Winning public support for constitutional
I am often asked for advice on how to build public support for
constitutional compliance and legal reform. Of course I answer that every day
in many ways, but perhaps a few key points should be offered as a checklist.
First, there are several main components to the process:
1 - Building general public support for the cause, and for the
advocates of it, which are distinct but tend to be confused in the public mind.
2 - Dispelling opposition to the cause or its advocates. This best done by
presenting counterexamples to charges made by your opponents.
3 - Influencing specific decisions. This is best done by working your way up
the chains of influence that lead to the key decisionmakers.
4 - Building institutions and structures that can survive transient
individual thoughts and efforts. This can include everything from organizations
to laws to writings.
5 - Placing supporters in key positions. In the end power belongs to those
who do the work, and power to your cause comes by getting more people working
for it more steadily and effectively than against it.
Second, it is a skill that is best acquired by practice, and there
are few better ways to get practice than to participate in a political
campaign, especially one that is well-financed and well-run. You don't have to
want the candidate or measure to win. It is worth while just as a learning
experience, especially if you take turns doing as many kinds of jobs as you
can. Every activist, no matter what his cause, should take full advantage of
any political campaigns in his area, and perhaps more than one of them, to get
a perspective on the methods and resources involved.
Or you can run for office yourself. Perhaps as a minor-party candidate for a
state or local office or for Congress. But you should practice in a major-party
campaign first to learn how to do it. And run to win, even though you don't
expect to. Always make a total commitment, and conduct yourself as a
professional, in anything you do.
Third, keep in mind that it is selling, and all the principles of
good salesmanship and marketing apply, including the reality that you are
competing for not only support but attention against opponents, who may be
better financed and organized than you are. But that can be overcome with a
better pitch and a better product, and you have the better product.
Also keep in mind that the sale isn't made with the pitch alone, but needs a
good closing. All the advertising in the world will accomplish nothing until
you get the "customer" to commit with some action, and that has to be
done one-on-one. Yes, there are some things that can be done with crowds, but
this isn't one of them. This one requires the exercise of some intelligence,
and some personal risk and sacrifice.
Don't try to do everything yourself. Delegate. And recruit recruiters.
Multi-level marketing systems can be a good training experience for this,
provided one doesn't become addicted to them, as to gambling.
As in any sales operation, the salesmen need to get some short-term wins to
keep them going. A few people can work year after year for a distant goal they
won't live to see, but not many, especially the attention-deficient people of
today. Figure out a way to keep score, and recognize top performers.
Fourth, there are special methods needed for selling things like
constitutional compliance and legal reform. Keep these points in mind:
1 - It is easier to sell people on a problem than on a solution,
and what you are selling is a solution, so start by selling people on the
problems to be solved.
2 - Establish an area of agreement, then build on it. Don't find the ways
you differ from others and argue with them. You may never agree with them on
everything, but perhaps on enough for cooperation on a common project. You can
probably find some provision of the Constitution you can get your prospect to
agree with, as originally understood, then show how all the others depend on
that one, until you win support for the entire Constitution, as originally
3 - Subvert the herd mentality that sustains denial and noninvolvement, by
getting the prospect to do small, seemingly harmless things that get him
progressively involved until cognitive dissonance causes his thinking and
beliefs to agree with his actions and he becomes committed to the cause.
4 - Chains of influence work on most prospects. Very few persons are truly
independent in their thinking. Find out who the prospect admires and get that
person to express some support for the cause, even if not full commitment.
Since influence works both ways, winning support from the followers is likely
to win the support for the leaders, who don't want to lose their status of
leadership by allowing the initiative to pass to others.
5 - Don't give people complete ideas or writings. Leave out some parts, so
that they will be inspired to fill in the holes, which will give them an
investment in the complete concept, and make it "theirs". It is akin
to delegating. Don't do everything. Get things started, perhaps, but leave some
things for others to do.
6 - Let people make their own mistakes. They will learn more that way -- if
they survive. You need to warn them if they are moving in a dangerous
direction, but ultimately, the decisions have to be theirs.
7 - Focus on winners. Don't waste time on whiners. There are a lot of people
out there with tales of injustice done to them or their friends, who are
motivated to act, and who can be led to do so. But some people will never
become effective, and some will even become liabilities. It works better to
focus on effective people, even if they are not initially affected or
motivated, because they can get things done, even if they aren't highly
motivated. Someone who is a professional in one area will probably be
professional in others, and it is possible to get them interested in the cause
as a professional exercise, without ever being emotionally involved. Such
persons will be the ones who ultimately make the cause prevail.
8 - Apparent losses may be victories, or can be turned into victories. Would
it have served the cause of constitutional compliance better if the Davidians
had racked up a higher body count? They would have lost their lives anyway,
even if many others had rallied to their aid. But in losing they won more
public sympathy and support than they would have if they had won the battle.
The causes of American, or Irish, independence, benefited from the initial
losses that polarized the people and won support. The losses of the Viet Cong
won more support from the previously neutral populace. Without the Alamo, the
Battle of San Jacinto might not have been won. Good needs evil to express
Finally, in the spirit of the above, I end this here to encourage others to
contribute their own thoughts.