It was a cold, rainy day in Michigan, and we were on our way to the state capital, Lansing. The year was 2013. Why were we up at the crack of dawn to drive many hours to such a dingy, dismal, faded town? To fight back against the NDAA, as an important bill to nullify indefinite detention was receiving a committee hearing.
I was there along with several local activists who had braved the elements to show up. Many were involved with tea parties or Campaign for Liberty groups across Michigan, including myself. We were also joined by a certain out-of-state activist by the name of Dan Johnson, the national head of People Against the NDAA (PANDA) at the time. He had driven all the way from Ohio to join us and support us in our lobbying effort.
Through the founder of PANDA Michigan, I had the honor of meeting the magnanimous, youthful Dan Johnson. I had thought that I was a young political activist at the time, barely out of college. Most patriotic activists I have come across are north of 50, but Dan was different. He was barely 19 at the time, and looked even younger. His enthusiasm was evident, and he had the charisma of a natural leader.
We had worked on a resolution the previous year in my native county, Oakland. We had packed numerous committee meetings and town halls to pass a resolution rebuking the NDAA. This successful resolution helped build the momentum that led to this legislative measure being introduced at the state level. Dan’s professionalism and vision was apparent then. I was happy to have him by my side during this important effort in Lansing.
Dan Johnson wasn’t the polished leader of the Solutions Institute that he is today. I lacked polish and experience as well. I had very little concept of how the system actually worked, but it didn’t matter. What we lacked in experience, we made up for in gumption. We all had the fighting mindset that is needed when you are dealing with bureaucrats at any level. We showed up meaning business.
In retrospect, our lack of experience may have worked in our favor. We weren’t familiar with the usual way of doing business. The ‘go along to get along’ ethos that has plagued our politics for generations was lost upon us. Because we were independent-minded and miles away from mainstream politics, we went in with a chip on our shoulder. We weren’t going to listen to the lies and excuses from the government officials. We were ready to make a stand, and that’s exactly what we did.
After Dan, many others, and I gave passionate testimony against federal indefinite detention, we staged a walk-out to give our words more effect. The committee members didn’t know what hit them. I don’t think they had ever seen such a thing in all their years within government. Although our tactics may have been unconventional and ruffled some feathers, we made our point loud and clear.
In crafting our approach, we didn’t take decorum into account. We didn’t treat these bureaucrats like they were hallowed public servants worthy of awe and reverence. We weren’t star-struck. We weren’t going to be bought off or intimidated. We were singularly focused, and knew what we had to do: Make these bureaucrats enforce the Constitution whether they liked it or not.
In the end, we achieved a partial victory. A bill ended up passing that nullified some of the effects of the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA. It was a great learning experience. I built contacts that have strengthened into powerful coalitions over since then. In subsequent battles, we packed committee hearings with even more people and have had success pushing good bills forward and stopping poor ones. We have learned from our mistakes and built upon our successes, but never let that warrior spirit subside within us.
This approach of fearlessness and pressuring politicians, rather than kissing up to them, is the blueprint for grassroots activists to achieve success. It is this type of thought-process that the Solutions Institute tries to instill into our clients. We don’t want to usher in a new power elite that can be corrupted. We want to create an atmosphere where politicians, and other powerful interests, must do the right thing or suffer ruinous consequences.
We want to mobilize and confront scoundrels. We don’t want to play footsie with them. We want to become formidable opposition to them. They have been left to their own devices for far too long. We want to become an unsuppressable nuisance. It isn’t easy, but with the internet at our disposal, it can be done. As we grow in numbers and influence, it will become easier.
When Dan and I lobbied the Michigan state legislature with our small group a couple years ago, we couldn’t have fathomed becoming a part of something as ground-breaking and revolutionary as the Solutions Institute. In just two years, we have come so far. Now, we must go that extra mile to breakthrough into the mainstream and end the cycle of corruption that we are stuck in, once and for all. We are on the cusp of something great, and with your help, we can achieve it.