Surprised? Don’t be. Whether using peaceful dissent, raised hands by professional athletes, or outright violence, these protestors boost public approval for those they most despise.
And who do they despise? Cops? Too limited. White people? Too broad. Look closely at who is protesting. Not all are black, and one black group is conspicuously absent—black Conservatives. The sole commonality among these protesters isn’t race, but ideology, for they are all Liberal. And that means they oppose Conservatives—or to be politically exact, Republicans. Virtually all these protesters, either in St. Louis or nationally, hate Republicans.
And that is precisely who they’re helping.
To see why, think back to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recall election. At issue was his decision to remove collective bargaining rights for public teacher unions, and for much of the campaign, Walker’s opposition appeared to be winning. But something changed. Abandoning their classrooms and taking to the streets, the teachers protested…loudly. Closing schools, shouting obscenities, and marching with vicious signs, mobs of Wisconsin’s teachers seemed ready to dethrone their hated nemesis. Walker was on the ropes. Walker was doomed. Walker was…rebounding nicely in the polls, en route to a solid victory.
The protesting teachers erred. Big time. You see, Wisconsin parents knew their kids’ teachers were union members, but they never made the connection. Teachers were seen as highly educated, friends to children, heroes to communities—nothing like those scary unions. But that changed. Watching angry mobs shout like thugs, parents saw their tax dollars at work. They saw power. They saw rage. They saw what had been educating their kids.
We Conservatives protest, too. We protest President Obama’s actions. We protest our party leadership. Is this bad? On the contrary, it’s crucial. Conservatives must never silence themselves, as this would render America and the GOP rudderless, anchorless, and worthless. So don’t sit back. But to make the highest impact, we should apply the lessons of Wisconsin and Ferguson, lest we help our opponents.
So, what are those lessons?
- Don’t burn your audience. “Burn it down! Burn it all down!” This battle cry works fine when aimed away from the people you hope to win.
But when Ferguson protesters started burning businesses—or even just stopping traffic and interrupting an NFL game—they crossed a line. Those businesses, the highways, and the game weren’t just used by twelve hated jurors. Everyone was affected. Either literally or figuratively, the Ferguson protesters “burned” those they hoped to persuade.
Likewise, when Wisconsin teachers closed classes to march, they stopped affecting Scott Walker and started affecting families. This torched education itself. So, when they stormed the voting booths screaming, “Who’s with me?!” they came up short.
- Be the good guys. I’ll never forget those enraged Wisconsin teachers. Same with Ferguson. For a protest to gain support, people must see it as building, not destroying, for many won’t follow petty wrath. People want to follow good guys.
- Listen. The Ferguson protesters hurt their cause by not believing evidence or hearing opposing logic. Bathed in a victim mentality, they insisted the real truth was hidden by powerful forces. They just knew it. This conspiracy mindset wrecked their credibility.
- Offer reasonable alternatives. Wisconsin’s union teachers offered no empowerment for taxpayers and parents. And in Ferguson, liberals wanted the police either out of their communities or on a leash. How unrealistic. Can cops protect us against violent threats while measuring every tactic and showing restraint toward preferred groups? Ridiculous. As in Wisconsin, no sensible options were proposed.
Doing it Right
The Ferguson riots rallied a community, but unlike Martin Luther King, they won’t win a nation. Quite the opposite, actually. In fact, if Republicans respond by pushing free market job creation for inner cities (think “Enterprise Zones” or my “Back in Business” plan), we’ll make a sizable dent in urban voting. We’ll deepen our national support. It’s a win-win, if we seize the opportunity—and we have these riots to thank for it.
But just as importantly, let’s apply the lessons of Ferguson and Wisconsin to our own protests.
- In fighting Obama, let’s make it crystal clear we want to burn down his harmful policies, not the programs people feel they need.
Should we therefore run from government shutdowns? Not at all! In fact, I believe a shutdown over Obama’s immigration actions would be much better received than last year’s attempt. But don’t forget Ferguson and Wisconsin! Read the audience. Make sure they know it is Obama burning down their city, not us. Hear their concerns. Be their heroes. And always offer better, simple alternatives they can grasp.
We thought we did this last year, but we miscalculated—even though that shutdown was completely valid and good. This time and going forward, let’s get it right.
- Don’t burn down 3rd parties or the Tea Party or the Republican Party. Be the good guys, not elitist insiders or angry outsiders always looking for fault. Propose realistic, workable coalitions. Have you already tried this? Try harder. Quit reveling in hopelessness. Provide realistic paths to victory. Don’t destroy. Create.
Yes, I’m going light on details. Since every situation is different, one-size-fits-all won’t cut it. But the next time we protest—whether in closed-door “power meetings” or on Facebook—let’s think about those failed protests in Wisconsin and Ferguson. Learn from them! Think about whose city we’re about to burn. Listen with compassion. Quit assuming every election loss, grassroots defection, or leadership failure is someone else’s fault. Look at the one place where Ferguson and Wisconsin protesters never even glance: Into a mirror.
Here at Christmas time, the Ferguson protesters are giving us amazing gifts. They’re giving us broad approval we haven’t earned. They’re giving us opportunities to reach urban voters with positive ideas. But most of all, they’re giving us protest lessons we should never forget.
These are great gifts. Let’s not return them.