It’s not easy to be a conservative.
As the saying goes, “If I had a nickel” every time someone angrily bashed conservatism to me on the campaign trail, or while on the radio, yet simultaneously had almost no idea what conservatism actually was, I would be making regular appearances in Forbes magazine.
The Left, and their allies in the media, have done an incredible job of deluding many Americans into voting against their own interests and, at the same time, instilling into their supporters that conservatives hate them. This strategy has convinced many to vote against conservatives, not necessarily in favor of liberals, and conservatives have struggled for decades to fight back. The methods by which the Left uses to accomplish this is a theme of Fred Siegel’s excellent book The Revolt Against the Masses. In the book, Siegel discusses the Left’s “Iron Triangle,” consisting of interest groups, congressional committees, and their allies in the media and their strategies for ensuring that an ideological narrative is spread far and wide.
Here’s how it works for the Left; an interest group takes control of a narrative such as the “War on Women.” After the narrative and the wording of the message is agreed upon, these interest groups push their bought-and-sold congressional allies to call hearings on the topic, (i.e. Sandra Fluke’s congressional testimony) guaranteeing widespread public attention. Finally, an anxious, and ideologically biased media operation kicks into gear to cover the hearings and to ensure that the most “powerful” soundbites are pushed out to the media ecosystem.Sadly, what follows is what frequently happened to me when campaigning and greeting voters. I would introduce myself, then a pleasant conversation about issues would ensue, quickly followed by an expletive and the campaign material being thrown back at me when they read that I was a Republican because they were waging a completely fictitious “war on women.”
We can learn from the tactics of the Left and, as a movement, we can leverage our own “Iron Triangle” to combat the malicious narratives of the Left and to transmit the truth about conservatism. Using the conservative “Iron Triangle” of conservative media, social media, and a revived grassroots, we can begin to take back the narrative and take the fight to the Left.
A useful example of this was the battle to combat Maryland’s “storm water management fee.” This disastrous tax was designed to tax property owners based on the amount of impervious surface on their property, liberals reasoning that this led to runoff which polluted the Chesapeake Bay. The catch is that most Marylanders were already suffering under a brutal tax load along with a number of additional fees designed to combat storm water runoff. A number of conservatives in the state knew, based on feedback from their grassroots contacts, that this was an opportunity to fight back against the Maryland democratic machine and to leverage their assets to focus the attention of heavily-taxed, and frustrated Marylanders. Although there was no formal coordination, when the term “rain tax” came up in conservative activist circles, to describe the storm water management fee, it spread like wildfire within the conservative “Iron Triangle.”
A Marylander at the time, I saw an opportunity to move the narrative from the conservative siloes into the wider political conversation and did an interview on the subject with Breitbart, along with many other conservatives and libertarians who pushed the story in order to fight back against the reviled “rain tax.” Quickly the story grew, and generated national attention as concerned Americans shared the story over and over on the various social media platforms.
With a gubernatorial election occurring at the time, a number of the candidates for governor reached out to their conservative media contacts and saturated the airwaves with discussions of the ridiculous “rain tax.” Following the social media saturation and the widespread attention of both conservative and mainstream media, grassroots groups in Maryland picked up the message and ran with it. Future governor Larry Hogan’s grassroots group “Change Maryland” put out numerous graphics shedding light on the economic damage of the “rain tax” and candidates for local and state office took every opportunity to discuss it.
The rest is history, Larry Hogan won the Maryland governorship, in a political upset for the ages, in deep-blue Maryland and, although this wasn’t the only reason Hogan won, it was certainly one of the more significant factors.
The lesson here with regard to changing the political narratives of the Left is simple; we don’t need to emulate the morally corrupt practices of Alinsky and his acolytes because our message is RIGHT. The Left needs these corrupt practices because they are selling snake oil. Taking people’s money, their child’s education, their control of their health care, and their political liberty, requires a deviation from accepted moral standards. We should NEVER seek out these tactics or we have become what we dread most: a group of people who worship an ends, while completely disregarding the value of, and the example set by, the means.
I would rather be right alone than wrong in a group and I’m sure you would as well.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. Featured image courtesy of Congressional Quarterly.