Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk
“What can we do?” has been a common refrain from frustrated conservatives ever since the presidential election. Dan O’Donnell has an answer. Seven of them, actually.
May 5, 2021
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell
With each new revelation about the patently unlawful way the Wisconsin Elections Commission and municipal election officials ran the 2020 presidential election, conservatives have either surrendered to feelings of hopelessness or steeled their resolve to fight back.
The former, of course, solves nothing and all but ensures another defeat next year, but the latter is all too often accompanied by confusion.
“So what can we do?” has been a frequent refrain borne of both a genuine desire to help and a skepticism that anything can actually be done.
It can and, truthfully, it must. The battle for Wisconsin’s future has already begun, whether conservatives feel like fighting it or not. Those who have started to fight have already racked up impressive victories by doing one or more of these seven things:
- Go to local school board, county board, and city council meetings
Don’t just go: Take notes, ask questions, talk to board members afterwards. Get to know them and get them to know you. The easiest way to influence those in power is to get to know those in power and let them know what their constituents think of what they’re doing.
“All politics is local,” former House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously said, and never before has this been truer. Over the past year, school boards didn’t just decide whether to add chicken patties to the lunch menu; they decided whether kids would be allowed back in school.
Suddenly the spring elections to which no one really pays attention were just as important as the presidential race, as their consequences were even more acutely felt in districts whose children fell drastically behind their peers.
In the conservative community of Burlington, open war over critical race theory creeping into elementary school curriculum galvanized local conservatives, who organized and elected two of their own while voting out a liberal backer of the Black Lives Matter instigators who had terrorized school board meetings for months.
“We saved our community,” said one relieved voter.
This didn’t happen in a vacuum; it took months of planning and organization that started with parents and residents concerned enough about the direction their schools and community were heading to take a stand.
- Join the local Republican Party chapter
The independent-minded nature of conservatism always leads to healthy criticism of the GOP, but in recent years it has taken on a sharper edge as the Grand Ole Party has seemed, well, old and out of touch with modern conservatism.
Philosophical differences between the old-guard traditionalists and Trump-era populists notwithstanding, the Republican Party is the only vessel with which the united forces of conservatism have a prayer of stopping the march of the radicalized Democrats.
Anyone who has ever said “There’s no difference between the two parties” has obviously never actually paid attention to politics. In just the last two months, Democrats have destroyed the country’s southern border, proposed $6 trillion in federal spending, began planning to pack the US Supreme Court with four new liberal justices, and voted to make Washington, DC a state solely to gain a permanent majority in the Senate. Oh, and they are also now open in their belief that America is a fundamentally racist, awful country that was founded by bigots and currently populated by mouth-breathing insurrectionists.
Still think the Republican Party is pretty much the same? It is the only thing standing in the way of unabashed, unashamed, unworkable socialism, and it needs members. Don’t like the GOP’s platform and direction? Join it and change it. Don’t think it is sufficiently populist? Join it and push it in your philosophical direction.
In the days and weeks after the presidential election, a number of motivated conservatives reported calling or emailing their county GOP office without ever receiving a response (except maybe a fundraising letter a few weeks later). This is a primary way to help: Keep calling and emailing until there is a response, and volunteer to answer the phones and emails. Bring a friend or two.
Go to the local Pints and Politics events. If there aren’t any, organize them. It’s easy: Tell a bar you’re coming (often times they will give you a private room—especially on weeknights), post an ad on Facebook or get it on the party meeting agenda, and then have some cocktails and maybe even listen to a politician or conservative columnist/radio host (rumor has it that O’Donnell guy speaks at such events often).
Where else can you rub elbows with and, more importantly, talk about the issues with a senator or congressman? They attend and they listen to their constituents. Always be friendly, always be polite, but always be mindful that they need your vote to get reelected. Use that opportunity to tell them what your priorities are—and what their priorities should be.
- Run for something
You know that good-for-nothing liberal you’ve gotten to know because you’ve started going to school board meetings? He’s up for reelection next spring. You’ve been attending the meetings, you’ve been taking notes, you know the issues as well as anyone. Why not run against him?
It’s easier than you might think. The local Republican Party you’ve joined runs candidate seminars that teach the basics of door-to-door campaigning, fundraising, and everything else a first-time candidate needs to know.
The first rule of thumb is that the decision to run should be made as early as possible so as to build a network of support in the community. That means the time to start is now. Whether it’s school board, county board, village trustee, or even a state assembly seat, all candidacies start with a decision to get involved.
Former State Senator Leah Vukmir, one of the most respected conservative leaders of the past several decades, got into politics because she was a parent who didn’t like the direction her children’s school was headed. Arguably the most transformative governor in Wisconsin history, Scott Walker, was a 22-year-old college dropout when he challenged then-State Representative Gwen Moore. He lost but moved to Wauwatosa the following year and won a special Assembly election.
Vukmir and Walker were unique political talents, but the next generation of conservative leaders needs only the motivation to start a political career. Why not do it now?
- Volunteer for a campaign
Let’s face it: Public speaking, shaking hands, and kissing babies isn’t everyone’s thing. Not everyone wants the spotlight of a campaign on them, but everyone can make a difference in a political campaign. All it takes is a willingness to volunteer.
At the local level (and, really, at every level of politics), voter contact is the single most important factor. Go out and knock on doors in support of the best candidate for the office. Sing their praises to friends and family members. Convince them that the candidate you support is the candidate they should support. A referral from a friend isn’t just the best way to sell a product; it’s also the best way to convince an undecided voter.
Volunteering for a campaign is also a great way to make connections in politics and to learn what it takes to be a candidate. If this election cycle is too soon for a run, maybe it’s the perfect time to aid someone else’s run and learn the intricacies of campaigning ahead of the 2023 or 2024 election cycles.
- Become an election inspector (aka a poll worker)
This is for anyone who complained about how the votes were counted in November: You can actually be the one counting the votes. There’s no better way to make sure the votes are tabulated accurately than by becoming a tabulator yourself. Unlike poll greeters and election registration officials, who have to be residents of the county in which they are working, there is no residency requirement for tabulators, who assist in the counting of votes once the polls close on Election Day.
All three of these roles put one in intimate contact with voting and in a perfect position to report any irregularities. Heck, these are the people who can prevent irregularities from happening in the first place.
These two-year positions do require some brief training, but they are paid, and often poll workers are paid for their training sessions as well. Moreover, the law requires employers to give their employees time off to serve as poll workers, so it’s a guaranteed day off of work.
It’s also technically a partisan position since poll workers are chosen from names provided by both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Think the Democratic Party wants as many of their people (and only their people) working the polls in as many wards as humanly possible? The best way to ensure that elections are run honestly is to help run elections.
- Become a chief election inspector
Simply put, the chief election inspector runs the voting site. They manage the poll workers, observers, partisan officials, exit polling, all of it. They resolve any ballot issues that may arise and even “complete voter and ballot reconciliation.” In other words, they “enforce and ensure compliance with all Election Day policies and procedures.”
There is no better way to ensure a fair election in one’s ward than by serving as the chief election inspector, who has the legal responsibility of running each ward in accordance with state law.
Like regular election inspectors, chief election inspectors serve two-year terms, and while a three-to-five-hour training session is required, the chief election inspector is also a paid position for which employers must by law excuse their employees.
If a day off work and the power to ensure that a voting site is run honestly sounds like the way you’d like to contribute, click here to begin the application process.
- Become an election observer
Under state law, “any member of the public may be present at any polling place, in the office of any municipal clerk whose office is located in a public building on any day that absentee ballots may be cast in that office, or at an alternate site…on any day that absentee ballots may be cast at that site for the purpose of observation of an election and the absentee ballot voting process.”
One does not need to be affiliated with a political party to serve as an election observer, but the Republican Party is the best place to apply so that there are enough Republican election observers at each polling place.
A major issue in the presidential election was the deliberate lack of access Republican observers had in Democrat-controlled wards, primarily because there weren’t enough Republican observers to make enough of a stink about the lack of access.
Democrat cheating happens when Republicans don’t have eyes on them, so the best way to keep eyes on them is to volunteer to be an observer…and not just on Election Day. The law requires that municipal clerks and local election boards to have observers present every single day that absentee ballots are cast, so it is vital that Republican observers are at every single Democrat-controlled voting site every single day that Democrats can be casting votes.
Election Day is now Election Month (and, if Democrats get there way, even longer than that), which is a deliberate ploy to conduct as much voting as possible outside of the watchful eye of Republican observers. Don’t let them.
The best way to ensure that the 2020 presidential election doesn’t happen again is to learn the lessons from the 2020 presidential election. Republicans were caught flat-footed by the lengths Democrats were willing to go to win, but now that good conservatives aren’t demoralized but energized, they know what to watch out for and how to stop it.
Whether it’s by serving as an election observer or poll worker to try to make future elections more honest on the ground or joining a local GOP chapter, volunteering for a campaign, or running for local office, there are plenty of things conservatives can do to take the fight to the left and take back control of this state. They just have to be willing to do them.