Alinsky

Rule #3: Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy

One of Saul Alinsky’s first rules for people out to change the world is to never go outside the experience and expertise of your people. Doing so, he says, will result in confusion, fear and retreat.

But then there’s the other side of the coin. If going outside your experience is damaging to your cause, Alinsky says, it makes sense to force your opponent outside their experience whenever possible.

This is why home-field advantage is so important to baseball players. In baseball, each stadium is different. The home team will know how the evening breeze or ocean air affects how far the ball travels. They’ll know exactly how many steps they can run into foul territory before running into the dugout.

Playing at home also means players can stick to their routine. They can sleep in their own beds, arrive at the ballpark at the same time, get dressed at their same locker and sit at their same spot in the dugout at every home game. On the road, everything is different. At home, everything is familiar.

When it comes to grassroots activism, think about how you can make your opponents feel like they’re playing an away game. Depending on where you live, big-government supporters may be lulled into complacency. They have a routine, and they stick to it.

Are your opponents used to showing up to committee hearings and packing the room with their supporters? Are they accustomed to hosting a rally on the steps of the state capitol every year? Are they used to not seeing anyone who disagrees with them interviewed by the media?

Once you figure out what their normal experience is, you can take steps to force them outside of it.

  • If you’re fighting for expanded education freedom, show up early to that committee hearing usually packed by the teachers’ union and fill the room with families who want a better education for their kids.
  • If you’re fighting occupational licensing, hold a rally with hair braiders on the steps of the capitol the day before your opponents usually hold theirs.
  • If you’re fighting corporate welfare, get small business owners to write op-eds and letters to the editor and work to get them placed in publications that usually give lobbying groups favorable coverage.

If you can, in a principled way, force your opponents to get outside their comfort zone, it will be much easier for you to gain the upper hand and make a difference.

You can learn more about Saul Alinsky and his grassroots tactics at our Insight to Action event “A Night With Saul.” Check out upcoming events near you and sign up for our email list for more grassroots tips here.