Political Proselytizing: Tapping the Silent Majority

Politics is a combination of theory and strategy, but success simply comes down to numbers.  The person with the most votes, no matter how small the margin, wins (just ask George W. Bush).  Good theory and strategy are important, but their purpose should be to maximize your number of voters and minimize the opposition's number of voters. 

By looking at the gap between eligible and actual voters, there is a great, untapped reserve of voters out there.  If conservatives want to win, they will need to roll up their sleeves, get into the trenches, and win new converts.  Conservative groups have the advantage here, because there are more conservatives than liberals, and conservatives have a more appealing message.  The key is getting that message out there.

First, ideology and party identification are political concepts that are taken for granted.  If we found out your friend or colleague twice voted for Barack Obama, you might assume that the friend is a rabid liberal who seeks the "fundamental transformation" of the country.  However, the truth might be that he was fooled by the smiles, the smooth talk, the chants, and the slogans – like millions of others were. 

Despite Obama's past, his associations, and his policy preferences being public knowledge, he ran as a moderate in 2008, and a loyal media was able to cover up his record so he could run as a moderate again in 2012.  Of course, there are many other factors (the timing of Hurricane Sandy, the unfathomably bad selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as the running mate, and Romney's unwillingness to take Obama on), but Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected basically because many voters saw him as being a moderate enough choice.  So how could this have happened?

Part of this puzzle was solved by M. Kent Jennings in his 1992 article "Ideological Thinking Among Mass Publics and Political Elites," in which he found that political elites (in this case, party delegates) had much more consistent political beliefs than the rest of the populace, even including those who are quite interested in politics.  He did not claim that this is based on a gap of intelligence; rather, he found that "political party elites have a vastly more constrained and stable set of political preferences ... than does the mass public."  In other words, these so-called "elites" can see through the haze of propaganda better than non-elites and are able to make more informed, consistent decisions.

This is one of the great quandaries that political scientists face.  We don't know why people don't participate, because those people who don't participate also do not answer political surveys.  Even if they do, their answers are often incomplete and inconsistent.  Despite these hurdles, this is an untapped resource of voters that conservatives are doing little about – at least not in a cohesive and comprehensive way.

As I mentioned in a previous piece, self-identified conservatives outnumber self-described liberals 38% to 23%.  This is closer than it has ever been, but it is still quite a large gap.  In 2008, a record number of people voted for president – over 130 million.  This was a huge turnout, but over 206 million citizens were eligible to vote that year.  The gap between eligible and actual voters was even larger in 2012 (just over 124 million people actually voted out of 215 million who were eligible).  So why do so many not vote when it is so obvious that politics affects our lives daily and so profoundly?

The plain fact is that many people just don't care about politics, or they don't see the connection between what goes on (or doesn't go on) in Washington and in their own lives.  If you are reading this piece, then you are obviously more interested in what is going on than the average Joe Sixpack.  You vote, you talk to your friends and family about politics, and you may even contact your representatives in Congress.  Despite this, your vote is being canceled out by someone who pays much less attention and is more susceptible to propaganda than you are.  There are two things to be happy with here, however.  First, your vote is also canceling out your opponent's vote.  Second, there are more Joe Sixpacks who agree with us than agree with them – they just don't know it yet.  So how do we tell them that what happens in D.C. doesn't stay in D.C.?

In the aforementioned piece, I laid out the philosophical foundation for what needs to be done and who needs to do it.  Here I present the practical part of this plan: the disparate conservative factions need to unite under a common cause and form a more cohesive movement with a visible leadership, organized structure (particularly between the umbrella groups and the local groups), and a clear, cohesive message that volunteers can take to their friends and neighbors and "convert" them to the cause. 

Leadership: Conservatives need a uniting figure who is passionate, able to inspire the movement's members, and willing to take on the movement's opponents.  Examples include Mark Levin, the great author and radio host; Allen West, former Army colonel and congressman; and Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Tea Party champion.   All three possess the required passion, the ability to motivate, and the willingness to go into combat with our opponents.

Organization: There need to be state and regional representatives who fill the gap of communication and strategy between the overall leadership and the local leadership.  This will help create a conduit where the movement's leaders can diffuse information and local groups can share their concerns with the powers that be.

Messaging: An organized curriculum needs to be developed.  First would be the philosophical underpinnings of America – a great resource for this is the aforementioned Levin's Ameritopia.  The true history of the United States needs to be transmitted.  A great resource for this would be Schweikart's and Allen's Patriot's History of the United States.  There also needs to be a lesson on the American left, figures from that movement, and their goals.  Lastly, there needs to be a lesson on what the true conflict is: the class war between Washington and "flyover country."  The best resource for this is Angelo Codevilla's The Ruling Class.  Of course, it is too much to have people read the entirety of these books, but with permission from the authors, they could be combined into a single, abridged volume that would be more accessible. 

This is a big endeavor, but to save this country, it is an important one.

Layne Hansen is a Ph.D. student in political science.  His Twitter handle is @HansenLayne.