|A previous post, Turning Tea Party Patriots into Political Petitioners, examined opportunities for new activists to affect change in their home states. A natural next step is to discuss other options for getting involved.
It remains to be seen if the political activity that this summer generated hundreds of Tea Party protests and capacity crowd town hall meetings turns into a lasting political force. Many will participate in one event and go back to the daily grind. A few will remain active, and some may even use their outrage to invest their time and treasure into political campaigns.
For those who seek to become active, there are plenty of resources. Citizens In Charge and Ballotpedia.org are both aimed at informing citizens of ballot initiatives and expanding the rights of citizens to petition government directly.
There are also organizations that will train candidates and campaign staff. Since 1979, Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute has worked to train candidates and activists to run effective campaigns for office, mostly on the statewide and federal level. But traveling across a state or a large congressional district for weeks and months at a time can be too great a sacrifice for most.
For those who want to stay closer to home and still be involved there is American Majority. Founded just last year by brothers Drew and Ned Ryun (sons of the former Congressman from Kansas), American Majority focuses on identifying community leaders and encouraging them to play a role in local and state politics where they can have the greatest effect. Its website declares:
American Majority specifically advocates for a reversal of the seat of government power and a return to true federalism, wherein states and localities hold the great majority of everyday government exercise.
This is a great goal, especially when too many political figures who should know better have been lured to Washington just to offer us one-size-fits-all Washington-based policies. In an interview with Ryun during a Kansas City training session, he stressed the organization’s desire to focus attention on small and local governments. He tells Tea Party activists:
Let’s move beyond the protesting and the rallying to doing something about implementing. Let’s move from protesting freedom to implementing on behalf of freedom. Take over your local communities. If you have 5,000 people showing up at your Tea Party, I’m betting out of those 5,000, there are a couple people that should be running for school board or city council. The rest of the people should be helping those people win.
To that end, American Majority has developed school board manuals explaining how a school board works, among other resources. Ryun explained, “ We have a city council manual. We are offering a county commission seminar this fall laying out how the system works and offering ideas for what reform items need to take place in a given state.”
And while Ryun’s American Majority may focus on smaller political districts, the focus is still national. “I am going to the state and local levels, just getting people involved,” said Ryun. “I want people to be engaged in the process. I want to talk about grassroots action, explain to people that if they take over their local community as best they can, they are going to cause national change.”
But Ryun has no illusions about what it takes. “A lot of these people are realizing that the work ahead is harder than turning out for two hours and protesting. But if you really want to see change, if you really want to see something effective happen, you have to implement.” Despite this, he says that some Tea Party organizations have taken up the challenge. Many have become bloggers, keeping a watchful eye on politicians. Some groups have focused their attention to taking over the city counsel.
And when will American Majority’s work be done? Ryun responds:
There are 15,000 school districts. There are over 3,000 municipalities. There are 50 state legislatures. The work is probably never going to be done because there are so many positions that need to be filled—and because we need so many people committed to principle running and winning. It’s going to take a long time.
This echoes Benjamin Franklin’s famous reply to a woman asking what the Constitutional Convention had wrought. His answer, “A Republic, if you can keep it,” continues to challenge us to this day. American will only have the freedoms they are willing to work to defend.