We previously looked at the effect of the left’s ability to escalate politics from the halls of legislatures to the politics of the streets. We’ve considered how the right’s interest in protests, boycotts, and other political action has grown. But the right’s lack of relevant knowledge hinders such efforts.
In the words of the left’s most notorious organizers, “What is to be done?”
Perhaps the time has come for a modest proposal. What if the conservative donor base took a tiny fraction of the money it spends on campaigns to win elections and spent it on building a school to teach conservatives how to organize for political power and action beyond and between elections?
This wouldn’t be a school for educating children, as vital a task as that is. Hillsdale’s initiative focusing on K-12 schools and the growing Christian classical school movement are certainly commendable for the purpose of forming young minds. But this effort would be more a boot camp for adult conservative organizers to learn the tricks of the trade for real political organizing.
Schools to teach political organizing are not a new innovation, at least not on the left where they proliferate. The communist-linked Highlander Folk School was founded in 1932 to train labor union organizers in the union-resistant South. It played a crucial role in training activists, including many notable and famous ones, for what would become the civil rights movement. It’s still around today and played a significant role in training Black Lives Matter activists prior to the 2020 George Floyd uprising.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, conservatives could begin, at least initially, with a curriculum pulled from the works of the left, which has made a study of organizing for political power for nearly two centuries. The right has long rejected this approach to its detriment, as David Hines, author of the Radical Book Club blog and the Organize Right column at The American Conservative has noted:
For some reason, many Righties are allergic to learning from the Left. THAT’S NOT HOW THE RIGHT DOES THINGS, they bellow, by which I assume they mean unpleasant stuff like “winning.” But you don’t have to do everything the way Lefties do it to learn some of the lessons they’ve learned. The Left has been working hard for decades, and they’ve been good enough to put some of their knowledge and experience into books that anyone can read. If you’re going to oppose the Left, it’s useful to know how the Left actually works.
Leftists to Study
Other places to look for educational materials would include the works of Gene Sharp, author of “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” and a library of other work on the influence of nonviolent political action in places where electoral politics is not an option (such as in authoritarian states). The Albert Einstein Institute, founded to carry on his work, is an example of institutional organizing gone global, as it teaches organizing techniques for political power around the globe in a variety of hotspots.
Sharp’s efforts to utilize people power became the basis for what are now euphemistically called “color revolutions” and are the exact kind of program that various elements of the left were prepared to unveil in the event that Donald Trump had managed to win in 2020.
Of course, any such conservative institution would initially struggle to recruit instructors, given the dearth of interest the right has in organizing. But there are some places one could go to look.
In addition to recruiting conservative researchers like Hines who have an understanding of the nature of left-wing organizing, there are individuals at places like the Capital Research Center who have looked into the nature of left-wing fundraising. Within a few places where the right focuses on policy advocacy, particularly within the Second Amendment and pro-life fields, there may be some diamonds in the rough. Other potential teachers are those like journalist Chris Rufo, who can discuss what has and, more importantly, has not worked in recent battles against the left.
There is also a small, and shrinking, generation of conservatives within the national security space who taught the strategy and tactics of the political dark arts to America’s special operators back when America’s foreign policy was to organize opposition to communist movements in civil society (and not to support them).
There are no doubt some former leftists who have repented of their views and can teach the right lessons learned from their time on the other side.
Of course, teachers are only half the equation. Where might such a revolutionary new school find students? One place it should not search for them is among political campaigns, political staffers, and GOP operatives. The work of organizing is different from the work of electioneering, and those with ingrained bad habits are likely to be tough students. Instead, students should be true grassroots activists who either belong to, or who have committed to creating, a nonprofit activist enterprise.
Consider starting, at least initially, in areas where conservative activism has a strong grassroots component, such as Second Amendment and pro-life advocacy, and with those focused on local community efforts such as taking over school boards dominated by leftists pushing their transgressive sexual agenda. Donors might offer fellowships to their preferred activist groups or condition funding upon their willingness to participate in such an educational effort.
In 2020, almost $800 million was spent on the effort to reelect Trump. The Biden campaign spent at least a billion dollars, not counting dark money funds, which favored Biden. Had Trump won, the left was prepared to pull out all the stops to use political street activism to prevent him from taking office, as was outlined in the now notorious Transition Integrity Project’s wargame document.
In the chaos of the post-election environment, the right struggled to organize any kind of campaign to oppose election-integrity issues, which many believed marred the presidential election’s outcome. Charlatans and pied-pipers (including possibly among federal agencies) led many well-meaning people into foreseeable and avoidable disaster because of a lack of professional organizers who knew how to conduct and maintain a lawful but effective protest.
The left’s tendency to reject the outcome of lawful elections has only grown, as can be seen in the ongoing campaign to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who handily won a democratic election only to be undermined by U.S. and left-wing Israeli organizing campaigns that have rocked the country at the behest of the Biden administration. The Israeli right has found itself as defenseless as the American right, and for the same reasons.
If conservative donors are willing to spend nearly a billion dollars to put a person into office, isn’t it reasonable to consider hedging that bet? A mere fraction of that money spent endowing a conservative version of the Highlander School would pay dividends, not just every four years, but for decades to come. If conservatives wish to successfully engage in the modern political arena, they can’t afford not to.