What is your political impact?

wright-elliottMany Americans, especially conservatives, are reluctant to get politically involved. They already have jobs, housework, family obligations, religious priorities and other civic responsibilities. Besides, politics is dirty and disgusting and controlled by big money and special interests, right? What can the average person do?

But there often comes a time when people get fed up, when they grow tired of shouting at the idiots on TV, and they’re ready to take action. But what to do? Many will try something, get frustrated when things don’t immediately change, then return to their lives as usual.

Short of running for political office yourself, how can you make a difference?

Here are 75 ways to get involved:

# Action Time Cost Impact
1 Register to vote 30 mins Postage stamp Low
2 Vote 30 mins-1 hr Nothing High
3 Call an elected official 1-5 mins Not significant Medium
4 Write an elected official 30 mins-1 hr Postage stamp Medium
5 Text an elected official 30 seconds Standard rates apply Medium
6 Visit an elected official 15 mins-1 hr Nothing High
7 Join a county party Not significant $20-35 Medium
8 Join a state or national party Not significant $10 and up Medium
9 Join a local club Not significant $20-35 Medium
10 Join a think tank or PAC Not significant $25 and up Low
11 Subscribe to a newsletter Not significant Nothing Low
12 Forward or share a message 1 min Nothing Medium
13 Attend a club meeting 1-2 hrs Nothing Low
14 Make get out the vote calls Varies Nothing Medium
15 Make other phone calls Varies Nothing Medium
16 Write a letter to the editor 30 mins-1 hr Nothing (by email) Medium
17 Write a blog post 30 mins-1 hr Nothing Medium
18 Attend a campaign rally 30 mins-1 hr Nothing Low
19 Attend a town hall 1-2 hrs Nothing Low
20 Attend a fundraiser 30 mins-2 hrs $20 and up High
21 Contribute to a candidate Not significant $5 and up High
22 Contribute to a club / org / party Not significant $5 and up High
23 Create a walk list 30 mins-1 hr Not significant Medium
24 Go door-to-door 1-8 hrs Not significant High
25 Write a social media post 2-10 mins Nothing Medium
26 Write an email 10-20 mins Nothing Medium
27 Talk to your circle 2-10 mins Nothing High
28 Photograph/video an event Varies Not significant Medium
29 Assume a party leadership role Varies Not significant High
30 Assume a club leadership role Varies Not significant High
31 Form a club or group Varies Varies High
32 Manage a campaign Varies Not significant High
33 Organize campaign volunteers Varies Not significant High
34 Initiate a referendum/recall Varies Not significant High
35 Deliver yard signs 1-8 hrs Gasoline Medium
36 Write a campaign speech Varies Nothing Medium
37 Host a fundraiser 2-4 hrs Varies High
38 Attend a debate or forum 1-2 hrs Nothing Low
39 Give a speech 5-30 mins Nothing High
40 Give a media interview 5-30 mins Nothing High
41 Write a press release 1-2 hrs Nothing Medium
42 Read political literature Varies Varies Low
43 Research issues/candidates Varies Varies Low
44 Create a graphic or cartoon Varies Not significant Medium
45 Create and/or edit a video Varies Not significant Medium
46 Write an editorial 2-8 hrs Nothing Medium
47 Recruit a candidate Varies Nothing High
48 Attend a leadership meeting 1-2 hrs Nothing Low
49 Address envelopes Varies Nothing Medium
50 Greet voters at polls 1-8 hrs Nothing High
51 Watch polls as party official Up to 12 hrs Nothing Medium
52 Work as an election official 1 or more days Paid salary High
53 Paid campaign work Varies Paid salary High
54 Plant signs at polling places Varies Not signficant Medium
55 Attend a campaign school 4-8 hrs and up Varies Low
56 Attend a training session Varies Varies Low
57 Host a training session Varies Varies High
58 Wear/display campaign material Not significant Varies Medium
59 Develop campaign material Varies Varies High
60 Host a meet-and-greet 2-4 hrs Varies High
61 Attend a meet-and-greet 15-30 mins Nothing Low
62 Provide in-kind service/support Varies Varies High
63 Participate in a silent auction 5-15 mins Varies Medium
64 Donate item to a silent auction Not significant Varies High
65 Participate in a street rally 30 mins-2 hrs Nothing Medium
66 Sponsor a campaign mail-out Not significant Varies High
67 Volunteer at a campaign HQ Varies Nothing High
68 Volunteer at a campaign event Varies Nothing High
69 Plan an event Varies Nothing High
70 Call a talk radio show 5 mins – 3 hrs Not significant Medium
71 Sign a petition 5 mins Nothing Medium
72 Watch or listen to a news show 30 mins-1 hr Nothing Low
73 Offer voter transportation Varies Gasoline High
74 Voter data entry / management Varies Nothing Medium
75 Speak at a public meeting 3-5 mins Nothing High

So what’s your political action score? Which of these ideas are you ready to try next?

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not HypeYoutility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype by Jay Baer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Youtility is a form of marketing that is desired by customers (because it freely provides them with useful information) and beneficial to companies (because it creates loyal, trusting business relationships).

Author Jay Baer says Youtility is replacing three former marketing strategies that are difficult to achieve and maintain: top-of-mind awareness (sustained messaging), frame-of-mind awareness (fulfilling existing demand at the time of purchase) and friend-of-mine awareness (reliance on viral messages and riding the zeitgeist).

Youtility marketing features self-serve information, radical transparency, and real-time relevancy. Much of this is made possible through online technology and media, including email, blogs, videos, social media and apps.

Organizations must resist the inclination to use these avenues to promote themselves rather than provide information that is actually useful to future customers. For Youtility to work, it must be central to a company’s processes, part of its DNA. Marketing strategies must be entirely reconfigured around the goal of being useful, relevant and transparent. And organizations must continue to adapt the strategy to meet the need.

One interesting point from Chapter 10, “Insource Youtility,” is Baer’s contention that social media marketing is a skill every employee should learn and use. The author explains that just as typing and making photocopies were once reserved for separate departments but have become competencies expected of every employee, so too will social media engagement. A company’s knowledge is locked inside the minds of a wide range of its employees, and empowering them to contribute to the organization’s Youtiliity is key. Besides, customers are known to trust a company’s experts and other employees more than its CEO.

Baer’s book is easy to read and follows its own advice, providing an easy reference guide at the end and a free executive summary and chapter online. It will force you to rethink your company’s marketing approach, and your own service orientation.

Angry CA columnist needs lesson in geography

Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi C. Thomas is outraged that “voter ID restrictions that disenfranchise thousands of black, poor or disabled Tennesseans will remain law.”

She shares the story of Justin Jones, an 18-year-old freshman at Fisk University, who testified Wednesday before the House Local Government subcommittee in support of a bill that would allow college student IDs to meet the state’s voter identification requirements.

Jones is registered to vote but says he “has no driver’s license, passport, gun-carry permit or other photo ID required under the law for voting.”

The CA reports that following a vote on the bill, Jones and about 30 of his classmates “walked out on their own, holding hands to form a chain and still singing ‘Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around’ as they walked down the corridor to exit the Legislative Plaza complex.”


If they had just continued walking for 180 seconds, they could have arrived at the Driver Service Center located in the William R. Snodgrass Building and obtained a state-issued photo ID that meets the voting requirements.

Even better, they would have received these IDs free of charge, unlike a student ID at Fisk University, which is available for a $50 fee.

Why I launched a recall campaign at the GOP convention

This time last year, I was wondering how I could ward off the defeat, demoralization and despair I sensed in myself and those around me. I knew I had to do something.

I was concerned about the direction of my country. I had held out hope for Mitt Romney, who had been my preferred Presidential candidate since 2006, when he spoke at an event in Memphis. But Romney was soundly beaten, and that meant his plans to rebuild the economy, reform the federal government, restore faith in the American dream, and chip away at the national debt wouldn’t be implemented.

President Obama and the Democrats would be free to continue installing the federal takeover of health insurance, adding untold billions to the national debt, harassing conservative political activists through the IRS, and constricting our First and Second Amendment rights.

Things were spinning out of control locally, too. The Shelby County Commission was charging full speed ahead with consolidation, despite repeated defeats at the polls. The public school system that suburban residents had supported was unilaterally dismantled, and we didn’t get a say in the matter. The state came to our aid, but once we finally got a chance to vote, a U.S. District Court threw out the elections. So much for that.

I also lost my good friend that December, an older colleague who had helped lead the municipal school campaign in Bartlett. The rest of us watched helplessly as the suburban mayors negotiated with the County Commission, led by “Republican” Chairman Mike Ritz and his Democratic allies.

What’s more, Ritz was symptomatic of something else — the fact that many of our elected officials didn’t represent Republicans very well, if at all. We essentially had no representative voice in government, and we felt like we’d lost our party, too.

But you can’t get anywhere if you’re running in every direction. I took my own advice and consolidated my activities. I had already finished my master’s program. I stepped down as co-chairman of Youth Leadership Bartlett and rolled myself off the Bartlett Chamber Foundation board. I opted not to run for another term as president of the Northeast Shelby Republican Club. Next on the chopping block was my seat as 4th Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Shelby County, which would be filled at the bi-annual convention in March.

My friends and I in party leadership had nothing to do with the poor decisions of our worst elected representatives, local or national, but we would receive the blame. An insurgent faction of activists would use their failures against us, and some of the party’s most engaged volunteers would lose. We’d been through it before, and I wasn’t eager for another pointless, intra-party squabble.

Then I had a crazy idea.

One strategic shot could hedge the madness in government and restore the confidence of ordinary citizens. We could beat back the tax increases, put a halt to the wasted legal expenses and end the disenfranchisement of suburban voters. We could also save the party by firing up the conservative activists and showing the average Republicans who we really were.

And we could do it all with a campaign to recall Mike Ritz, launched at the Republican convention.


Recall-Ritz-logo245Thankfully, the opposition ticket provided me with a challenger, which under our standing rules allowed me to address the convention with a four-minute nominating speech. I devoted most of that time to an extended play on the name Ritz, describing a fictional shopping trip in which I’d been stuck with a box of the crackers inadvertently, and was forced to pay through the nose for it.

Thanks to my Tea Party friends and a few eager reporters, we made quite a splash. The Memphis Daily News said I got “the biggest ovation of the day.” The Commercial Appeal’s political columnist called the speech “clever” but the campaign “hopeless.” And the Memphis Flyer… well, they got the story hopelessly wrong, declaring it as an effort “to have Ritz formally excommunicated from the Republican Party,” despite a phone conversation in which I attempted to straighten them out.

Ritz, meanwhile, took it as a sign that he would be well-positioned to run as an independent candidate for Mayor of Shelby County against the impeccably dispassionate incumbent Republican, Mark Luttrell.

I knew the odds were stacked against us from the beginning. Recall campaigns are nearly impossible in Shelby County. In this case, we would have needed to draft a petition to the satisfaction of the election commission, have it certified, and collect nearly 21,000 signatures of registered voters in his district within 75 days. If all of them checked out and we made it to the ballot, we still had to win 50.1% of the vote.

I also knew the vote had to occur prior to his last six months in office. What I didn’t realize was that the recall laws in the Tennessee Code refer exclusively to “general” municipal or county elections, and that recalls cannot be held on a “special” election date. There would be no fewer than five special election dates in 2013, but none of them could include the recall. Ritz was safe.

So we didn’t succeed in removing Ritz from office, ending the lawsuit or putting a stop to his other schemes. But on the bright side, we didn’t have to collect 21,000 signatures in the heat of the Memphis summer. We also drew attention to his record and made him answer for it. We raised awareness of the county party and its convention process, as well as recall law and the need to improve it. And we entertained and energized a party that had been frustrated and disillusioned.

At the convention, several people told me I was brave. I thanked them, but I didn’t understand why they said that, and I still don’t. I knew the party wasn’t behind Ritz, and the delegates rewarded me with the second highest vote total of any candidate. I took 73.7% of the vote (241) in 2013, nearly identical to the 73.8% (167 votes) I captured in 2011.

And 2013 got better as the year wore on. The Tennessee General Assembly came back and lifted the statewide ban on municipal schools. The munis approved their school referendums with more than 90% of the vote. Ritz gave up on the Mayoral run, lost his chairmanship, was driven back to the negotiating table to settle the lawsuit, and lost a bid to pack the county school board with six appointees.

Things won’t always go your way. As a Chicago Cubs fan, I’m used to it. But it doesn’t take bravery to get back out on the field. Just determination.

Five reasons Judge Mays should reject the Shelby County Commission’s school board restructuring plan


The Shelby County Commission has once again approved a resolution to restructure the Shelby County Schools board, a decision that must be approved by U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays before going into effect. Already before Judge Mays was a motion to dismiss the Commission’s lawsuit against the formation of municipal school districts and the terms of a settlement reached by the parties.

The Commission’s new county school board district map was hastily drawn, initially rejected and only narrowly approved after a motion to reconsider, in order to beat a deadline requested by the Shelby County Election Commission. The new map contains 9 districts, rather than 13, and eliminates representation for the municipal areas outside Memphis. Judge Mays should deny the Commission’s restructuring motion for the following reasons, presented in no particular order of importance.

1. The contiguous case. The new map offered by the County Commission is flawed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the creation of multiple non-contiguous districts. District 5 is split into two large swaths that are not connected, and District 4 is even worse, being split into three tiny sections that also do not touch. It is clear that this map needed more work, as understood by anyone who followed the Commission’s deliberations. If not for the pending deadline set by the election commission, the resolution would not have received the seven votes needed for passage. It makes no sense to burden the county, and specifically voters in these districts, with such an ill-conceived plan.

2. The stability case. The County Commission has overseen the change, or attempted change, of the county school board’s size five times in less than three years. In the interest of stability and predictability, another change is undesirable and would be harmful to the county. When Memphis surrendered its special school district in 2011, the Shelby County Schools board contained seven members. The County Commission, led by Mike Ritz, attempted to inflate that number to 25 on February 28, 2011. Judge Mays rejected the plan, but created a temporary board containing 23 members, which would later collapse back to seven, but with the option of growing again to 13. The Commission, once again led by Ritz, then adopted a 13-member map, and attempted to appoint six of the positions. Judge Mays approved the 13-member district but denied the six appointments in his ruling on August 7, 2013. Now Ritz and the Commission would like to constrict the board once again, this time to nine members. While the goal of stability may not in itself be a reason to deny the commission’s plan, the disruption is erratic and completely unnecessary.

3. The historical case. The Commission’s 13-member district map was approved by Judge Mays on Aug. 7, 2013, after bills authorizing municipal school districts had passed the Tennessee House and Senate, after the bills had been signed into law by the Governor, after the municipal school referendum dates had been set, and after the referendums had occurred (on July 16, 2013). The municipal school systems were already in motion, and essentially nothing has changed since the 13-member board was approved, other than the whims of Commissioner Ritz and his colleagues. That is not a good enough reason to change the terms of the consent decree.

4. The temporal case: As Judge Mays has previously indicated, the modification of a consent decree requires a complete hearing and findings of fact. If recent history is any guide, it is improbable that such a fact-finding process and a hearing could occur in time for the election commission to also redraw the map and re-initiate a filing process allowing candidates to emerge and become certified for the August 7 election.

5. The legal case: In August of last year, Judge Mays ordered the elections to take place on August 7, 2014, using the 13-member district map drawn by the County Commission.

“The six new positions on the School Board shall be filled by the voters at the General Election to be held in August 2014.”

A compelling reason would have to be offered for the judge to reverse himself now, and the Commission has not even attempted to formulate one. Additionally, case law previously cited by Judge Mays indicates that the inclusion of suburban voters in the county district is not irrational if they can show a “substantial interest” in the election. The following four factors determine whether that substantial interest exists:

  • Financial stake. According to BURSON, the areas outside Memphis make a net tax revenue transfer into Memphis. Just as Commissioner Henri Brooks argued that Memphis voters had “for a long time been denied representation of the school board that they are being taxed for,” this would certainly be the case for suburban Shelby County voters under the Commission’s 9-member map.
  • Voting strength. According to BURSON, Memphis makes up 74% of the voting base, so municipal votes are not sufficient to control the board.
  • Crossover students. SCS schools such as Bolton High are actively recruiting students residing in the City of Bartlett, and the same is true in the three Germantown schools kept by the county.
  • Joint programs. It is unknown whether the county and municipal systems will operate joint programs, and this cannot be determined prior to the launch of the municipal systems.

Because suburban voters have a financial interest in the county district, insufficient population to control a Memphis-dominated board, students who will attend county schools, and could possibly engage in joint programs, they should not be deprived of a vote on the county school board. Such exclusion is subject to strict scrutiny, and could only be upheld upon the showing of a compelling state interest, where none exists.

Bonus reason #1. The rational case: Suburban voters are part of the County government and help select its leadership even though they also elect municipal officials. Why shouldn’t the county school board be determined similarly? A countywide body without countywide representation is unnecessary and irrational.

Bonus reason #2. The contingency case: If one of the six municipal school systems in Shelby County fails to launch, or later surrenders its charter, the County Commission’s map becomes automatically unconstitutional under the precedent set by Judge Mays, forcing another immediate overhaul of the district. This would be a logistical nightmare, and a costly one at that. Unlikely? Yes, but if it can happen in Memphis, it can happen in Millington. For this reason, the Commission’s 9-member district is short-sighted and should be denied.