How The Right Can Organize Like The Left

How The Right Can Organize Like The Left by David Hines for The American Conservative

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The left understands that ideas mean nothing without power. Instead of complaining, we should follow their lead—starting small, but with ambitious goals.

Conservatives are understandably upset. In a period of sustained radical leftist action, including riots, arson, and a genuine effort to grow a revolutionary movement, the response at all levels is ineffectual. Lots of conservatives are asking the same questions: what can I do? What can we do? How did we even get to this point?

When things aren’t going the way you want, it’s easy to blame luck, or circumstances, or somebody screwing you over. It’s harder to take a good look in the mirror. But the first step is to internalize an unpleasant truth. In this case, the unpleasant truth is that the entire conservative theory of power is wrong. 

Conservatives tell ourselves power comes from ideas. The body politic is a marketplace; we like marketplaces! Ideas are debated, inspire voters, draw action from politicians, and at the end of the day, win.

Okay, how’s that working out for us?

It turns out that inspiring ideas aren’t useful unless you train people in the mechanics of building power. That’s not what we do. As conservatives, we have trained ourselves to elect politicians, who are seemingly allergic to passing legislation, or to be pundits, who have no actual power. State power is the only kind of power conservatives have taught their people how to understand, and when we gain it, tut-tutting conservative elites argue it is immoral to use.

At some point in the last 40 years, the conservative movement should have taught us to exercise power in ways that don’t involve the state. This is what leftists do. They actively train people to create effective pressure movements that coerce compliance with their demands. The response of conservatives to this coercion is to double down on—the importance of ideas.

If you want to actually produce change, you can’t do it with debates. You can’t do it with pundits. And you can’t do it by sitting at home and assuming somebody else will do something. You have to learn to build a team and work as part of it. And your team has to learn to be part of a larger team.

You must, in short, build community.

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