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More Factors that Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement

This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 (“The Recipe for Creating a New Mass Movement”) of America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power, by Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke.

In this chapter we ask:  How can a grassroots political movement emerge and succeed in our media-dominated world?  For answers, we use the revolutions of 1517 and 1776 (Chapters 1 and 2) as laboratory examples.   Thomas Paine Common SenseThen, in coming chapters, we will show how these factors resulted in the emergence, growth, and success of the conservative movement in the second half of the 20th century.

In the first excerpt from the chapter, we considered two factors in creating a new mass movement—“Issues that motivate” and “A dedicated vanguard.”  In this excerpt we consider “Self-identification as a movement” and “Communication networks (sometimes including a secret weapon).”

As you read the excerpts from this chapter, ask yourself these questions:  Did these same factors contribute to the Trump Revolution of 2016?  Indeed, did his election in 2016 signify the emergence of a new mass movement, or was it rather the evolving of the conservative movement?  I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section that follows this article.

Chapter 3

The Recipe for Creating a

New Mass Movement


How does a potential new political movement emerge and succeed in this media-dominated world?  That’s what concerns us in this chapter.  Then, in succeeding chapters, we will show how this recipe resulted in the emergence, growth, and success of the conservative movement in the middle of the 20th century – the era of our personal political experience.

Self-identification as a movement

The world is always full of people who are angry at something that’s going on, or stirred deeply by some current issue.  They don’t become part of a movement, however, until and unless they become aware that other people – organized people – share their concerns, that they can join these people, and that by doing so they can make a difference.

For this to happen, we must first add to our recipe: self-identification by some people that they constitute a movement with a mission.  It doesn’t matter, at the beginning, that the group is small and that its ultimate goal seems visionary and unrealistic.  What is required is a clear sense of mission and commitment.  Look at what tiny original groups of people with commitment and a mission can do – for good or evil – having, ultimately, a phenomenal impact on the world: Think of Christ’s disciples and the first Bolsheviks. 

As American philosopher William James noted: “A small force if it never lets up will accumulate effects more considerable than those of much greater forces if these work inconsistently.”

Luther started out as one monk sharing his concerns with fellow clerics in his community.  It was only when they started thinking of themselves as a movement to reform the church – sharing that mission with others through the printing press – that the Reformation actually became a movement.  Without that mission and self-identification by Luther and his circle, they might have ended up as only a bunch of dissatisfied monks in a small town in Germany that history would soon forget.

Colonial Brits in the New World were unhappy over certain actions by the mother country almost from the get-go.  That’s the common plight of an expatriate.  A revolutionary movement didn’t exist, however, until the Stamp Act caused a small but influential group – printers – to start thinking of themselves as Americans, not as British citizens living in America, with a mission to separate from Britain.

Communication networks (sometimes including a secret weapon)

Once you have some burning issues to motivate people, and a mix of core constituencies in your vanguard, you need communication networks to bring that movement and that mission to the attention of others.  Person-to-person communication is fine for bucolic times, but a revolution needs speed – to catch the ruling establishment off guard before that establishment can marshal its full powers against the insurgents.

Nothing has expanded as dramatically in the past 500 years as these pulpits of dissemination.  Luther depended pretty much on just two communication networks, the first being the church pulpit.  He didn’t need much more, though, because his second network was a secret weapon – the printing press – and he used that secret weapon to produce an arsenal of Bibles, Bible studies, catechisms, and pamphlets.

The printing press wasn’t literally a secret weapon, of course, not on the line of the development of an atomic bomb during World War II.  It had the impact of a secret weapon, though, because Luther understood the potential of this new technology and he had the will to use it, unlike his opposition in the Catholic Church.  We will see this same phenomenon at work when we turn to the conservative revolution in the pages ahead.

By the time of the American Revolution, there was no secret weapon in the form of a distinctly new technology but rather the harnessing of the current technology on a more massive scale than had ever been attempted before.  The colonials’ communication networks included the church pulpit and the courier, but even more prominent were the products of the printing press – books, newspapers, and pamphlets.  And the pamphlets, as we’ve seen, were a phenomenal success in reaching virtually the entire free population.

America’s Right Turn serialization:

To order American's Right Turn from Amazon please click this link.

“Media Monopolies Declare War on Conservatives” (introduction to this serialization)

“What Conservatives Can Learn from the West’s First Media Revolution” (Chapter 1) 

“What Conservatives Can Learn from America’s First Media Revolution” (Chapter 2)

“The Factors That Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement” (excerpt from Chapter 3)

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