Diary

Ten Citizen Solutions

"What can we do?!"

You hear that question a lot these days. It is often a frustrated response to the socialist direction of our federal government…or liberal schemes in a City Hall or Statehouse.

Millions of Americans are new to the conservative movement. They have become more intensely concerned about politics because of reckless deficit spending, unemployment, corruption and scandal.

We need to turn their frustration into activism.

Remember the joke about the teacher asking a student, "Which is worse — ignorance or apathy?" The student replied, "I don’t know and I don’t care." It’s funny, but it raises a serious point. It’s not enough to know that America is heading in the wrong direction. And it’s not enough to just care. We need to effectively act.

Newt’s new book sums up the challenge: "To Save America ." And he proposes specific solutions. But we must campaign for solutions at every level – local, state and national.

Community organizers have been training liberal activists for years, and they succeeded in electing one of their own as President. We conservatives must do more to beat them at their own game: organizing, protesting, persuading… Complaining isn’t enough.

How can one citizen make a difference? Here are some of the ways.

1) GET INVOLVED IN A CAMPAIGN. I urge you to read my new book, Campaign Solutions , available for free at the Solutions Academy . It explains, "How challenger candidates maximize Money, Media, Message and Management." You will learn how to help a campaign in fundraising, organizing, publicity, advertising, speech-writing, strategy, research, debate… These are skills you can use for any conservative cause.

2) SENDING A DONATION. Money speaks louder than words. If you support a candidate or organization, (yes, like American Solutions), making a donation has a real impact. Any vehicle needs energy to run. And money helps fuel an advocacy campaign.

3) CREATIVE PROTEST. There are many ways citizens can express their grievances, and that’s part of "the American way." With the proliferation of media, it’s not difficult to make your case to a big audience. The trick is to stand out and get attention. The second trick is to do it in a way that opens minds, rather than just reinforces the views of those who already agree with you. For example, some protesters turn their anger into vitriolic signs that attract TV coverage, but for the opposite reason they wish — because it allows a reporter to depict the protesters as crazy or bigoted. When you protest to get attention, be sure it is in the right spirit. Don’t just vent — be inventive.

4) POWER OF TEN. The secret to successful organizing is the realization that you only need a few believers to start a chain reaction that can change the world. If you convince ten people  – friends, neighbors, relatives, colleagues – to join you in an effort, and get them to sign up ten other people, and so on, soon you could have hundreds on your side. And now you can do community organizing online. You look at Facebook instead of faces, but you still use strategy and tactics to connect with people, helping them understand self interest and public interest, and persuading them to join you in taking action. You’re probably networking and socializing anyway. It doesn’t take much more effort to connect with people politically.

5) PERSONALLY CONTACT PUBLIC OFFICIALS. In this age of email and texting, your handwritten letter, phone call or even drop-in visit to the office of a public official, can have more impact than you think. You will stand out as a concerned, active citizen. And officials will view you as having more influence because you are proving that you will go out of your way to make your opinions known to others. To an official, that means you are "an opinion leader." You have "citizen clout."

6) VIRAL VIDEOS. If you have a digital camera, editing software, and talent, you can turn your issue into an interesting video. Put it on YouTube and e-blast a link to friends. If it’s good, they’ll e-blast it to their contacts, and on it goes… But make sure you do it right. Once it’s being forwarded around the world, you don’t want to regret mistakes made in haste. First test it on some people you trust — revise if necessary, then launch.

7) STARTING A PETITION. You can turn an issue into a news story by creating a petition of support for an issue position. You can put it into circulation by posting it on bulletin boards and blogs, sending out a news release, setting up tables outside stores, canvassing door to door… Once you have an adequate number of signatures, you can present the petition to a public official or group and announce the results of the petition drive in another news release.

8 ) ASKING OFFICIALS TO MAKE A PLEDGE. Politicians often like to take both sides of an issue, and procrastinate in taking a definitive position until it is sufficiently popular. You might find it useful to try and pin them down by asking them to sign a pledge of support. First, you need to make sure the pledge is reasonable. You don’t want would-be signers to point out that there are glaring loopholes or that the pledge would require them to violate a law. So take your time in crafting it, and consult with experts. Once you are sure that it is a fair and constructive pledge, be assertive in presenting and promoting it.

9) SETTING UP DEBATES. Any group can try to set up a debate. You don’t have to wait for the League of Women Voters to do it. And if you can arrange for a radio station or cable TV outlet to carry it, you’ll have all the more credibility in trying to stage one. The news potential for a debate is great, of course. And it doesn’t have to be between public officials or candidates; it can just be a debate between advocates. You can also make it very interactive – for example, asking audience members (including people watching online at home) to cast a ballot as to which side they think won the debate.

10) ADVERTISING. You don’t need to be a political candidate to advertise your views about a particular issue. It’s a free country. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get attention. There are many inexpensive media outlets – weekly newspapers, news sites, TV and radio stations – that would welcome your money. To get the most bang for your buck, be imaginative. Read the chapter on Advertising in Campaign Solutions. Advertising is not rocket science, but it does allow you to launch new ideas.

Joe Gaylord is the CEO of American Solutions and author of the new book, Campaign Solutions: How challenger candidates maximize Money, Media, Message and Management .

Cross-posted from AmericanSolutions.com .