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August 9, 2006

Relentless Incrementalism

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

This year, as last year, August is strategy-and-tactics month — a time when we explain what we are doing and why. Here’s the latest installment . . .

Relentless Incrementalism

Ok, for those who’ve wondered, I’m 38 years old. To some of you I’m still a pup. And since life allegedly begins at 40, you’re probably right.

I bring up my age because I would agree that perspective comes with age and experience. One of the board members of the Downsize DC Foundation is 10 years older than I am. One day I was recounting to him a garden variety of the challenges we’re facing. He listened. When I was done, he spoke some words of wisdom (old folks will do that from time-to-time). He said . . .

“You know, you sound like me in my thirties. I was trying to get my business running. Some of my problems seemed insurmountable. But I showed up to work everyday. I did a little bit each day. And now, ten years later, all those problems are distant memories. And I think that’s what you do in life. You show up everyday and keep plugging. Things have a way of working out.”

I was reminded of that story when we received an email full of cynicism. It came from a nice guy who thought our hearts were in the right place. But he thought trying to apply new rules to Congress one at a time just wasn’t going to work. “Congress doesn’t even read their bills — what does that tell you!” (Hmm, wonder where he heard that?).

He also said we weren’t thinking about the problem in a “revolutionary” way, and he had the cure for our oversight. It was a movie. He urged us to get ahold of this movie before we did anything else. “After all,” he said, “These clowns don’t give a rat’s hind-end what you think.” If we didn’t see the movie and change our minds, then we should expect to get “bent over” for “the rusty rod of reality.”

He might be right. But I doubt it.

You see, we prefer evolution, not revolution. We didn’t always think this way. But studying history and surveying the system, we realized that there were no quick-fixes. Revolutions mean angst, anger, and bloodshed. Looking back, there is, realistically, only one revolution in history that turned out okay. Revolutions have a bad track-record.

But the most telling point, to us at least, is that we didn’t lose this country to the statist-upsizers in a revolutionary fashion. Instead . . .

Our statist opponents sat us down for a national dialogue, Hegelian-style. They pushed. They poked. They prodded. They complained. They wrote and lectured. They gathered. They organized. They demonstrated. They infiltrated. They marched. They lobbied. And they moved us an inch closer to their position.

And do you know what they did after moving us that inch? They came back and did it all again. They didn’t stop because they had moved us an inch. No, they believed their ideas were historically inevitable — if only they kept up that cycle of inch-by-inch activity.

At some point in the future, the Downsize DC Foundation will create an educational tool where we elaborate on this point and discuss things like “dialogue-to-consensus” and “Fabian Socialism.” But for now, there’s no denying that gradual change has worked really, really well in the past.

What if we could turn things around on the upsizers of all stripes — the centralizers, the profiteers, the statists, and the utopians — and use their incremental strategy to work for an opposite outcome? We believe we can.

We believe it will require building an army…

* so large that Congress can’t afford to ignore it.
* so big that it can make its message heard by everyone, everywhere, everyday.

And if we do both of these things then the politicians, like anyone looking to sell something, will need to adapt to the new intellectual environment that our large army and universal visibility will create. Those who refuse to adapt will go the way of the Dodo bird and be replaced by politicians who have evoloved to fit the new landscape.

To build our army, and change the intellectual environment, we’ll need to show up every day and do the necessary work, spend the necessary funds, and stay focused. It’s a step-by-step process. Every message sent to Congress, every person recruited, every interview broadcast, and every ad purchased, no matter how small, is a step in that process. We call this approach RELENTLESS INCREMENTALISM.

And it applies to our legislative proposals too. Small changes, with broad appeal, can bring about big outcomes downstream. Our “Read the Bills Act” is a perfect example of this incremental “Fabian” approach. “Read the Bills” is a perfect proposal for a group dedicated to Relentless Incrementalism.

You see, the nice but cynical guy that I mentioned above, seemed to misunderstand something about us. He thought we might be concerning ourselves with what individual members of Congress think about what we propose. Do Members of Congress care?

I doubt it. And I don’t care if they care. Individual members of Congress are used to getting their butts kissed, but we want to kick Congressional butt, not kiss it. We’re building an army. Armies are not gentle. They don’t ask for permission. They impose their will. And that is what we intend, in a peaceful, incremental way.

We’re looking to deliver Congress a “rusty rod of reality,” one inch at a time. We’ll start a dialogue about how Congress does their job. We’ll push. We’ll poke. We’ll prod. We’ll complain. We’ll write and lecture. We’ll gather. We’ll organize. We’ll demonstrate. We’ll infiltrate. We’ll march. We’ll lobby.

And Congress will move, even if only an inch. But it will be an inch in our direction. And then, we’ll start all over again.

We don’t intend to be rude. We just intend to speak truth to power and apply “Fabian tactics.” And we intend to prevail. It’s happened before — with the Progressives and the Civil Rights movement in this country, and the Corn Laws in England. There are many examples. We intend to provide one more.

We plan to relentlessly and incrementally — without firing a shot or disturbing the peace — break their will and make them live up to those wonderful, forward-thinking documents; the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

You know what else comes in increments? Support. There are more than 20,000 people on this list. There are 13,350 registered as DC Downsizers. But we’re just shy of 1,000 people who support us financially.

We’ve made it ridiculously incremental. We’ve provided a simple method of relentlessness. It’s called a micro-pledge. $3, $4, $5, $6, $7, $8, or $9 per month with a credit card is all it takes. Can you be relentlessly incremental in your support? If so, click here.

Imagine the effect! If 13,350 people pledged ONLY $3 per month, we’d not only have our $14,000 monthly operating and incremental growth budget in place, but we’d have more than $26,000 per month that we could invest in outside marketing, resulting in dramatic growth. You could help make this happen here.

Of course, we have dozens, and could use hundreds, of people making monthly credit card pledges of $10, $15, $25, $35, $50 or more per month. You could do that here.

In a recent message, I told you we had “lost” our largest monthly pledger who gave $250 per month. There was some confusion about what I meant by “lost.” Simply, his circumstances changed and he needed that money. He’s still a fan. We’re grateful for his support. And we’re quite excited that an Arizona donor has replaced half of that pledge at $125 per month.

Won’t you become a monthly pledger? You can do so here.

Of course, we still need to pay this month’s bills. And those who make one-time contributions of $76 or more, or who make a micro or regular monthly pledge, will be recognized, by name, on a forthcoming page at our website as “Legislative Sponsors” of our upcoming “One Subject at a Time Act.”

But we can’t start to work on “One Subject at a Time,” or our plan to achieve universal visibility, until we have $168,000 in 12-month-support ($14,000 per month). Summer is challenging and we missed our monthly budget by a wide swath in both June and July. You can help close the gap here.

Be Relentlessly Incremental and help us Downsize DC.

Jim Babka
President, Inc.

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