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A Real Grassroots Alternative for Tea Party

A consensus seems to have developed regarding when the next Tea Party event should be held: which is July 4.  In addition to this post, which summarizes the reasons for a grassroots alternative to the present structure, I have proposed an objective going forward. You can read the summary here or the full text here.


Proposal:

Consider a real grassroots alternative for the Tea Party “movement”

We the people of the grassroots need to provide an alternative to the top-down entities who appointed themselves sponsors and whose agendas and motives are at best, unclear.

For any who may be angered about why I should say such a blasphemous thing, please, bear with me. It is no easy thing to risk voicing criticism at this stage, not only considering the number of Americans waking up to the problems  we are facing, which is no small thing, but also to risk the potential backlash from my fellow Tea Partiers, and providing fodder for the viscious Left, who don’ t need anymore ammunition.

The consequences of mismanagement, fragmentation, and lack of effectiveness at this point are dire enough that it is time to speak out.

grassrootsvsastroturf2I find no small irony in events that have taken place, particularly starting with the March 2 conference call for organizers of the “Nationwide Chicago Tea Party” (Feb. 27). The March 2 call was headlined as  “After Action and What’s Next”.  It was not an “after action” evaluation; it was a pronouncement from on-high as to what the next move, message, and goals would be.

Not only was the call conducted in a way that violated the core principles of the group which had come together to organize the events the prior week, the whole thing was handled in diametric opposition to the very kind of governance that we seem to be saying we’d like to restore.

The whole reason for the rising up of so many Americans seems to be a rejection of the swelling size of government. It has grown too-powerful and out of control. As part of such a rejection, it would seem we would want to return to the Constitutional government established by our Founders. That means we want decentralized, limited power.  If we want to re-tether ourselves to Constitutional principles as a nation, then that means we want the power to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

If we cannot abide by or implement those principles in the way we conduct ourselves in an effort to rally our fellow countrymen against an ever more powerful government, do we have any real business leading the charge?

We say government is too-large, and it doesn’t employ common sense or basic principles. We say that whatever basic principles we can apply to our households, to our own personal finances, we should be able to implement as sound policy in our governance and in our fiscal policy. Again, if we cannot employ basic principles in our own operations, do we have any business expecting anyone to follow or for successful outcomes?

Present on the March 2 call were the majority of the coordinators of the Feb. 27th events, most of whom had been calling in daily the prior week. Some on the line had independently organized their own Feb. 27th event and subsequently learned of the online group. All of the people on that call had worked themselves very hard to obtain what can only be described as a near-miracle. In less than six days, a handful of people on the national level (fewer than ten) and forty – sixty people on the ground were able to organize and manage events that resulted in 15,000 – 25,000 people across the country coming together to let their voices be heard. In Lansing, Michigan, co-organizer Joan Fabiano decided on Monday, Feb. 23 to organize an event at her State Capitol for that Friday. In less than four days, she and two other women from the area managed to gather together 300 – 400 of their fellow Michigan citizens. In St. Louis, Bill Hennessey, with the help of radio show host Dana Loesch, found themselves on that Friday standing under the Arch with 1,500 other Missourians.

The organizers on the ground, the handful of people managing the details nationally, all of them, clearly showed leadership capability.  Sandra Crosnoe of Oklahoma and Steve Spinks of California worked quickly to set up fifty separate NING sites for each state to provide a launching pad for organizing the events and an outlet to establish a truly grassroots network in every state. A number of organizers used these sites to do both. Some states had 50 – 100 members by the end of that week.

Despite the fact that there was now a group of approximately sixty – seventy people across the country with leadership abilities, momentum, and newly forming networks in their states, they were not consulted about the next action that should be taken.  When they dialed in for the March 2 call, it is impossible to know exactly what they expected, but simple to summarize what they heard.

Coordinators were informed at the top of the call that the review / planning session they were participating in was being broadcast live on two Blog Talk Radio shows (you can listen to the Grizzly Groundswell version by clicking  here). The explanation given was to conduct activities with full transparency. This announcement was followed by another; the next event was to be a Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party with the following sponsors: TCOT, Don’t Go, and Smart Girl Politics. Conservative author and commentator Michelle Malkin was providing an additional endorsement.

“Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party” was to occur on Wednesday, April 15. TCOT’s Michael P. Leahy, who was conducting the call, urged organizers to protest outside of post offices noting, “People will be angry because they have to pay their taxes.”

The only person singled out for recognition was Don’t Go’s Eric Odom, who was lifted up as an example of the kind of “sacrifice” necessary to make these kinds of events successful. In one version told about the how the Feb. 27th decisions came together, Odom was reported to have agreed to change the date of his event so all would occur simultaneously. Mr. Odom had not participated in any of the conference calls the prior week. The visible support he provided to the event overall was the temporary use of some internet space for a national site until TCOT could put up it’s own.

TCOT’s Leahy moved on to define success for April 15th’s  “Tax Day Tea Party” as:

“more people, more email addresses”

Further, city organizers were instructed to forward the contact data they had collected from Feb. 27th attendees to TCOT. The data would be shared with Don’t Go and Smart Girl Politics. No clear purpose for doing so was stated.

When Sandra Crosnoe, a long-time grassroots organizer questioned Leahy about what policy would be established regarding all the data collected, he promised her that he would discuss that policy “offline”. To date, that conversation has yet to take place.

There were a couple of contentious exchanges regarding the selection of the date; the most frequently received complaint leading up to Friday the 27th had been that the Tea Parties had been held on a weekday. Leahy noted that only events conducted on April 15 were to be listed on the national site, taxdayteaparty.com, and if any of those organizers present on the call determined to have their next event on a different day, all good wishes to them, but another person in their city may be found to conduct one on the 15th.The most frequently written statement in emails: “I work for a living.” Leahy’s position and the date selected was puzzling to those of us who’d had  conversation regarding next moves the prior week; almost everyone had agreed the next event should occur on a Saturday.

Leahy became what can only be described as irritated when challenged regarding this decision by a couple of late-comers to the call. He noted, “we’ve put a lot of thought into this.” In addition to omitting who the “we” included, Leahy failed to note that the date had been chosen for everyone by Don’t Go’s Eric Odom, who had decided to control the next move by building a website for April 15 sometime prior to the 27th. By 2:30PM CST on February 28, he had the website up and running.

Whatever was worked out over the weekend regarding Odom’s action, the three entities had chosen to work together going forward.  Near the conclusion of the call, a plan was stated for establishing State Coordinators through the NING sites that had been set up. Sandra Crosnoe was to be the contact person for anyone wishing to be a State or Co-State Coordinator anywhere needed. As some of the folks on the call had organized their events independently of TCOT, a few of whom had indicated a “tech deficit”, an alternate point of contact was given (my email address). Despite these stated plans, the State Coordinator positions were not filled or organized as stated. Apparently Eric Odom again had other plans, wishing for all activity to be controlled by Don’t Go through the taxdayteaparty.com website.

A few of us who’d worked on the 27th events nationally received no small number of phone calls in the couple of days following the conference call. It was 27th planners who expressed concerns generally about the top-down nature and primarily the instruction to forward contact data into the three groups. They questioned: what was to be done with that contact information?

All those I talked to had made the independent decision not to send in the information. Some determined not to participate further in conference calls.  Others expressed concerns about the vagueness and perhaps, ineffectiveness of the stated theme for April 15, “Repeal the Pork, Cut Taxes.”

How would the procurement of email addresses help “Repeal the Pork”….or cut taxes?

Obviously, it won’t. What it could do, however, is provide a ready-made database for any variety of purposes including building new organizations, sending fundraising appeals, or for a major political campaign.

If the email addresses were kept local and used to build local organizations that could be very effective. If they were to be passed on to national organizations whose goals and purposes are not clear, what would that accomplish?

And really, isn’t the overarching question here:

What is the purpose of  “the Tea Party movement”?

What will be accomplished?

Stupid question, you say? It isn’t really. You get as many answers for that, at this point, as people you ask, but it might be fair to say that the following sums up some of the major goals:

  • Let people feel their voices have been heard
  • Show people they are not alone in their opposition
  • Send messages to politicians
  • Hope their representatives are more accountable in the future

Will these goals be accomplished?

To be sure, people attending the February 27, April 15, and any other Tea Party events in between, will feel that their voices have been heard and that they are not alone. All of these messages will go to politicians, whether they act as if they’ve heard them or not. It may result in a more active civic life for many, which again, is not to be overlooked.

At the end of the day, though, will it result in different action by our elected representatives? Hopefully. Is that likely to produce the results needed to roll back all that has brought us to this point? Unfortunately, no.

A fantasy:

Following a couple more Tea Parties, wherein hundreds of thousands (maybe even over a million) Americans gather, the message will penetrate through to Washington, D.C.:

President Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner, Federal Reserve Chair Bernanke, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid will all smack themselves in the head and say, “Geez, what was I thinking?” and immediately set themeselves on a new course to “Repeal the Pork, Cut Taxes.”

Republicans will finally find their spines and take the mush out of their mouths.

With this sudden awakening, the U.S. Congress will spend the next six months furiously repealing legislation. New bills will be no more than forty pages in length and immediately posted on the internet for no shorter a period than 14 days prior to the initial vote.

The corporate tax rate and the capital gains tax will be temporarily abolished and permanently cut and personal income taxes for all taxpayers will be slashed in half.

There will be deep cuts in all Federal spending programs that aren’t didn’t repeal. Cap & trade will be assigned to the ash heap of history.

The value of the dollar will stabilize, the stock market will climb back up to 10,000, the real estate market will have found its bottom, and people’s 401K accounts resume growth.

State legislatures, City Councils, and School Boards will follow suit. They will cut spending, lower taxes, reduce fees, repeal business-killing regulations, and roll back ordinances that impinge on our daily lives.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties will stop running their organizations from the top-down. They will scrap their leadership and convene new elections for leadership at the County, State, and National level, in that order.

The primary system will be reformed, adopting a system of rotation for the first three states and a National Primary Day will be agreed upon by both parties for those remaining. McCain – Feingold will be repealed. We will all have an opportunity to participate in the decision about the next Presidential candidate.

Then we will all hold hands and sing, “Kumbayah”.

Really? Ok. Maybe we should start over with “Repeal the Pork”.

When was the last time that happened under any Congress, or any President?

The Reality:

At this stage, because of a culture of corruption in our society and political systems, the best case scenario is that people will build networks locally. The coming together of people for an event like this connects them to one another. And that is indeed, valuable. In part, though, for that connecting to have any lasting, real impact, one must assume organizers of these events are laying the ground work for further activities. If handled properly, an energized statewide network could have some real impact on bills in State legislatures, matters up for vote by City Councils and school boards.

But, this is not a message I’ve heard coming from the national  “leadership”.  So are Tea Party organizers thinking of this on their own or are they just ready to move on to planning the next Tea Party? Besides establishing local networks, the best hope, likely is that elected officials will be put on notice that their constituents are carefully watching what they are doing.

Maybe it will change the way some of them vote.

More likely, though, business as usual will take place. In some Capitol backroom, deals will be cut to provide cover for members of Congress whose constituents are the loudest. The maneuvering will take place to enable the legislation to pass while allowing the most endangered to vote “no”.

The most notable theme, again is “Repeal the Pork”. In reality, in the present environment, that is unattainable. So why has an unattainable goal been set?

Perhaps the actual goals were overlooked.

The top-down handling of the March 2 call was not the only disquieting action by “leadership”. Some of the Feb. 27th organizers who chose to continue their participation in conference calls ultimately decided to stop once they learned of a pledge drive circulated via email by Don’t Go. The monthly pledge requests didn’t clearly define for what purpose the funds would be used. Some of us learned, additionally, that funds raised by what came to be called “The Tea Party Coalition” were being used to fund Smart Girl Politic’s growth and for start-up costs as a 501 c3 organization. In an email response to one Tea Party organizer’s rigorous questioning regarding the use of the funds, SGP co-founder Stacey Mott openly, and apparently unwittingly admitted that some of the money was being used to pay for the building of their new website, to pay for the hiring of an attorney, and for costs to file their 501 c3 status. All of these plans had existed before the Tea Party phenomenon surfaced.

To the best of my knowledge, no Tea Party organizers anywhere received any of the monies raised from either pledge drives or “Tea Party Gear” sales. I was personally informed that within about a week and a half of opening, the store had over $13,000 in sales.

Participation in the weekly calls by “original organizers” dropped off. Anyone I’ve spoken with since March 2 who decided to call in at any point described the calls as “full of yes men” and the whole thing “sounded rehearsed”. In other words, voices of dissent determined to go their own way. In any of my own conversations with other organizers, there has been a general frustration expressed. They don’t want to lose the momentum of people beginning to wake up and wishing to join together in a show of force. But they felt they had little alternative to dealing with the “Tea Party Coalition”. They rightly felt the need to have their event listed on a national site.

There have been a number of other frustrations felt by local coordinators, including some further “mandates” by the “Coalition” and the blatant co-opting of local lists by Don’t Go, who added an “RSVP Here” button to the national site.

Frankly, in discussing the problems that were clearly coming out of the “Coalition”, the same fervor of “do something” that gripped Congress last fall and in February seemed to be the theme of the day. We must keep Tea Party together, at all costs, regardless of who we have to deal with to get it accomplished. Isn’t that a reflection of what is going on at all levels of our government? Isn’t that “hurry, hurry, do something!” mentality exactly like the one that gave us the TARP aka “Bailout” bill and the Stimulus Bill?

March 2 was a very sadly missed opportunity. Whatever minimal collaboration among local organizers had taken place during the week leading up to the Feb. 27th parties was lost. The people on the ground, the folks doing the tough work, were not talking to each other. There are a lot of people around the country with excellent ideas on everything from the practical, logistical steps of obtaining proper permits to potential actions all events could take to send one unified, national message.

All these folks were left with was incoming emails from taxdayteaparty.com and the richocheting replies that resulted, which are rather like forum threads. These interactions coming through email messages were mingled among all of the inquiries about the upcoming event from the general public, the spam, and the myriad opportunists ranging from musicians wanting their music to be played to local usurpers who attempted to insert themselves into events. It’s difficult to imagine that much real or effective interchange of ideas did or could occur. Having ideas heard through the din of all that noise seems difficult at best.

Many organizers were frustrated on the first round about the inability to come up with one central act that would send a unifying message with impact. On the calls the week leading up to the 27th, a number of very good proposals were made and for no fathomable reason, Michael Leahy continuously batted down and side-stepped them.

Throughout the fractured conversation in the bouncing emails between Feb. 27th and April 15th, there have been continued pleas. Again, it is very difficult to be heard.

Hi-jackers, Co-opters, and Interferers

In addition to the steady stream of opportunists and heated exchanges, organizers have witnessed and been affected by a few very large and well-known entities and the way they’ve conducted themselves.  One of them copied all of the events listed on the taxdayteaparty.com site, started a new site, copied over the information and then began sending out emails with a “PayPal Donate” button in them, claiming to be the organizers of the entire movement. But their co-opting didn’t stop there. They added functionality to their site for people to start their own events, causing a good deal of confusion for people on the ground.  Any errors on the taxdayteaparty.com site were copied over to the other. I noted an error in the listing of my event and made repeated attempts to contact the “echoer” to correct it on their site. I never received a reply nor was the information ever corrected. Further, a link to a “tool” they provided to edit one’s own event also failed to work. It appeared, like all else they were doing, to be so much window dressing. Of course, I had to deal with a lot of email and phone calls from the confusion the error caused. And I am just one organizer. It was not a little frustrating that rather than attempt to put a stop to this blatant co-opt, the “Coalition” appeared to endorse it when Newt Gingrich publicly appeared to engage in a partnership with the entity.

It seemed to me it took no small amount of nerve to request my cooperation in this co-opt. On April 16, I received a request from this organization to send my pictures and final head count. Based on their prior conduct, this is clearly to give them an opportunity to gloat at how successfully they “organized” and “managed” all of these events.

But that one entity was not the only one to claim the credit. On April 17, a fellow-organizer forwarded a message she’d received from someone in her state regarding yet another entity that is now claiming credit for all of the parties – her message cited how they’d managed to put together “all 1,000 of them”.

It’s very difficult, having seen all of this going on, not to be somewhat disgusted. We wonder why we are in trouble as a nation? We have a much greater deficit of ethics and an admiration of them than we have troubles with money.

So there are people, entities, organizations who either do not understand the trouble we we are in or they simply don’t care. We have people whether for their own personal aims (money, ego, power, status) or for wider goals (fundraising, list-building, campaign preparation) who are misguiding, latching onto, attempting to control, or attempting to hi-jack a phenomenon that could actually have real impact on the problems we are facing.

It is disgusting to realize that there is some truth to some stories that have circulated in the New York Times as well as other accusations made by some really left-winger journalists.  But when Paul Krugman wrote on April 13 about Freedom Works, that part was unfortunately, accurate.  Freedom Works people, and others related to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have sprung up repeatedly in the strangest of places.

I first heard of interference by Freedom Works in Philadelphia during the week leading up to Feb. 27th. The group was causing a great deal of difficulty to the organizer there.

I was mildly surprised when both the Freedom Works and Dick Armey Twitter IDs started to follow me that week. But that was not the end of my personal experience with that organization. The week of March 9, I set up a Facebook event page and an email account for an April Tea Party event in Lincoln although I was still debating the wisdom of April 15, especially in a large rural state like Nebraska. At that point, I’d been contacted by a couple of Nebraskans in regards to a rally they wanted to put on in front of Sen. Ben Nelson’s office in downtown Lincoln in protest of his involvement in the Stimulus Bill that Sunday afternoon.  I was not brought “on board” until mid to late week, so it was rather a scramble to get out a press release in time for it to be of any help. On that Friday, I received an email directly from the Washington, D.C. Communications Director for Freedom Works, asking if “my event” was scheduled for 7PM.

Already having noted the interference factor of Freedom Works, and fairly mystified about why a D.C. Comm. Director would bother contacting me in Lincoln, NE, I very politely explained that the information noted for April 15 online was very, very tentative, in regards to both the specifed date and for certain, the time. I told him that as I was helping with an event coming up that Sunday afternoon,  the Tax Day event was not my focus at that point. I further noted that at as I had helped organize nationally the 2/27 events, I should be in good shape organizing for April.

I found out the following day that someone from Freedom Works had gone on the region’s largest radio station (1110 KFAB in Omaha) and given out information that the rally at Ben Nelson’s office in Lincoln was at 7PM. There’s simply no good explanation for why or how this occurred.

In addition, the gentleman whom I’d helped with the rally on March 15 was later contacted directly by Dick Armey. Shortly after March 15, the fellow forwarded me a list of email addresses whom he said had contacted him regarding an April Tea Party. Remarking that both Dick Armey’s and the Comm. Director’s names were on the list, I asked my co-organizer if all of the names on the list were people who had actually contacted him, or did the list also include people he’d added to his contacts list? He confirmed that all of the names and addresses were people who’d contacted him.

What good reason is there for Dick Armey to personally contact a man in the middle of Nebraska about a Tea Party?

Besides Mr. Armey and his Comm. Director, a man named Peter Roff was also contacting a number of Tea Party organizers prior to the 27th. One of them reported having received an email, out of the blue, commenting on how to improve her press release. She’d had no prior contact. She replied very briefly, “Who are you?” Mr. Roff noted that he had prior experience with PR and he was supportive of the Tea Parties, so he just wanted to help. Interestingly, among a number of other positions in the past, Peter Roff worked for Newt Gingrich at GOPAC.

Clearly, there is some level of national interference and cooperation in all of this. It is disquieting. Considering not only the conduct of the “Coalition” and their questionable definition of success, their unstated purposes for use of collected contact data, is it a stretch to question what is going on here? Is the grassroots being used to help drive towards some particular end?

Further, is it a coincidence that at one point, Newt Gingrich was named “Tea Party Spokesman”?

The usurpation and interference didn’t end with some of the national groups. Organizers on the ground had to deal with a myriad of other interferences including in very many places, the “Fair Taxers”, and in many others, the Republican Party. To be sure, in some parts of the country, the GOP has stuck by its limited government principles. But for the most part, that party has led us down the same path as the other. In Federal government, they spent money at insane levels for the last eight years.  The RNC is far too much a top-down organization and many state GOP’s have been running their operations with clear incompetence. If they had stuck by their principles, how could the country, many states, and a lot of cities be in such shape? They are not only top-down and incompetent in many places, they are also even more loathe to unclench their grip on power. So the GOP has been guiding some events in some places. Regardless of the extent across the country, this interference or hi-jack only plays further into the hands of the Left.

Regardless, we have a problem. I know this is the largest grassroots effort of which I’m aware that has ever taken place. And despite all that I’ve mentioned, it is still that. Despite the “Coalition’s” decisions, many groups’ efforts to control, and too many questionable agendas, the majority of organizers, at least the ones I’ve come to know personally, are solid people with pure motives.  They’ve either attempted mightily or managed to keep to a minimum, the influence and interference of all of these groups.

Of course, these are the folks who have expressed, a number of times, a desire to be free from the necessity of dealing in anyway with the “Coalition”.

But there are a lot of other organizers out there, most of whom weren’t involved leading up to the 27th, and have either bought into the notion that the “Coalition” is some gathering of long-standing groups, or it simply hasn’t occurred to them to ask any penetrating questions. An aura of enhanced credibility had begun even before the conclusion of the March 2 conference call. One participant requested that the “IT Staff” review the Facebook listings of some western state organizers to be sure they were in order.  The “IT Staff” leading up to the 27th events was primarily one woman who I helped a few times when she got snowed under.

But this kind of “buy-in” is telling and just one of the many syndromes that ail us. Apparently as a society, we have become conditioned to unquestionably trust “authority”. I wish the man requesting a review by the “IT Staff” had realized that the events that had just occurred where managed entirely by a handful of volunteers and pulled off with the use of a free conference calling service, email, and two social media tools. It wasn’t the long-experienced, professional, or the special who had carried out the tasks.

In addition to putting largely undeserved trust in unknown entities, many people conducting these events didn’t stop to consider some of their own actions. Politicians were asked to speak, some who’d voted for the Bailout Bill; notable personalities and celebrities of all kinds were given the microphone.

It’s important at this stage to ask the question: Why are people rising up to organize and attend Tea Parties?

Although some people know in their “gut” something is wrong, they may not be able to articulate all of the reasons. These are the major issues:

  • In general, our country has come untethered from its Constitutional basis.
  • Government is out of control, at all levels.
  • Unsustainable, reckless spending, borrowing, and printing of money seriously threatens to collapse the value of our currency.
  • A plethora of proposed legislation threatens individual liberty.
  • A serious world-wide drive towards a one-world currency permanently threatens the sovereignty of the United States.
  • The majority of the media doesn’t investigate or report fully on events or people. As a result we are under-informed about who represents us, who is running for office, and the actions taken by government.

We did not arrive at this moment overnight. The reasons are many and complex. We can look at some in the very recent past:

  • Both political parties operate in a top-down manner, and are more interested in maintaining their power bases than the result of their policies.
  • Our educational system has indoctrinated people to accept top-down power and encouraged an abdication of personal and civic responsibilities.
  • We have a culture obsessed with celebrity and cult of personality.
  • The lion’s share of media makes it clear that only the special, chosen few from the right schools, the right family, or the right circle of society have any business opening their mouths to comment on public policy or trying to lead.

NEW HEADER

  • The very segment of the public which is interested in raising their voices in opposition to our present state are fed-up with politicians.
  • Republicans feel as if their party has left them, and they’ve seen no acknowledgement of fault, no “Come to Jesus” moment, so any recent changes in words or votes appear politically motivated.
  • Any Democrats who are newly recognizing they were mistaken about their vote feel betrayed by their own party but feel awkward about joining in with they have to know is an event dominated by Conservatives / Republicans.

From a purely PR point of view, it should seem an obvious mistake to invite politicians to speak or allow an event to be controlled by the Republican party.  On a more substantive level, though, there is a fairly clear consensus that the reason Barack Obama won the Presidency this past November is due to a reversal in voter turnout numbers. The Republicans stayed home. That means despite all that was at stake, they were so disgusted by their own party, so turned off by their candidate, they couldn’t bring themselves to vote.

This obviously resulted in the loss of not only the Presidency but in so many seats in Congress that it will be difficult to stop the tsunami of damaging legislation that is guaranteed to be coming through Congress. And has the Republican party as a whole really shown it has learned any lessons from the clear slap in the face message they received? Absolutely not. They kept in tact almost all of the leadership in the U.S. Congress that had existed in the previous session. All of them were involved in engineering the TARP bill. There was no recognition of the mess by RNC members; there were six or seven rounds of votes to elect the Chairman. Michael Steele ultimately won the post with a difference of about twenty votes.  Mr. Steele has repeatedly exhibited poor judgement. One of his first errors was in sticking his foot directly in his mouth follow Rush Limbaugh’s CPAC speech

So it is unwise, at best, for anyone to intimiately involve politicians in their Tea Party events, to endorse the incompetence of the Republican party by including them in their efforts. But the “Tea Party Coalition” provides no good example or guidance on this issue. TCOT’s Leahy, in discussing potential slogans and themes during the week of the 27th proposed the slogan: “I’ll sleep when Republicans run Congress.” Further the taxdeayteaparty.com site has periodically contained enough party leaning rhetoric that indicates they just don’t “get it”. I personally received a few complaints from Nebraskans regarding some site content of this nature.

But beyond PR concerns, and the specific issues surrounding the Republican Party, it begs the question, once again, if we have even a small amount of understanding in regards to how serious are problems are, why are we not re-examining the way we do everything?

Involving the GOP and taking such a partisan tact betrays an ignorance that is truly unacceptable at this stage.  Putting all together, including some plans not even mentioned to this point, the “Coalition”, or at least some part of it, seems highly focused on the mid-term elections of 2010. Of course elections have consequences. Of course reversing a near filibuster proof majority in the Senate and improving the strength of resistance in the House are important goals.

But, it is critical to ask the question: Following the actions and logic of “leadership” to date, is all of this likely to result in truly changed or improved governance? Would even a significant improvement in the Republicans or conservative Democrats really begin to reverse the tidal wave of problems we’re facing?

The answer is a resounding no.

American’s entire financial system, the value of its currency is hanging on the edge of a cliff. Individual liberty and the Constitution are hanging by a thread and time is running out.

If we have any hopes of turning any of this around, we cannot play games, we cannot enter in relationships or be led by “witch-doctors”. It’s time to reject anyone who has led in the past in a way that has driven us to the moment in which we find ourselves. That means rejecting:

  • Politicians who voted for any bailout legislation
  • Politicians who have been in past positions of leadership in Congress
  • Groups and organizations who seem to exist only to fund their own existence, who have in general failed to produce any real results
  • Groups and organizations who have attempted to co-opt the present movement
  • People or groups who have attempted to make money off of the present movement
  • Groups who attempt to appear as if they are grassroots but really just use the grassroots to make money for their own purposes

That means we need to throw off the “leadership” of the “Coalition”.  Event organizers up to this point, if they wish to have their event listed nationally with all of the others, have been forced to conform their events, at least by date, to the mandates handed down by three very new “organizations”.

Because of the way the whole endeavor was handled starting with a top-down, contentious conference call on March 2, the potential real effectiveness has been blunted, neutered. The message received by some in the public, and very much amplified by the left is: “Why are they protesting income taxes?” Because of the falling away of so many local event organizers, there was no clear message coming from all of the Tea Parties. Most of us know that income taxes in particular were not the focus. It is all of the problems noted above.

Why was some more effective message or action not attempted?

With the hundreds of thousands of people coming out to these events, imagine the possibilities of effective action that could have been taken. There could have been ballot initiatives for particular actions that answer to any one of our underlying problems, such as:

  • Declining to accept any Stimulus money with strings attached
  • Ensuring the passage of Tenth Amendment legislation in all remaining states whose bills are locked up in Committee or have as of yet begun to initiate one
  • A particular initiative or vehicle derived to bring about an audit of the Federal Reserve

What should have happened on March 2:

With the nucleus of leadership available, had effective action actually been the goal, a framework could have been created and consensus arrived at for movement forward. All of the elements were in in place to formulate, perhaps for the first time, a truly grassroots effort that had the potential for producing effective results.

Going back to my earlier statements, shouldn’t we be conducting ourselves based on a model of our core principles? That being said, the leadership should have been coming out of the States. Those state NING sites should have been used as the point of organization. One or two leaders from each State could have and should have been agreed upon.

The only reason for national coordination was to pool resources, share information, and hopefully, agree upon coherent, consistent messages and perhaps, ideally, one particular goal for each set of events that promised to bring about real results.

State leaders who emphasised action at the State, County, and local levels would have been ideal candidates. If any of us believe that we are going to reverse all of our problems by myopically focusing only on what is happening nationally,  are seriously fooling ourselves. We all need to become much better informed about what is happening with our school boards, city councils, county commissions, and state legislatures. Local Tea Parties should have their own focus. State leaders who encouraged the building and establishing of local networks that would outlast any Tea Party events would have been, again, the ideal candidates.

Modeling after a core principle of decentralized power, no one individual or handful of individuals should have been allowed to control the decision making or messages.

Whether it would have been one leader from every state participating in regular national conference calls, or a smaller group, a central committee elected by all of the organizers, a representative body, based on republican principles (note the small “r” here) seems like the only common sense approach.

Clearly we have all been indoctrinated too much to the notion that we must look to one or two “special people” on the national stage to lead us all. Just because people have oppressive or manipulative personalities, have the ability to quickly deploy technology, or means of stifling dissent, doesn’t mean they are to be followed. In fact, all of those characteristics are reasons for rejection.

Rather than a website thrown up by someone who always seems to be first to the punch, and thereby ever after controlled by him, a website should be controlled by a large number of administrators, the group taken directly from those leaders who are part of the Tea Party effort themselves.

In the end, isn’t it really a moral question for us to stop contributing our efforts, lending our name, and spending our time under the umbrella of groups who have not conducted themselves in a way that exhibits the principles

We need a central, national repository website administered directly by State grassroots leadership, not controlled by one man, or small handful of individuals who have clearly exhibited murky motivations, attempted to capture people’s contact information, and raised funds for their own purposes.

I propose:

  • A central national website be created for listing Tea Party events and contact information for each state
  • The site should be administered by a sizable number of people, perhaps tied to regions representing states, and agreed upon by state leadership.
  • Central messages and themes listed at the site are to be agreed upon by the leaders from each state
  • Clear policies regarding “sponsorship” should be formulated and posted
  • Clear policies regarding the raising of funds should be formulated and clearly stated
  • Support for Tea Party organizers throughout the country should be given in as many ways as possible, and communication among all organizers should be encouraged as much as possible, to discuss ideas, solve problems, and provide back-up
  • No attempts to capture the contact information of visitors to the site should be undertaken
  • Expenses for the site should be shared among all fifty states

13 thoughts on “A Real Grassroots Alternative for Tea Party”

  1. I can provide the website and administerial capabilities to that site. Your groups provide the message, theme and policies.

  2. From what I understand, Odom is doing his own thing now and Leahy is not involved with the Tea Party movement going forward and is simply helping PJTV.com. Both of them will be promoting the movement, but not as “leaders”.

    Amy Kremer, who did the brunt of the work and is a sincere class act, will be working with several people from around the country that have stepped up to provide additional support and leadership for the movement.

    Your article hit many nails on the head, but read into a few situations a little too deeply. I think that the affectiveness of simultaneous events is extremely significant. For those that held events outside of February 27th and Tax Day,…they were overlooked and forgotten as soon as they gathered and that’s a shame. We will be talking about the 850+ events on Tax Day for months to come,….that is, until we top that on July 4th and with the march on Washington on 9/12.

    I think nationally promoting specific dates is key, and providing a “how to” or “best practices” for beginning organizers is important, as well. Other than that, the national folks should only be providing a mechanism / tool by which to organize, which Amy and her team are doing with http://www.TeaPartyPatriots.org. They are encouraging events on specific national days, but will allow listing any and all events on the site. But most importantly, they’re allowing local organizers to interact via that site to share what each other is doing.

    In addition, we’ve recently started a local talk radio show ‘Tea Party Patriots Live’ here in Orlando, broadcasting on the internet at http://www.660worl.com (with national syndications discussions already happening) that will be a conduit to tapping into and discussion grassroots ‘best practices’ and education on returning this country back to the principles of the founding. Contact me for more information and how to be on the show.

    I think 98%, in fact, of the local organizers could care less about the “coalition” but were hungry and determined to “do something” for their country. With that in mind, those city coordinators “used” the coalition as much as the coalition “used” them. But when it came down to it, I believe you’re correct, they didn’t “turn in” the sign-in list generated at the events and are keeping that database for themselves for future planning of events.

    One thing I would like to add, though, is that I see this movement growing like this:
    1. Identify the issue, generally speaking.
    2. Identify the target audience.
    3. Provide them a channel to vent and feel apart of something, like they’re not alone.
    4. Get their buy-in to “follow” the “leaders” of the movement.
    5. Build the movement and grow the participants.

    Once you have as many people as possible “following”, then its time to wake them up.

    6. Educate the participants.
    7. Educate them some more, to stuff they may be uncomfortable with (federal reserve, fair tax as the solution, obama’s civilian security force, one world order, north american union, amero, etc.)
    8. Take action,…take strong action.

    I think if you look to incorporate the messages in 7 and 8 before you affectively fulfill 1-5, you will lose them, they won’t participate, and they’ll think you’re nuts.

    ‘Repeal the Pork’ is not reality, but appeals to the issue on everyone’s mind and encourages them keep participating.

    Stay tuned.

    What a great article you’ve put together and I thank you for the time it must have taken you to write it.

  3. Shelli, Sandie gave me a link to your site. I've read through a lot of what you've posted, especially the parts about hijacking by various entities, such as the Republican Party, Gingrich, Leahy, etc., etc.

    Sandie gave me the link to your site because I had sent to her a link to my new blog posted this afternoon, "Constitutional Convention Backers Want to Hijack the Tea Party Movement" at http://www.jbs.org/index.php/freedom-campaign/482

    We have numerous overlaps in our concerns; however, our experiences have been very different because you've been directly involved in organizing one or more tea party events and I've been on the sidelines as a local tea party participant and very interested observer.

    See next comment for more.

    Larry

  4. Shelli (continued),

    One interesting piece of the puzzle that I can supply is background information on the real danger of calling a constitutional convention (con-con). Members and staff of the John Birch Society have been working with state legislators of both parties for over 20 years to convince them to vote against petitioning Congress to call a con-con. Since about 1983 no further states have petitioned for a con-con and about 10 states have rescinded all their previous con-con calls.

    Be sure to view our video, "Beware of Article V," about the dangers of a con-con at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za8_pdJ1dPo

    I'd be interested to discuss all of the above topics with you. You can reach me @lgreenley on Twitter.

    Larry

  5. Please be on the alert for GOOOH who now has those representing them joining the Glenn Beck 912 groups and the teaparty groups, gleaning email lists to promote this political action committee. Goooh wants 500,000 to donate $20.00 to $100.00 each so they can start their own political party.

    1. Darlene,
      Thanks very much for the heads up. I have heard of this “GOOH”. They are VERY sticky, it seems. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open!
      You wouldn’t be from Michigan by any chance, would you?

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