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Eight Unbreakable Rules for Hard-Core Tea Party Activists (or Any Other Special-Interest Coalition)

Gary North
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Aug. 16, 2010

I joined the conservative movement in 1956 when I joined Fred Schwarz's Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. I wrote an anti-FDR high school term paper in 1958. I supported the Goldwater for Vice President movement in 1960. I voted for Goldwater for President in 1964. I voted for Reagan's Republican primary gubernatorial challenger in 1966, William Penn Patrick, because I thought Reagan was too liberal. (I was right; he imposed income tax withholding in his first term as governor.) I was Ron Paul's first research assistant in 1976.

I am hard core. I have been hard core for a long time.

I am writing this for those of you who are equally hard core.

Here are ten facts of American national politics that you must understand to get meaningful change.

1. You can't beat something with nothing.
2. 80% of politicians respond only to two things: (1) fear; (2) pain.
3. Bureaucrats (tenured) respond only to one thing: budget cuts.
4. Political reform never comes as long as the tax money flows in.
5. The #1 goal is to reduce the government's funds, not re-direct them.
6. Congress's club system sucks in 80% of new members by term #2.
7. Politicians listen to their peers, not to their constituents.
8. Money from the government buys off most voters.
9. Most citizens care little about politics and know less.
10. This gives influence to organized swing-vote blocs.

The political system was summed up a generation ago by the man I regard as the elder statesman of the hard-core wing of the American conservative movement, M. Stanton Evans: "Evans's Law of Political Perfidy."

When our friends get into power, they aren't our friends any more.

To this, I add North's Law of Partisan Politics:

When a movement is in either political party's hip pocket, it will be sat on.

If you do not believe this, then you are a sheep for the shearing -- and then, after several shearings, the roasting. You are on some politician's menu.


These are eight basic rules of engagement. There may be others, but these are fundamental. If you do not believe these, you are headed for disappointment.

1. Vote for a hard-core challenger on the other side against a squishy incumbent. This rule separates the hard core members from the soft core members. It has a corollary: A first-term incumbent next election is easier to beat than a squishy incumbent this election. It is always hard to defeat an incumbent. Do what you can to defeat any incumbent, no matter which party he belongs to, if he is squishy on the issue you regard as fundamental. Why is this so important? Incumbents must become deathly afraid of your movement. Take out a few dozen of them in the next election and the one that follows, and many others will cooperate. As Sen. Everett Dirksen put it so long ago, "When we feel the heat, we see the light." In short, you do not settle for the lesser of two evils. You eliminate them both, one election at a time: first the softie, then the newbie.

2. Hold your newly elected politician's feet to the fire the first time he breaks ranks on a key vote. He is like a puppy. When he leaves a mess on the carpet, get out the switch. "Bad dog! Bad dog!" Let him remember that switch. Let him fear that switch. The second time he does it, warm up the car. You and he will be taking a trip to the pound. You are his voter only for as long as he is your representative. Politicians respond to only two things: fear and pain.

3. Get him to sign a resignation letter. Before you work for him, make sure he has signed a resignation letter. This letter says the following:

To the voters of [district, state]:

I am making this public. If I ever vote for [whatever], I will turn in my letter of resignation to the [government body] within 24 hours.

If I fail to do this, I expect voters to vote against me at the next election, since I clearly cannot be trusted.

I expect my opponent in the primary to defeat me next time, and if he doesn't, my opponent in the general election will. And should.

Very truly yours,

Name Candidate for [whatever]

This is a political suicide letter. You will see who is serious about your #1 issue and who is not by means of a signed resignation letter. Post it online. If he refuses to sign it, start working to undermine him after he defeats the squishy incumbent. Above all, do not trust him.

No candidate will sign more than a few of these. Any candidate who will not sign at least one is just another glory-seeking, power-seeking, retirement bonanza-seeking political hack. Like a drone bee who is useful only once in his life, he is useful for only one thing: defeating a squishy incumbent.

You say he refuses to sign? Don't donate any money or time to his campaign. You should vote for him against a squishy incumbent, but you will immediately start working to replace him.

4. Track all of his votes on your #1 issue, and post them online. The Congress deliberately seeks to conceal voting results. Your committee must keep track of every vote related to your interest. This means that someone must follow the voting schedule. If there is no record of his vote, call his office. Ask for an email with his vote recorded. My suggestion: make sure he has an assistant send an email to your committee after every vote in this area, explaining it. Post all of this without alteration. If he breaks ranks, make sure you have a clear statement of why this was a bad vote.

This is boring. This is time-consuming. This is vital. You must see if there is a pattern in his voting on your issue.

I wish there were watchdog sites that cover every vote. Be sure there is one for your special interest.

WordPress is free ( A domain name costs $10 a year to register. A multi-site hosting service like Hostgator is $10 a month or less. Have a separate site for every candidate and elected official.

This would make a great civics project for home schoolers: track a candidate for the school year. Then turn the task over to a new student. Have the committee run the sites, but students can do the grunt work. It is good practice.

5. Find out who his largest campaign donors are. This will tell you who will have the most clout when he takes office. Investigate the PACs. Investigate the donors who send in the maximum donation allowed. Are they members of one group? Post this information on the site that you set up to monitor his votes.

6. Instill fear. This is your #1 task, once he takes office.

7. Inflict pain. This is the basis of #6.

8. Trust, but verify. If your group refuses to verify, it should not trust.


Politics is not based on love, because civil government is based on coercion. Do not impose "tough love" on a politician. He is not to love you. He is to obey you. You are not to love him. You are to monitor him. Impose negative sanctions and positive sanctions wisely.

Politicians surround themselves with young men and young women who serve as staffers, plus a few old-timers who have survived in the staffing system and who are unimpressed with their bosses, but are even less impressed with the boss's constituents. Politicians spend time in each other's company. They are not much impressed with their colleagues, but they are very impressed with themselves. They are not impressed by their constituents. Finally, they spend time raising money. So, they have to spend time with lobbyists.

I shall now end my little lesson on politics with a verbatim citation from one of the great masters of state-wide politics, Jesse Unruh. He was the Speaker of the California Assembly in the late 1960s. He was known as Big Daddy. He ran against Ronald Reagan in 1970 and lost. But he later was elected state Treasurer. Here is what he said about the proper attitude toward lobbyists:

"If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, and still vote against them, you have no business being up here."

So committed was he to this philosophy of life that he chose to die of prostate cancer at age 65 rather than have his prostate surgically removed, because he would not risk the sexual impotence that might result from surgical removal.

He loved dealing with lobbyists.

We are dealing with dedicated people. We are dealing with power-seeking, often ruthless people. Don't try to buy them off. Don't try to sweet-talk them. If they don't vote the way you want them to vote, defeat them. This, they understand. This, they fear.

Either they are on your menu, or you are on theirs. I suggest the former.

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