Because every issue has its constituency, sometimes the important task of identifying just how broad that constituency is gets short shrift from organizers. The truth is that when it comes to battling the Radical Right, activists will find no shortage of individuals and organizations who have reason to be involved. Among those whose interests are affected:
Not every group may join in every battle, but make it your business to reach out to a broader constituency. And remember the old organizer's saying: if you're comfortable with everybody at the table, your coalition is too small.
No wounds are worse than those that are self-inflicted. In the schools, for example, the Radical Right has made considerable hay out of incidents where teachers or administrators mistakenly confiscated Bibles from students at study hall. Or they've been able to win public sympathy when counter-protests by mainstream groups turn violent. Be sure you don't hand your opponents an issue by failing to get your policies in place and understood before the battle begins.
Know who it is you're fighting and what it is they really care about. Get on their mailing lists, send representatives to their public meetings, read their literature. Also, be alert for outside organizations that may be helping local ones. Chances are that if your local opponent turns up with a pot of money, or a sudden, new-found expertise in a particular issue, a national Radical Right organization may be operating behind the scenes.
That kind of information is not just interesting, it's powerful. If you can demonstrate that a national organization is behind a local initiative particularly one that doesn't have the courage to reveal itself you can raise appropriate questions about what it is that the local group has to hide, and why it is that a national group should be trying to set policy for your community.
Also, remember that if ties to national organizations are established, you can and should give your opponents the opportunity to defend the broader agenda of those national organizations. If you're dealing with a local Christian Coalition chapter, let them defend Pat Robertson's views on a range of issues.
Network with other organizations outside your community. The Radical Right excels at communications. Tactics and rhetoric that work in one community quickly emerge in others. Put communication to work for your own effort by networking with others who've faced the same battles in other communities. National organizations will be happy to try to connect you with those groups if you can't find them on your own.
The biggest advantage you have is that you're right on the issues! Put that to work by getting information out to the rest of the community. All too frequently, Radical Right groups and leaders have a way of stretching the facts, or in some cases, making them up altogether. Don't let those half- and mis-truths go unanswered. Get the facts out and do it quickly.
Our opponents are masters at using rhetoric that touches nerves. So don't speak in jargon. Avoid acronyms and technical language. Speak plainly, but with authority and some passion.
Don't kid yourself into thinking that campaigns — electoral or otherwise — are battles of ideas alone. There is no substitute for pounding the pavement, shaking your neighbors' hands, hearing their concerns and getting their support. You should expect that your opposition will be doing as much.
Religion is something to be respected and honored. And while your opposition's political views may flow from their religious views, in the end the battle is over politics and policy. So don't criticize your opponents' religion, and don't dismiss their movement as a bunch of "fanatics." The corollary of that point is this: they have as much right to participate in the democratic process as you do. Don't suggest otherwise.
Along the same lines, resist the temptation to ridicule or belittle your opponents, either on the grounds of their religion or their political views. They're citizens taking part. They may be wrong on the issues, they may have ideas, even motives, with which you find fault, but they're entitled to be treated with respect.
These are not just sound principles, they're also good politics. If you give your opponents grounds to accuse you of religious bigotry, they'll surely seize the moment.
If experience is a guide, local Radical Right groups may lose a battle, or they may get off on the wrong organizational foot, but they won't go away. After a Radical Right group has taken root, don't make the mistake of assuming that because you haven't heard from them they've gone away. It may take them a while to get organized, but the fire that drives them won't be dying down anytime soon.
For that very reasons, compromises with the Radical Right must be examined with a careful, jaundiced eye. Experience suggests that what they do not win today, they'll be back for tomorrow. Never compromise on a principle; be very careful about compromising anything else. That's harsh advice, to be sure, but it's born of bitter experience.
Nothing is more vulnerable to sudden attack by the Radical Right than a program or policy nobody else knows about. So build support for the programs and initiatives along the way. Don't wait for the attack to come. If your schools are doing well with a new curriculum, get out the word. If your local arts group is winning awards, get out the word. And so on. Put out your positive message and save yourself trouble later on.