A principled conservative who wishes to succeed within a party should heed the following ten points:
1. Make yourself useful to the party's candidates and the activities of party organizations. Choose carefully what you agree to do, and then do it well.
2. Rise slowly. Don't put yourself forward for every available position of leadership.
If you display competence in your party or campaign activities, other people will soon enough be ready to ask you, even urge you, to seek higher posts. Remember, there is always a big turnover. People without persistence drop out. Many vacancies open up.
Even those party activists who have no particular political philosophy still like to win. If you become valuable to the party and a reliable asset to its candidates, even political opportunists will come to tolerate you and your commitment to principles.
3. Build a secure home base.
It is not necessary that you and your allies now control the local or state party for you to become effective in the long run. What is necessary is that you cultivate allies who will reliably work together for your conservative principles.
The Lone Ranger was never a successful politician.
4. Don't try to solve all the problems you see in a party committee or in a campaign organization.
People resent a know-it-all. Pick and choose the matters in which you become involved. Sometimes it is better to let others learn by their own experience than by your advice.
5. Politics is of the heart as well as of the mind. Many people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is possible often to say unpleasant things pleasantly.
Too often our politically wounded are left to bleed to death. Be compassionate and show it.
6. Study how to win.
Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. Political technology determines political success. Learn how to organize and how to communicate. Most political technology is philosophically neutral. You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win.
7. Expand the leadership.
Do your best to locate, recruit, train and place other conservatives in the political process.
Attrition of leadership is more severe in party organizations than in almost any other activity.
Phyllis Schlafly says, with some justice, that county party chairman is the worst job in politics. Many people burn out quickly.
As you build the size of your base of effective activists, it is natural that your own position within the party will gradually improve.
8. Study the rules of procedure. Or find someone of like mind who is or will become expert on the rules.
One of the reasons for conservative successes within the Republican Party is that many conservatives in that party have taken the time to master the rules of procedure.
Beyond a mastery of the rules comes an understanding of meeting dynamics. Meeting dynamics are best learned by long experience at political meetings.
9. In volunteer politics, a builder can build faster than a destroyer can destroy.
If you achieve anything in politics, you will have enemies, some of whom will delight in attacking your every flaw, real or imagined. Do not spend much time replying to such criticism.
On the average, it takes less time for you to recruit a new activist than it does for your enemies to persuade one of your recruits that you are a bad person.
Over time, you get stronger and your enemies do not.
10. Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.
I'm not perfect. You're not perfect. No candidate is perfect. No party committee is perfect.
If you can't cope with anything less than perfection, you will never achieve anything worthwhile. You would be like the pastor who was so concerned with heavenly things that he was no earthly good.
Perfection is unattainable on this earth, but it is a useful guide to the direction we should go. One can use a good compass for a lifetime without expecting ever to get to the North Pole.
About the Author
Morton Blackwell is the president of the Leadership Institute. This post is excerpted from his writing "People, Parties, and Power."