After the 2012 presidential election, Stacy Mott, 40, cofounder of Smart Girl Politics, knew it was time for some reassessing.
Women had gone for President Obama by an eleven-point margin, handing him a second term in the White House.
“We took a look at ourselves after the election,” Mott says. “Our philosophy didn’t change, but the way we looked at it changed. Our focus is government intrusion into women’s lives. We focus on fiscal and personal responsibility. How do we get by as women? I am impacted by tax increases. So we ask our members ‘What do you cut back on?’ ‘How can we get government to cut back?’”
Smart Girls recently tweeted: “If you know when Kim Kardashian’s due date is, but not why your first paycheck of the year is less, you may be an idiot. Heaven help our youth.”
“We had a perfect opportunity to keep the issue on the economy in 2012,” says Mott. “But everybody—not just candidates—got off message.” Mott says that Smart Girls is “not by any means a GOP organization” but she does think that women were had by the Obama campaign.
“One of the things [Smart Girls cofounder] Teri [Christoph] noticed after the campaign is that when liberal women go on shows, they don’t identify themselves as liberals,” says Mott. “They identify themselves as women, as if they speak for all women. We need to change that and not label ourselves as if we speak for only some women. Don’t get me wrong. We are conservative and this is not about changing who we are.”
Another problem: a tendency to react rather than anticipate and go on the offensive among conservative-leaning groups, which simply aren’t as sophisticated at messaging as their opponents.
“One of the key things that the Left does that we do not do is that when a Sandra Fluke or someone like that comes along, it’s as if they have this internal network—and I’m sure they do. But every blogger on the left, every woman on the left, is talking the same talk. On the right, we just haven’t done the job of working with others to have one coherent message.”
Mott thinks that conservatives must learn to anticipate what issues will come up and what their political opponents will throw at them and go on the offensive instead of merely reacting. And—in a way—that is just what Smart Girl Politics, a grass roots organization, has been doing.
Smart Girls grew out of a blog. Mott, Clinton voter turned George Bush supporter, became caught up in blogging during the 2008 presidential campaign. She attracted a following and didn’t want to give up discussing politics just because the election was over. “I put up a little ‘help wanted’ sign on my blog asking if there were any women out there who wanted to continue the conversation,” Mott recalls.
Mott expected that perhaps three or four women would respond and they’d have online political discussions. Instead she received more than sixty emails in response almost immediately—in the overall scheme of things, modest perhaps, but highly encouraging for Mott.
Those sixty plus emails were the genesis of Smart Girl Politics, which Mott cofounded with Teri Christoph, another stay-at-home mother, and which evolved into one of the most successful grass roots operations on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Smart Girls now has 65,000 members and volunteers in twenty-six states.
A business major with a focus on marketing at the University of West Virginia, Mott and her husband tossed names back and forth, settling on Smart Girls. Mott lives in New Jersey with her husband, Matt, who works at the Toys ‘R Us corporate office, and three small children, including six-year-old twins.
Smart Girl Politics, says Mott, has never broken the $100,000 benchmark in fundraising and yet it packs a wollop. Radio host Tammy Bruce and columnist Michelle Malkin sat up and took note of Smart Girls early and made a point of mentioning it. The yearly Smart Girl Summit, which will be in Indianapolis in August this year, attracts important conservative speakers and is put on entirely with volunteer labor. Mott and Christoph have never taken a salary, and Smart Girls has only one paid employee.
The secret of Smart Girl growth: social media. “We were really big in social media and without a doubt that has been helpful,” says Mott. She says that in 2009 Smart Girls was the seventh most popular hash tag in the country, moving up to number three in 2010.
Smart Girls does frequent podcasts and even hosted a “Twitter Ball”—on inauguration day in 2009, Smart Girls set up several chat rooms. Michelle Malkin and Dana Loesch were among the Twitter Ball chat room hosts. Two thousand people “attended” the ball, and, “After that we doubled in size,” says Mott.
Smart Girl members around the country do such things as hosting small parties in their houses or sponsoring movie nights that include a discussion over snacks. Smart Girls also reaches out to women who might not share their political philosophy but are with them on one issue. For example, Mott recently had women interested in education over for a showing of The Cartel, a documentary about how the education establishment often impedes the education of children.
Smart Girls provides media training and suggestions for book discussion. Smart Girls does not recruit candidates, but it has endorsed several. “All women are faced with a much harder time running for office than their male counterparts,” Mott says, “but conservative women seem to receive it worse. In order to run as a conservative women, you must ensure that you have some pretty tough skin, you have a strong-family support system, and your knowledge on the issues is top-notch. Basically, you have to be more prepared because you will, without a doubt, be a target.”
Asked why the media is often harsher on conservative women, Mott replies, “My answer to this would have been different four years ago. I was naive to think that it was more based on the false perceptions of conservative women. Today, I do not doubt that it is strategic. The media paints conservative women with a broad brush. We are less intelligent, radical in our beliefs, and are stereotypical women of the 50s. We are here only to serve and follow blindly our fathers and husbands.
“Obviously, this couldn’t be further from the truth. However, should the public see an intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful conservative woman, the media and those on the left would lose many of their arguments. They seek to minimize our contributions to ensure that they win and control the women’s vote.”
The theme of the Smart Girl Summit this August in Indianapolis is “Where Politics and Culture Collide.” The speakers aren’t firmed up yet, but this year there will be several “fun-based” activities. Women will have an opportunity to go to a shooting range or take a self-defense class.
I don’t know about you, but it’s on my calendar already.