Conservatives got an unexpected victory this week when Michigan became the 24th state to protect workers by enacting a right-to-work law. The reform breaks the unions’ iron grip on workers in the industrial heartland. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was on the ground for the entire effort and was instrumental in channeling the efforts of thousands of grass roots activists to help the law’s passage. Breitbart News spoke yesterday with Tim Phillips, President of AFP about lessons conservatives should learn from the victory in Michigan.
1. Activist base is willing to get involved on principled fights
Phillips said the massive base of grass roots activists that arose during the debate over ObamaCare, and propelled the GOP to historic victories two years ago, is still there. They key to getting them involved is a fight on principle. They aren’t motivated to mobilize for Republican positions, but are ready to engage on conservative positions. Phillips said that, even with short notice, AFP had hundreds of activists show up in Lansing on the climatic day. It provide an important counter to the organized union protest.
2. Republicans at the state level are “showing guts”
Watching Republican leaders in Washington negotiate with themselves to raise taxes is dispiriting for conservatives. In the states, however, Phillips says Republican Governors and lawmakers are making solid stands on matters of principle. He cited Gov. Walker’s reforms in Wisconsin and Indiana’s passage of right-to-work last year. When Republicans “show some fight,” Phillips said, “it gives heart to lots of activists.”
He expects this push for reform in the states to continue. Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett and Gov. Christie both recently rejected ObamaCare exchanges for their states, a result, said Phillips, of countless hours of work by activists in those states. He thinks pension reform will be high on the activists’ agenda next year, as a great many states have unsustainable systems in need of overall. Asked about the likelihood of right-to-work passing in other states, Phillips said, “I don’t know. But, from a competitive standpoint, OH and PA are going to have to look at it.”
3. When reform legislation passes, the battles begins anew
Phillips said the fights in Wisconsin and Michigan have taught him a new, and valuable, lesson. When we win passage of reform legislation, the fight isn’t over, but a new chapter of the fight begins. In the past, when reformers won a legislative battle they tended to go home, thinking the issue was settled. The left, however, only increased their volume, demagoguing the issue attempting to turn the public against the new law.
Phillips said it is often critical to increase public education about a reform after it has been passed. If we don’t, the left will have a one-way conversation with the public and may succeed in shaping voters’ attitudes. Phillips said in Michigan, where they have a permanent office and staff, they are already beginning public education about the new law. In Wisconsin, they continue to educate the public about the benefits of Walker’s reforms. Phillips said this is vital to defending the gains we make.
I asked Phillips about the union violence in Lansing and the destruction of AFP’s tent on capitol grounds. He said the tactics would backfire on the unions. He noted polling they did in Wisconsin where moderate, middle-of-the-road voters were turned off by the union antics there. He was confident the same would happen in Michigan. While the national media have largely ignored the violence, Phillips said the local press had covered extensively and objectively. That’s politically more important than whatever NBC does.
The left, media and many in the DC GOP would like to believe the grass roots movement that swept the country two years ago is dead. It isn’t. But, as Phillips made clear, it is only going to mobilize for principled conservative fights. It will not awaken just because someone has an “R” behind their name. Like minutemen of old, they will engage for important fights on principle.
Over the next two years, look to the states for conservative reform. Michigan shows the battle is engaged.