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What’s Wrong with the Conservative Movement?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I was recently having a drink and cigar in the office of a good friend who runs one of the conservative movement’s most powerful advocacy groups. I’m not going to name him because this problem is not unique to his group – nor, in fact, is it unique at all.

My friend showed me his group’s latest video. It needed a little work, but overall it was excellent. The only problem is no one who matters is ever going to see it.

It will be polished a bit, put on the Internet and sent to donors. And that’s about all that will be done with it.

What we conservatives don’t seem to realize is preaching to the choir, although important, doesn’t do any real good. Conservatives already are in our camp.

We also don’t seem to realize we’re dealing with a public that is not uninformed but misinformed. To be effective, we need not only a communications strategy that focuses on message, we need one that focuses on conveying that message.

The media isn’t our friend. Relying on it to convey our message in an honest way is both stupid and lazy. Most national “reporters” are so in bed with Democrats they want free birth control to keep themselves from getting pregnant.

Creating a web video seen by hundreds while progressives control national TV newscasts viewed by millions makes no sense and no progress.

Yet, I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where someone from some group talks about how they’re going to make “viral videos,” and those videos will make all the difference.

Only, if simply willing a video to go viral were all it took, we’d all be YouTube millionaires. In fact, most videos produced by our side reach no one new. They end up on Facebook pages of people already convinced, or – best-case scenario – they are discussed on cable news viewed overwhelmingly by an audience of true believers.

There’s something to be said for reinforcing the beliefs of people on your side, but it’s not exactly expanding the base. We have to think differently about messaging. We must speak around the media because our opponents control it.

We do good research, but we need to spread the results effectively. We’re great at raising money, but we need to spend it more effectively.

We spend way too much time and energy pushing the wrong buttons to spread our message even though, in most cases, we know it doesn’t work. We spend lavishly on lunch for reporters who attend our events, even though these well-fed reporters rarely make the expense worthwhile.

And if they do write about it, who cares? It’s a one-day shot, quickly done, quickly forgotten and drowned out when the MSM returns to regular programming.

What we need is someone with the money and guts to break the mold. Since most people don’t watch the news, we need to go where the most people are – prime-time television.

How much of the idiotic birth control debate could have been diffused if someone put funny, common-sense ads in primetime TV saying, “Democrats spend all their time demanding taxpayers cover the cost of birth control for all women when we already provide it for those who can’t afford it and it’s available to everyone for $9 a month. So why the focus on this? Because they haven’t passed a budget in more than 1,000 days? Because their economic policies have failed? Because gas prices and unemployment are through the roof?”

Yes, that message is conveyed by talking heads most people don’t watch, in op-eds most people don’t read and in “viral videos” no one sees. But you won’t find it on the TV programs most people watch. Why? Because it costs money.

Yet, instead of investing in getting the message where it truly needs to be, our side doubles down on building huge email lists, then renting them to other groups or candidates to still more money from the same committed conservative consumers.

All so these groups can say “We led the fight” or “We have X number of members” – as if that makes America a better place in any way.

All so they can continue to spend an inordinate amount of money to inform the choir just how effective they are as we lose battle after battle. Most of the big conservative “victories” of the last 15 years have amounted to stopping bad things from getting worse. Government hasn’t shrunk. Spending hasn’t been cut. Regulations haven’t been repealed. We’re losing liberty, and these groups pat themselves on the back for extending the game. Delaying loss does not equal victory.

Part of the problem is many of the “leaders” of the conservative movement have been around too long. Their mindset is still pre-1994. They still act as if they’ve been in the minority all their lives and probably always will be. They fight under the Marquis of Queensbury rules; the left employs a guerrilla warfare designed to win at all costs.

And if it doesn’t change, we’ll continue to lose.

It’s time we dedicate our efforts to educating those who aren’t part of the base. It’s time we quit bragging about our effectiveness until we get some effectiveness to brag about – at which point, we won’t need to brag. It’s time for one of these “leading groups in the conservative movement” to actually lead.

We’ve spent enough time in the passenger seat as progressives drive the narrative and run the country into a ditch. It’s time we buy our own damn car.

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