RootsHQ, an online resource for the conservative movement, recently published an article with a title we use for this post: “The Rise of the Political Entrepreneur.” The article is by Allen Fuller, the group’s managing partner.
You don’t have to be a conservative to appreciate his observations on shifting influences in politics. In short, how people influence the process of political change has evolved tremendously over the last few decades. It’s an argument that Ed and I make in Madmen. Fuller nicely links this evolution to his concept of political entrepreneurship (which differs somewhat from ours, but is worth a look). And he provides a summary, which includes a reference to our work.
Traditionally in politics, just a few large organizations have managed the money, grassroots, and influence necessary to win elections or pass legislation. Anyone interested in getting involved politically with any effectiveness needed to join one of these large entities and work their way up, just as a young employee would climb the corporate ladder. For instance, anyone interested in Republican politics was advised to get active in their precinct and then become a precinct captain, a district captain, a county chairman, and potentially a state party chairman.
As campaign finance laws have limited the power of traditional organizations like the parties, however, and technology has given individuals more of a voice in politics and government, individual advocacy has become more impactful. Never before has an individual had such an opportunity to make their voice heard, and many people are now starting organizations to do exactly that. These innovators are a new breed of entrepreneurs – Political Entrepreneurs.
Political entrepreneurs are starting everything from blogs to block parties and taking their message to the masses in new and creative ways. In the tradition of Ed Feulner at the Heritage Foundation and William Buckley at National Review, these new political startups are developing innovative ideas to impact elections and policy, then building business models around them. The concept is emerging so rapidly that two economic professors have just released a new book about social change and economics titled Madmen, Intellectuals, & Academic Scribblers (Stanford University Press, 2013). Their blog? PoliticalEntrepreneurs.com.