Build From The Ground Up

by Joel Corbin

It's now February in a year lacking a major national election. The Presidential election season doesn't start for another year, while the midterm elections held three months ago have already been forgotten, due to the impeachment process. So what's left to pay attention to? Is this a time for the politically active to take a break and relax?

In the absence of a national issue to focus attention, there's a danger that the politically active may become complacent and lethargic. This would be unfortunate; Activities and events must continue, in order to increase awarness of the conservative position on the various issues facing voters. Unfortunately, it seems that "the message" is only trumpeted during the big electoral efforts in order to elect a president or Congress. National issues demand the attention of activists and voters alike.

But it shouldn't always be this way. Certainly national issues and elections are important; They can galvanize support for a party from the highest levels down to the lowest local office. But what happens when there is no national issue or election? Too often activity slows or stops during these less-interesting times, only to rebound once again a year later. But imagine how much more visible the conservative message would be if activity and events were held year-round, regardless of the electoral situation.

That's the problem facing conservatives today. The national scene is so much more visible and influential, that the local issues and events are forgotten. Attention is placed on "the big picture," rather than the issues facing voters on a local level. It is much easier to build a voting base from the ground up, than to rely on a national issue to create support on its own.

This is the job conservatives are faced with. In order to gather a foundation of supporters on the national level every two years, there must be efforts to recruit activists and supporters during the time between these elections. The logical way to gather support at the local level is to focus efforts on local issues, candidates, and races. Many communities have an offset mayoral, council, and commissioner election, the year before or after the presidential one. This is an ideal time to foster support for the conservative message.

Because "all politics is local," this kind of focus is the key to not only local electoral success, but national as well. Voters are energized by issues that affect them directly, such as school funding, property taxes, assesment, and zoning. To gain voter support, and hold it through the national campaigns, conservatives must use the local elections as building blocks. Efforst must be made during the local primaries to field candidates, increase their name recognition through events and activities, and help them win their race. As conservative candidates gain success on the local level, eventually this support will trickle upward, toward the state and national levels.

This build-upward strategy can be effective anywhere, but especially so in college towns like Bloomington. The students constitute a significant portion of the electorate, and therefore can radically swing the election if they vote in large numbers. Clearly the key is to mobilize support for the conservative position during the summer and other times of the year when students aren't around in great numbers. The activists can build experience, while at the same time get the message out with low levels of opposition.

Finally the key is to get students to vote in large enough numbers to ensure the election will swing to the right. This is much easier in a national election than in a local election, but it can still be done. Since students are primarily national-issue voters, local issues must be made to reflect national concerns. This will encourage students to "think globally, act locally," and transfer their concern regarding national issues toward local ones.

Of course the national elections are important. The parties have their chance to shine, and support for one candidate will often ensure support for another in the same party. But local elections are important too. Not just from the city/county perspective, but also because they offer activists the chance to gain experience, while at the same time building a strong base of support for conservative principles, which will then transfer over to the national level.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Joel Corbin

Bryant Lewis