The phenomenon occurs among activists on the Left and the Right. Regardless of their ideological perspective or particular cause, amateur activists sabotage their own effort at every turn. Whether due to ignorance of processes or – more likely – stubborn defiance of reality, citizen activists focus too much on grinding their axe and not enough on achieving a goal.
Three recent examples warrant consideration. First, in Maine, a group of libertarian Republicans including a National Committeeman authored an open letter to the state party secretary tendering their resignation from the GOP following a rules fight which didn’t go their way at a meeting of the RNC. Dave Nalle, former national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, an organization working within the party to steer it toward greater advocacy of individual rights, called the mass exodus a “betrayal” in a public Facebook post:
After years of working to gain those positions of influence and as a key component of a liberty coalition which controls the state party, they have thrown everything away because of losing one battle over the rules with the RNC leadership.
Did they go into this thinking it was going to be easy to change the Republican Party? I respect their efforts and commitment up to this point, but what they have done puts liberty movement control of their state party in jeopardy and hands additional victories to the malefactors who run the national party. It weakens the movement nationwide and sets a terrible example for others.
In Minnesota, the Occupy movement has splintered as Occupy MN announced that it was cutting ties with a spin-off organization called Occupy Homes MN on account of the latter becoming “commercialized” and “profitable.” City Pages reports on the schism, citing a public statement from Occupy MN:
Many of us helped create, volunteered with and were arrested with Occupy Homes, until unethical tactics serving the goal of evolution into a profitable Non-Governmental Organization achieved dominance.
Last but not least, activists made a stink following an incident at the Republican Party booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Volunteers arrived to work a shift at the booth wearing campaign t-shirts supporting a libertarian challenger to Congressman John Kline. The state party chair, fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility to protect the party brand, required the volunteers to turn their shirts inside-out while representing the party in an official capacity. The move sparked a firestorm of protest from liberty activists within the party. A former candidate for the state chair position rallied support on Facebook by noting:
Neither Kline nor Mr. [David] Gerson [the challenger] is endorsed for the 2014 race to keep MN CD 2 in GOP hands.
Apparently, political parties have no vested interest in promoting their elected officials or protecting their brand by not associating it with non-endorsed challengers. So goes the protesters’ argument.
Each of these examples and many more which could be cited indicate an activist mindset which I refer to as anti-activism. Like a gerbil running on its wheel, anti-activists expend tremendous energy toward getting nowhere. That becomes problematic for more thoughtful activists who focus on affecting public policy rather than protest for its own sake. Let’s consider 6 ways activists sabotage their cause.