you agree to do, and then do it well. 2. Rise slowly. Don't put yourself forward for every available position of leadership. If you display competence in your party or campaign activities, other people will soon enough be ready to ask you, even urge you, to seek higher posts. Remember, there is always a big turnover. People without persistence drop out. Many vacancies open up. Even those party activists who have no particular political philosophy still like to win. If you become valuable to the party and a reliable asset to its candidates, even political opportunists will come to tolerate you and your commitment to principles. 3. Build a secure home base. It is not necessary that you and your allies now control the local or state party for you to become effective in the long run. What is necessary is that you cultivate allies who will reliably work together for your conservative principles. The Lone Ranger was never a successful politician. 4. Don't try to solve all the problems you see in a party committee or in a campaign organization. People resent a know-it-all. Pick and choose the matters in which you become involved. Sometimes it is better to let others learn by their own experience than by your advice. 5. Politics is of the heart as well as of the mind. Many people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is possible often to say unpleasant things pleasantly. Too often our politically wounded are left to bleed to death. Be compassionate and show it. 6. Study how to win. Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. Political technology determines political success. Learn how to organize and how to communicate. Most political technology is philosophically neutral. You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win. 7. Expand the leadership. Do your best to locate, recruit, train, and place other conservatives in the political process. Attrition of leadership is more severe in party organizations than in almost any other activity. Phyllis Schlafly says, with some justice, that county party chairman is the worst job in politics. Many people burn out quickly. As you build the size of your base of effective activists, it is natural that your own position within the party will gradually improve. 8. Study the rules of procedure. Or find someone of like mind who is or will become expert on the rules. One of the reasons for conservative successes within the Republican Party is that many conservatives in that party have taken the time to master the rules of procedure. Beyond a mastery of the rules comes an understanding of meeting dynamics. Meeting dynamics are best learned by long experience at political meetings. 9. In volunteer politics, a builder can build faster than a destroyer can destroy. If you achieve anything in politics, you will have enemies, some of whom will delight in attacking your every flaw, real or imagined. Do not spend much time replying to such criticism. On the average, it takes less time for you to recruit a new activist than it does for your enemies to persuade one of your recruits that you are a bad person. Over time, you get stronger and your enemies do not. 10. Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. I'm not perfect. You're not perfect. No candidate is perfect. No party committee is perfect. If you can't cope with anything less than perfection, you will never achieve anything worthwhile. You would be like the pastor who was so concerned with heavenly things that he was no earthly good. Perfection is unattainable on this earth, but it is a useful guide to the direction we should go. One can use a good compass for a lifetime without expecting ever to get to the North Pole. In the United States, a political party is not easily defined. Power is more diffuse in American political parties than in government. After all, it is possible for government to make a decision binding on everyone. There is no mechanism for doing that in our political parties. Each party committee is a separate opportunity for conservative activists. The giant Senatorial and Congressional party committees of both major parties are entirely independent of the Republican and Democratic national committees, which themselves are the creations of the state parties and their national conventions. A party national committee has almost no supervisory role over the state parties, which, in turn, dare not interfere much in the local party organizations. Party committees exist independently. Taken together, they raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and each can have a major role in the selection of candidates at a specific level of government. Major party fundraising is much easier than other political fundraising. It's like having a limited license to print money. A party has meaning only to the extent that people's actions give it meaning. It is a vehicle for political action. As leaders of the conservative movement realize, parties alone are not sufficient to preserve our hard-won freedoms. Candidates, once nominated, run their own campaigns, sometimes with and sometimes without much help from party committees. And support of various types from many, many non-party organizations is required for victory. But while parties are not sufficient, they are necessary. If conservatives fail to engage in party activities, then party committees at every level will be run by people who do not share conservative views -- that is, by opportunists and liberals. Conservatives should never lose sight of the difference between power and influence. Power is the ability to make things happen. Influence is the ability to have one's views at least taken into account by those who have power. To people motivated by political philosophy, influence is not enough. Just as conservatives should work to get fellow conservatives into positions of governmental power, they have an obligation to be active themselves in the party structures. There is too much power there for it to be abandoned. Conservative organizations have many millions of members and supporters who, if led by their leadership, would be interested in participating in party activity. Finally, conservatives who absolutely, positively cannot sit through long, tedious political party meetings have an obligation to find and to support financially fellow conservatives with cast-iron behinds, people willing and able to do the partisan jobs which must be done. As few as fifty thousand conservatives, newly determined to become party activists could, in four years or less, make a national party as reliably conservative as the Democratic Party is today reliably liberal. With this influx of new participants, that party would elect a lot of its candidates.
Political Management of the Bureaucracy - A Guide to Reform and Control
Donald J. Devine
July 14, 2017
Political Management of the Bureaucracy - A Guide to Reform and Control
<< Download the full PDF here >> Dear Fellow Conservative, I have arranged to have published for you a particularly timely book, chocked full of interesting and valuable information for anyone who wants reform in the federal government's personnel process and wants to learn how to shrink the bloated federal bureaucracy. The book is free for you. All you have to do is click on this link. Or buy it on Amazon by clicking here. Yes, I know that many of us (including me) prefer to read physical books, but I knew that more people would read it online right now if I could distribute it for free. Those who wish to have a hard copy will soon be able to buy the book on Amazon. Here's what my friend and colleague, Joe Morris, an Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, says about the book I'm giving you for free: "Donald Devine's Political Management of the Bureaucracy: A Guide to Reform and Control will be an evergreen book. It will be a classic in the library of conservative public administration and should be in the orientation packet given to each of the planners, transition team members, and political appointees of every future new conservative administration." -- Joseph A. Morris, former Assistant Attorney General of the United States under President Reagan Please see the Introduction I wrote at the beginning of this edition of Don Devine's book. Most conservatives know that government hiring, whether of political appointees or Civil Service employees, has long been a tragic mess. Dr. Donald J. Devine, who served as Director of the Office of Personnel Management in Ronald Reagans' first term, grappled with these problems at the highest level. He accomplished a lot where others have failed miserably. In this book he shares his experiences and points out how conservatives can achieve real reforms. You probably know other conservatives who share an interest in reforming and shrinking the federal bureaucracy. If so, please forward to them my free offer of this unique and powerful book. Cordially, Morton Blackwell President The Leadership Institute