Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals #8: Keep the pressure on.
With eight and a half minutes left in the third quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons were beating the New England Patriots 28-3. To call the first half a blowout would be putting it lightly.
But then, something amazing happened. New England quarterback Tom Brady and his team came roaring back. They scored 25 points and stopped the Falcons from scoring before winning in overtime.
Besides Brady’s skills and Bill Belichick’s coaching, there was one big reason the Patriots were able to win—the Falcons couldn’t keep the pressure on in the final minutes of the game.
That’s why Saul Alinsky, the father of grassroots organizing, told his followers to never let off the pressure. “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose,” he wrote.
In grassroots activism, it can be easy to fall into the trap of getting comfortable and backing off. Maybe you had a successful lobby day event where hundreds of people attended. Maybe you were able to get one city councilman to change his mind on an important issue.
While it’s important to celebrate the little victories along the way, don’t get lulled into complacency. Until you achieve your goal, there’s always more you can do.
You can follow up your successful lobby day event with letters to legislators you visited, door-knocking efforts in their districts or an op-ed about your lobby day in the local paper. You can leverage the one councilman whose mind you changed to flip others and get your initiative passed.
“Action comes from keeping the heat on,” Alinsky wrote. “No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.”
Don’t forget some other wisdom from Alinsky while you’re keeping the pressure on, though. Remember that “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Keep the pressure on, but come up with new and exciting ways to do so.
And of course, make sure you’re having fun while you’re doing it. After all, “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
Don’t back off. Don’t relent. Keep the pressure on, and you’ll be able to make a difference for freedom.
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Check out the rest of the Adapting Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals series here: