#1 Lesson from YAL National Convention 2011

My fellow attendees and I learned a lot at the YAL National Convention, working through nearly 12 hours a day of lectures and lessons from some wonderful and incredibly experienced campaign staffers.  Now how do we bring it back home to our respective YAL chapters?  Well, it’s going to take a while to process and sift through all the information, but the one thing that may be the most important piece of information that the progressives have known for over 100 years is this:  All politics is personal.

What exactly does that mean?  It means that our superior philosophy won’t always win the day.  In fact, most of the time for most people, it won’t.  Most people don’t have the time or the patience to be involved in politics.  They don’t want to read Ron Paul’s books; they don’t want to debate; they don’t have the time to contact their representatives or even try to keep up with the news; and they DEFINITELY don’t want to jump into reading Austrian economics.  We need to understand and accept the fact that we live in a soundbite world.  We have a finite amount of time to get our message out before people either get turned off or tune us out.

Many of us could talk about the philosophy of liberty for hours on end, but we need to be able to cut our arguments down to a 20-minute speech, a 2-page article, or even a 30-second YouTube video.  Obviously we’re not going to be able to talk about everything we would like to cover.  Instead, we’ll have to target certain groups of people.  Targeting is the tactic of identifying an audience and tailoring your message to them.  No, tailoring doesn’t mean selling out — in fact, make sure you stick to your principles because people tend to respond positively to honesty.  Instead, you are simply focusing your ideas to the audience you are targeting.  So for example, if you are talking to a pro-life group, you aren’t going to start talking about free markets and the privatization of roads; you’re going to talk about stopping abortion — even if free markets are actually your main issue.

Targeting can also be used to expose statists.  Anyone remember the Shirley Sherrod case?  A two minute video made the Obama administration jump to conclusions and fire a completely innocent person.  While this isn’t the greatest example because it is important to be truthful in our claims, it really does a nice job of showing how little it takes to get a reaction out of the majority of people.

This is what the progressives have done for years and it is time for us to catch up.  I’m sure most of us wonder how the progressives have lasted for so long despite the irrationality of their philosophy.  However, when you think in the context of appealing to the majority of apathetic voters, it’s a wonder how we’ve lasted this long:  We continue to assume that simple education in the philosophy of liberty will change the minds of millions.  This method may be great for young, open minds, but it won’t do much good for some years to come.  If we can combine our superior philosophy with the political tactics of the progressives, we are certain to win the day.

So remember:  Keep your message short, simple, and to the point, and keep it tailored to your audience.

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