Generation Z may be the heir to a bankrupt social security system and over $21.6 trillion of debt, but unlike generations before them, they aren’t buying into socialism, and they aren’t kicking the can down the road. A student army, nine years in the making, descended into state house districts across the United States, knocked on over 1 million doors, and clinched 35 midterm wins for libertarian-leaning candidates as part of a project called “Operation Win at the Door.”
Operation Win at the Door was the brainchild of Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) President Cliff Maloney Jr. Originally developed from the Students for Ron Paul movement, YAL is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on college campuses with over 900 chapters and 300,000 activists nationwide.
Historically, YAL focused on expanding their campus footprint and educating students on the principles of liberty; however, in 2018 Maloney thought it was time for action. After YAL’s sister organization received status as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, allowing activists to engage in lobbying and the promotion of candidates, Maloney laid out an ambitious plan to elect 250 principled state legislators by 2022.
First, the plan called for identifying candidates running on liberty-based principles and vetting them via survey. The survey contained 29 questions related to taxes, spending, civil liberties, regulation reform, etc. to determine which candidates supported free minds, free markets, and limited government. Notably missing from YAL’s selection criteria was party affiliation. Maloney told me “When principles come first, party is nothing but a vehicle. Real reform is possible when people are led by more than blind party loyalty.”
Secondly, the plan called for hiring, training, and deploying activists. Teams consisting of 10 activists would be assembled and sent to targeted house districts with the mission of knocking on 35,000 doors and talking to likely voters three times; ultimately making sure voters turn up to support the YAL endorsed candidate on Election Day.
The details of the plan, including the numbers, were covertly worked out in a test case of sorts during the first state primary in 2018. During the Texas primary, YAL endorsed Mayes Middleton, a conservative Republican, who was challenging an entrenched establishment incumbent for Texas’ 23rd District. YAL sent in 14 activists who knocked on over 25,000 doors throughout three weeks. Mayes beat the incumbent by 14 points.
YAL continued deploying and tweaking their formula in various states during primary season in anticipation of the ultimate test, the midterm election. The organization endorsed 45 candidates from 11 states in the midterm election; 42 Republicans, 3 Libertarians, and six former YAL activists. Teams of canvassers, averaging around 21-years old, flooded the respective House districts about a month before the election and knocked on over 1 million doors.
Election night vindicated YAL’s tactics as they brought home 35 wins (potentially 36 pending certification in Iowa.) In a YAL-issued press release, Maloney said “Mark my words: YAL will elect 250 state house members by the end of 2022. This is how we mobilize YAL’s national college campus network to build the next generation of leaders and advance the libertarian philosophy.”
Juxtaposed to YAL’s election night wins were those of the new, progressive guard of the Democratic Party. When I asked Maloney what their electoral success meant for liberty, he said: “Democratic Socialists stand against nearly every principle YAL holds dear.” Nonetheless, Maloney believes that YAL is the “insurgency” that will stop the rise of socialism in America.
YAL sees each win as a realization that their beliefs in “free markets, civil liberties, and support for the Constitution” are resonating. Maloney believes that the ripple effect that YAL has started in the minds of young people “…will pay dividends for decades to come.” As one YAL canvasser, 21-year old Ana McMullen said, the “ five words that scare the hell out of socialists are: Operation Win at the Door.”
YAL may have won big in 2018, but they aren’t resting on their laurels in 2019. Maloney told me that YAL is seeking to endorse 10 candidates in both Virginia and Mississippi as well as 5 in both Louisiana and New Jersey. Electing 250 state legislators by 2022 is merely the means to achieving the ultimate goal of creating “…an upward mobility of state-based leaders running for federal office, reinforcing the likes of Senator Rand Paul, Congressman Justin Amash, and Congressman Thomas Massie” in order to take the country back. Or more simply put, to change the course of history.