IF MOMS RISING is the grande dame at the party, expertly working the crowd, SmartGirlPolitics is the ingenue turning heads at the top of the stairs: In 2010 its hashtag—#sgp—was the third-most-used tag on Twitter. The site’s founder, Stacy Mott, an energetic former human resources manager in rural New Jersey, is a Tea Party supporter whose mission is to get conservative women more involved in politics and whose focus is on rolling back government involvement in education, health care and energy. “We want to tell women’s stories about how the administration’s energy policy is taking a toll on families in the U.S.,” she says. “That touches me personally, because I look at my home state of West Virginia and I keep hearing about friends being laid off.”
A key goal of SmartGirlPolitics is to inspire conservative women to run for office, and recruitment begins online. In 2010, SmartGirlPolitics trained 3,500 women in online -activism—after which 100 ran for federal, state, local or party offices; 16 ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. “Our organization exploded in 2009 because of social media,” says Mott, who started SmartGirlPolitics during the 2008 election. “And it was all Twitter.”
In its online personal storytelling, SmartGirlPolitics has opted for a relatively old-fashioned format: spotlighting up-and-coming conservative stars in the group’s Web magazine, SmartGirlNation. A recent issue features Lisa Mei Norton, 48, an air force sergeant turned country singer who is cofounder of BigDawg Music Mafia, a social-networking site for conservative artists. In 2009, Norton wrote “Founding Sisters,” a song she dedicated to SmartGirl-Politics. In a video on Bigdawg-music-mafia.com she sings:
We “man up” when we’re attacked
We won’t be pushed around
Strong American women, yeah
We won’t be backing down.
SmartGirlNation also features chatty, first-person essays from Mott and other contributors. In one, Molly Teichman, who writes what she calls “political mommentary,” tells a story about accidentally starting a brush fire one Fourth of July when she was a child. She then uses the fire as a metaphor for political action.
Ask yourself . . . what would I be willing to do this Fourth of July? You don’t have to lay down your life. But you might lay down some distractions and help rekindle our Country. You might start a local interest group to follow city government. You might run a voter registration at the County Fair. You might start a brush fire of freedom in your own community.
The spotlight on individuals continues offline at the yearly SmartGirl Summit, a star-studded gathering—it has featured the likes of Representative Michele Bachmann and Liz Cheney—that the group calls “the must-attend event for today’s conservative woman activist.” The offline events help build the grassroots, state-by-state membership, and they also communicate a message of real-world participation and action. Mott points to one standout Summit attendee: Liz Carter, a Georgia businesswoman who two years ago attended a SmartGirl Summit in Nashville. “Afterward she came up to me and said, ‘You know what? I never really thought about it before, but I think I’m going to run for office.’ ” Carter ran for Congress in a heavily Democratic district and lost. “But that to me is success,” says Mott. “That we got one woman who attended an SGP event to run for office when she never considered it before—that’s our success.”