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October 30, 2008

Overcoming the “Charlie Brown Syndrome”

Quote of the Day: “When I was young American politics were fairly straightforward: conservatives let you keep all your money in return for telling you how to live your life, while liberals let you live as you pleased in return for all your money. Now the only difference is whether they want your money or your life first.” — D.A. Ridgely

Subject: Overcoming the “Charlie Brown Syndrome”

When people learn I’m working to downsize DC they assume I care about the coming election. They say things like, “This must be your busy season!” Actually, it’s our slow season. Our growth statistics tend to drop during elections. 

People are distracted by the sport of the contest, and by the hope that things will be different this time. But this is like thinking Lucy will finally let Charlie Brown kick the football. You’ve got to hand it to Charlie; he’s not a quitter.

But given the evidence, maybe he should be.

We call this kind of rigorous devotion to a failed strategy “The Charlie Brown Syndrome,” and we too, like so many others, have suffered from it in the past.

Here at we can’t get excited about the choice between the tax-and-spend candidate and the borrow-and-spend politician. And there aren’t that many TRULY VIABLE downsizing candidates on the ballot anywhere.

Only two VIABLE Congressional candidates have endorsed our Downsize DC Agenda (Read the Bills, One Subject at a Time, etc.). Both Dr. BJ Lawson of North Carolina and David Krikorian of Ohio are challengers, bucking the odds.

This scarcity of VIABLE choices owes to the fact that no one has yet recruited and mobilized a large enough constituency to attract and support such candidates. This is the fundamental reality that everyone obsessed with campaigns keeps missing.

Politics is full of hoops to jump through, has numerous points of friction, and ends in a zero sum game (where there can be only one winner). In a campaign nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like anything short of success.

The partisan electoral strategy is rigged to fail us. And fail it does. Constantly. At a huge cost of  your time and your money.

The partisan electoral strategy constantly presents a ball to be kicked, only to yank it away. This year, November 4th is the day the ball gets yanked away yet again, and those of us who believe in smaller government will once more end up like Charlie Brown, flat on our backs.

Please don’t misunderstand. We’re not hostile to all political campaigns. Neither do we argue that they have no place in a complete downsizing strategy. We simply assert that they should not be our focus NOW, or for a considerable time to come.

In most cases it will be worse than pointless to run a political campaign for the simple reason that no one has yet recruited and mobilized a large constituency to support such a campaign.

It’s not that it can’t be done. Numerous opinion polls demonstrate that their is ample support for a downsizing agenda in the populace. It’s just that no one has ever focused exclusively on recruiting and mobilizing such a constituency.

And, as we argued yesterday, most of our institutions — campaigns and political parties included — are poorly designed for doing so. Indeed, we would strongly argue that political parties and campaigns are almost perfectly designed to NOT accomplish the goal.

We need to stop being Charlie Brown. We need to focus on the first task. Build the constituency, the army, the parade. Do this first, and the rest will follow. We mention the army constantly because it’s that important. When I’m doing a radio interview, I usually express this sentiment by saying,

“Politicians aren’t leaders. They’re not statesmen. They’re not philosopher-kings. They’re opportunists, looking for a parade that’s marching somewhere — so they can pretend to lead it! We want to build a parade for small, constitutionally limited, decentralized government.”  

And, over the last 40 days, we’ve added more than 470 NET new subscribers to this Downsizer-Dispatch army.

Friends, if we build the parade, successful candidates that say (AND DO) the right things will come to offer you their “leadership.” And, like everything else in life it will take funding. That’s why we’re doing our usual end-of-the-month fundraising drive. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost much to run and to achieve our UNIQUE combination of education, recruitment, and action.

The best way to EXPAND our reach is with a monthly pledge. Most pledge with a credit card, others have checks scheduled to come from their bank each month. Two pledgers hand-write their checks. But all of them give us secure funding with which to grow. Monthly pledges of as little as $5 (less than 16 cents per day) keep us moving forward. Our average monthly pledger gives about $13 per month, and the largest monthly pledger gives $250 each month.

If pledging isn’t your style, we’re still $3,194 shy of budget for the month of October. We still need one-time contributions between $10 and $2,000 to help us close the gap for this month.
All financial supporters receive a copy of our 16-page booklet “The Downsize DC Vision.”

We hope YOU can help.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC army.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

P.S. is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support candidates for public office.

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