Political Psychology

How to kill a movement

Did you ever see a movement grow?

Did you see the way it starts?

Did you feel it spread around you?

Did you hear it rustling the leaves and scraping the sidewalk?

Did you want to kill it?

The weird thing about movements is that opposition tends to strengthen them. Movements feed on hostility the way rats feed on garbage.

The way you kill a movement is infiltration and fragmentation.

You can’t kill a movement from the outside. You can only kill it from inside. The way an antibiotic kills bacteria.

I’m watching it happen in Missouri. Not intentionally. In fact, the frackers (those who fracture) truly believe they’re strengthening the movement by eliminating suspicious elements.

I’m one of those suspicious elements. They’re probably better off without me. But they’ve also seized on Rep. Paul Curtman as a suspicious element.


Paul Curtman is about the truest conservative in Jefferson City. He’s brilliantly navigated the state capitol without falling prey to the establishment. He’s taken hard lines on hard issues, consistent with his remarkably strong Christian conservative ethic.

And a tiny but angry and relentless element of Missouri conservatism wants to isolate, personalize, and attack Paul. They believe Paul has strayed because he didn’t get everything they want all at once. You know, the way toddlers expect their wishes to happen.

This is fragmentation. It’s fracturing. It’s destructive.

It’s the only way to kill a movement. And it’s completely homegrown.

The greatest threat to freedom is not a totalitarian; the greatest threat to freedom is a conservative who can’t tolerate deviations from her narrow agenda.

Just cool down folks. We might win this thing.

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

6 Comments on “How to kill a movement

  1. Isn’t it so wonderful there is someone …Trump _ who is free to speak and do as he sees fit to make our America great again without being concerned with interest group’s demand ? We are facing unique challenges to recover our pride, dignity, resources and undeniable American spirits which have been destroyed under the tatally wrong and inadequate leadership in the past some years. We need a unique leader with a unique ability to mend all the wrongs done to our nation….that’s Trump.
    His remark, ” country without border is not a country “…how true it is…
    Strong military ( peace with strength ), Mastering the ” Art of Deal ” ( especially dealing with clever leaders of China and Russia ) and ect…..I just know only Trump can achieve them with confidence for our country.

  2. I know who they are and I am aware. It’s practically PC from the right including the judgmental “aha”‘s of “trigger words”. It’s truly unfortunate. It is forgotten how progressives took words already out there and transformed their meaning.

  3. Hard line conservatives teach in their seminars that if your advocate doesn’t do all you expect of him, you must dump him and find another. I don’t believe in that extreme tactic, and that is why I have quit that group and their ilk… I learned a long time ago (when I was a City Councilman) that you cannot always garner the support you need to pass a certain piece of legislation. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, one can only bring up an item for reconsideration if he votes with the majority. SO, sometimes one must vote with the majority even when they are in opposition to be able to be in a position to make a motion for reconsideration. So, one does not always do what you think they should do for other reasons. Find out why before you pull your support.

    1. Muleman,

      I love the line “if your advocate doesn’t do all you expect of him . . .”

      That’s a big problem, because people of very similar political views have wildly differing expectations. The biggest difference involves what we mean by winning. To some, winning means a complete overthrow of the status quo. To others, winning is measurable improvements in key area.

      History shows that overthrows are short-lived. The French Revolution was a radical overthrow of the status quo, and it kicked off a century of turmoil that stifled social progress. The American Revolution was far more gradual. The colonies had been drifting free from England (and Spain and France) for a century.

      Combine the need some have for immediately 180-degree reversals with a narrow view of what constitutes conservative orthodoxy, and you get a movement more interested in being “right” than in winning. Or, as Sean Scallon writes in The American Conservative, we aim for 39% instead of 51% at the polls.

      Thanks for writing.

  4. Well, Bill, I for one certainly came out of 2012 extremely battered and disillusioned, and I just decided that there was definitely far more duplicity, consolidation of power and influence-peddling in national politics for me to really ever make a difference in that arena, and quite possibly the same was true of state politics. So I’m focusing on the local level, and trying to politically evangelize for liberty and good governance one-on-one.

    I don’t pretend to know to what particular situation(s) you refer, but I certainly appreciate that by now Paul Curtman has been put under enormous pressure to capitulate from multiple sources in multiple ways. That’s absolutely a given. Has he withstood the pressure better than anyone? I can’t say.

    1. You’re right. Others, too, withstand the temptations. I’ve observed Paul, though, and he would be a prize for the forces of elitism.

      Drives me nuts when people make perfect the enemy of better. Even nutser when they don’t even know what they’re talking about, just batting at buzz words.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your story.

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