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‘I’m So Smart I Don’t Need to Go to School’

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Last time I started writing about what I consider to be the most frustrating thing about working in and around politics. What does this have to do with the subject of reaching the uninformed? The wonderful people entering the often ugly arena of politics are failing in the same way most veterans are for one simple reason: too many of them think they’ve already got it all figured out.

Except they don’t have it all figured out. The fact that there are no nation-wide thorough, effective, and well-funded outreach programs being run by Republicans or conservatives or tea partiers is all the proof I need to present. This failure is why low information voters continue to be the difference in too many elections.

Americans are participating in political activities in larger numbers than any period in my lifetime — and I’ve written often about what a wonderful development that is. I’ve met many of these good people — they are the kind of folks who have made the country great. Unfortunately with newness to politics comes the need to learn how things work, what things don’t work, what isn’t getting done, and where we can easily make improvements.

Instead, too many of those on our side who are new to the arena are picking up the bad habits of the moribund Republican Party. Yes, that same GOP that so many conservatives and tea partiers love to hate. These new activists hold meetings. They plan events. They hear from candidates and speakers. They send around emails endlessly. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this stuff. My point is that those types of things should make up only a small fraction of the time spent and effort expended. Outreach to uninformed friends, family, neighbors, and the wider community should be the number one priority.

If I was to write a book about politics I’d have to dedicate several chapters to the problem of the newly arrived “experts.” Some are donors. Many are those seeking to be activists but aren’t quite sure what actual “activism” is.

I’ve seen it often: first time candidates for the General Assembly claim to understand what’s wrong and state their determination to shake things up if they win. Then they win and the next thing you know they’re playing nice with the old establishment cranks that have been a part of the problem year after year after year.

Countless times I have seen someone enter—then quickly exit—politics. Why the quick exit? In a lot of cases their short dip into the political pool didn’t satisfy them because it wasn’t enough about them and how wonderful they are (and they are wonderful—just feed them some Sodium Pentothal and ask them).

This problem doesn’t have to be fatal for our side. But more good people entering the fray need to spend more time learning and less time acting upon their own non-existent expertise.

In a nation where you can learn about anything online there’s no excuse for not doing so when it comes to finding out what political activism is supposed to be. It might take some time — but what did Thomas Paine say?

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.

If you’re new to politics, we’re glad you’re here — but remember — it’s not about you. It’s about winning hearts, minds, elections, and moving public opinion in the right direction so reforms can be enacted.

Activism is about reaching as many of the uninformed as humanly possible. That’s the only way to contribute to victory in the information war.

Enough on this — tomorrow let’s talk about what Republicans and conservatives do better than anyone…the only problem is that it doesn’t translate into success.

(First published October 2013)

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