What is being done to reinvigorate the next generation of conservatives in politics? Many new initiatives have been announced, but one of the few that will make a difference in coming elections is American Majority. Founded in January 2008, this organization is aggressively recruiting and training a new generation of grassroots activists and future candidates throughout the nation.
Ned Ryun, founder and president, grew up in politics, being the son of former Congressman Jim Ryun (R-KS). Ned is experienced at working with young activists, having co-founded, with his brother Drew, the Generation Joshua program. But, as Ned told me recently, the number of local grassroots groups popping up everywhere makes this an ideal time to offer them leadership training. Over 3,000 people have already received training in 22 states.
Ryun explains, “Look what happened on April 15 — there were 900 tea parties with over 1.2 million participants, but they don’t know what to do next. We should educate them in how to go from protesting to implementing.”
Criss-crossing the country, going from one training session to another, Ryun has encountered a very high level of discontent: “People are angry across the board, at both Republicans and Democrats, about the expanding role of government.”
In fact, Ryun, a strong Evangelical, believes the biggest political battle is to get government back into its proper role. His central message to the activists and candidates he trains is the theme of limited government. “The only way we can win right now is to get government back within its proper boundaries – only then will it stop encroaching on businesses, families, and the Church.”
Ryun directs a staff of 22, including 16 field staff apportioned among six regional offices in Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, St. Paul, Topeka, and San Antonio, in addition to the national headquarters in Northern Virginia. “We are going to the people who want the training, rather than making them come to us. That’s why we are constantly in the field building a farm team of conservative leadership.”
Candidate training consists of an eight-hour seminar covering everything a person needs to be equipped to run for office. Trainees learn the rudiments of campaign strategy and planning, fundraising, media communication, and how to employ new media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. The results, so far, have been impressive. For example, Ryun urged 27 of his trainees to run for city council positions in Oklahoma, and 17 of them won. Only one had run for office before.
“The conservative movement has been too focused on federal elections, but the Left, and especially the unions, has always been active at the local level.” Ryun tells his trainees that 69 percent of the present House membership and 74 percent of the Senate started in politics by winning local or state elections. “If you want to get engaged and involved in politics that is how you should begin, at the local level.”
In his activist training, Ryun stresses the importance and power of “e-activism.” We teach activists how to make effective use of Wikis, Twitter, social networking, and Google.” An effective way to keep local officials accountable is to make contributions to Wikis like the Sunshine Review, Ballotpedia, and Judgepedia. Because of their amount of content and links, these Wikis have considerable “Google juice” and are listed high in Internet searches.
“It’s all about winning the information battle on-line, where the Left is dominating the minds of those who are 30 and under,” says Ryun.
With an average trainee age in the mid-forties, Ryun and his American Majority staff have their hands full in turning out a new generation of conservative leadership with tech savvy wedded to a message of limited government. But American Majority is off to a good start, and being the son of a famous distance runner, Ned Ryun knows what it takes to run the race to the end.