Written by Brian Roberts
The establishment promotes political ideas that accrue power at the expense of the People’s economic and civil liberty.
The establishment promotes political tactics that encourage those involved to focus attention on the federal government where the message can be controlled.
Liberty efforts ultimately fail not because they reject establishment ideas, but because they continue to limit themselves to establishment-endorsed tactics.
Today, there are 545 federal politicians and judges making bad decisions that negatively affect 300,000,000 citizens. This represents a highly centralized power structure incompatible with American founding, history and customs. This general shift in power from a republic composed of sovereign states to a single all-knowing “national” government has occurred because well-meaning citizens used inferior tactics against ambitious politicians, and lost repeatedly. Over a span of 200 years the People have allowed central government advocates to define the battleground at the national level, which is an unfriendly battleground for those that champion limited government.
The People will continue to fall for the lure of popular tactics and continue to lose ground, or they will adopt winning tactics and prevail. Here is how to win.
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken
What we are faced with is a David versus Goliath scenario. When presented with this scenario, the natural inclination is to attack the problem head-on at the top. Logically, this seems like the best way to achieve rapid results. However, a federal presidential race is not a strategically viable point of attack for serious grassroots efforts. Even federal offices are generally untouchable because the People lack the organization and financial ability to compete at that level.
Attempts by the liberty movement to “vote ‘em out”, “sign a petition” or “write a letter” are ignored and fail consistently. This defeat comes not because the limited government idea succumbs to superior debate or more powerful political ideas, but primarily because the chosen tactics cannot overcome the brute force of mass media and old-school political influence.
There is no doubt that the establishment finds comfort in their ability to control and leverage massive communication channels. This provides a virtual monopoly on the national message experienced daily by most Americans. This mass marketing capability is represented below by the large blue arrows coming in from the bottom, labeled “Message” Marketing. You can think of these arrows as the mass media, the national politicians, and your friends who continually trumpet Republican or Democrat talking points. The establishment is confident that their general message of fear, insecurity and unearned entitlements will drive the perceived need for unconstitutional centralized government.
In order to compete with this mass media monopoly, the liberty movement must adopt a strategy that builds on strengths of the movement itself and acknowledges the lack of access to mass media. This approach is represented by the smaller “Propagation” Marketing arrow coming in from the left. This is a marketing strategy that requires adherence to segmentation, or decentralization. Perfect! In our case, states provide a natural point of segmentation; as America is composed of various sovereign states with clearly identifiable, yet diverse, political priorities.
For those that are not convinced, this “small versus big” strategy is well documented (see Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm”). In the corporate world, small companies face challenges such as this quite often when engaged with large fortune 500 companies. There are specific marketing strategies which win and there are others which invariably lose. When these small companies compete on a battlefield chosen by their larger competitor, they lose. However, when small companies employ a different tactic that segments customers in ways larger companies cannot, they win.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
In order to communicate effectively we must determine who is the strategic target of our message, and what specific message would elicit our desired response. Each segment in the graphic above indicates a group of participants in the political process. Each of these segments has different political perspectives and will respond to messages based on these. It’s also extremely important to recognize the size of the groups.
Innovators discuss theories and ideas. They base their political positions on principles and fundamentals.
Early Adopters discuss ideas and events. They are more practical but still value principles strongly.
The Early Majority discusses events and people. They may take a principled positioned but only when they feel in sync with a well-known personality.
The Late Majority discusses people. They are completely influenced by mass media. They will repeat talking points that are readily accepted as truth.
The Laggards really don’t matter from a marketing perspective as they do not represent a large group and they are extremely susceptible to majority opinion.
Innovators and Early Adopters are less influenced by the mass media, or the “Message” marketing that we are competing with. The message does not target them because they do not represent a majority. Also, this segment is more likely to base positions on ideas and reject marketing hype. If you are reading this article, they you are one of these.
“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Missing from the graphical model above is a significant gap, or chasm, between the early adopters and the early majority. This is where things can break down. Politically this is where the liberty movement is today, as evidenced by more mainstream rebuttals of liberty issues. However, the gap cannot be crossed using the same tactics at the national level because the message will always be hijacked when any threat to the establishment power base develops. Success will only come with dedicated (and smart) niche messaging at the state level where nullification must be used to demand, not petition, federal adherence to constitutional limitations.
If we accept the following Madison description of the roles designated to the federal government and those retained by the state governments, then crossing the chasm between early adopters and the early majority will be smooth.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which … concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” – James Madison, Federalist 45
In order to appeal to the early majority we must first craft a message that people in one region must agree to disagree on issues in other regions. This is simply accepting the principles set forth in the Constitution that states have many powers, where the general government has few. In other words, decide issues locally, adhere to principles nationally.
Work issues and politics regionally and locally.
By discussing issues at the state-level, states can promote messages at the regional level that are more focused and therefore more readily accepted by the early majority. Specific issues that address specific state-level concerns should be promoted individually within each state. This is something a national message cannot do, it is our primary strength. Diversity of politics allows state-level messages and lawmaking to exactly match the profile of the region.
It is vital to recruit state legislators and governors to champion nullification and stand strongly for state sovereignty. This will legitimize the message and the early majority will seek elected leaders to follow. It is also important to generate awareness of nullification through the local press which is more concerned with local and regional ideas and problems.
Stick to principles and ideas nationally
The establishment will seek to hijack regional messages and force debate at the national level, this cannot be allowed. Once it is accepted that the issues should be fought at the national level, liberty has already lost. The principles will be discarded and the early majority will find itself squabbling over who will destroy the liberty of the other person by gaining the power of the federal government. The most divisive issues with the least impact on liberty will be highlighted while the true issues of political power will be decided without debate. It happens year after year and power is always centralized, never to be reclaimed by the People. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.
“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” – Steve Jobs
Stick to principles of decentralization as guaranteed by our republican form of government and use nullification to strike at the root of the problem. Nullification is a political tool wielded by states that forces the feds into a box based on principles.
Nullification is an absolute requirement because it is the defense against the establishment who seek to take every issue and force them into a national debate. A national debate that is pre-destined to result in more centralized power, not less. In order to demand that issues are discussed and decided regionally, we must use state-level nullification to say “no” when federal laws unconstitutionally claim authority.
It is duty of state governments empowered by the People to reject unconstitutional federal “laws”. This protective action cannot, with success, be delegated to any federal branch. The conflict of interest associated with a federal agency policing itself is just too strong.
Proposing and supporting state-level nullification legislation will allow your state to say “no” to specific federal actions where they have no authority; and will have the added benefit of increased awareness of the principle of nullification at the national level.
“Vote the bums out”, and other establishment-endorsed tactics will always fail.
The national message, which is controlled by the establishment, will always promote centralization of issues and thus power.
An early majority must be targeted with a message of “decide issues locally, unite on principles nationally”.
Principles are based on the Constitution, state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment; and are reflected in the Tenth Amendment Center’s mantra of “the Constitution, every issue, every time.”
States are regionally and politically diverse and we can use this diversity as a strength to closely march political ideas with an early majority specific to a state. The national message we are competing with cannot do this.
State-level nullification is required to maintain a constitutional balance of power, deny federal usurpations of the Constitution and to force issues to remain regional.
Brian Roberts is a long-time volunteer with the Texas TAC and a regular contributor to the Tenth Amendment Center website.