Even though there is no record he said it, many people attribute to the American patriot Sam Adams the phrase, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”
It may be a spurious citation, but I think Sam Adams probably would have agreed with the sentiment.
The idea contained in that quotation is a simple one, with examples scattered throughout ancient and modern history. That is, perhaps, why the saying has such staying power: we know instinctively it is true.
Yet in modern politics we have allowed ourselves to be told, and even believe, the opposite. We’re expected to believe a majority must be on our side to prevail before we even get started. Polls are used and abused to tell us to ignore our beliefs, because no one else shares them and we’re doomed to fail.
And maybe the naysayers are right, in the moment. After all, no great effort to right a perceived injustice or reform a corrupt system ever began with a majority. It began with a good idea nonetheless abhorred by many.
Let me here make a simple observation, and take a swipe at one of the conservative movement’s favorite sayings. It comes from the French poet Victor Hugo and goes like this: “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
In fact, almost everything is more powerful than a good idea. Good ideas die all the time. And they die because the originator of the idea either assumed it would be recognized on its face and adopted by all who beheld it… or was intimidated by the work of making it real.
What propels forward good ideas isn’t much different than what it takes to start a fire with a bit of flint and steel: a lot of persistent effort. Let’s be honest: it’s actually hard work to engage with our friends and family. We risk scorn and rejection.
Yet it is also immensely rewarding. One lit match might illuminate a step or two for a minute, but blazing bonfires can turn night into day.
With a “tireless minority” keenly at work, we can push against the darkness and illuminate the lives of our countrymen. It’s up to us. So regardless of who said it, let’s get busy setting those fires! Our republic needs the light now more than ever.