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What is the Grassroots?

Thank you to J. Fabiano and Sandra Crosnoe for their input on this piece.

Volunteers prepare for the April 11 Tea Party at the Nebraska State Capitol
Volunteers prepare for the April 11 Tea Party at the Nebraska State Capitol

WHAT IS THE GRASSROOTS?

A grassroots effort is individuals, who voluntarily, out of their own free will, choose to engage with other free will individuals on projects that further their shared goals and on causes they believe in.

It’s not a formalized organization of group-think, or layers of bureaucracy in the form of committees and subcommittees.

It’s not a pyramidal structure as has been seen time and again in government, in political parties, in 501c3′s or large corporations.

If that worked, would we all be here today? If we create this formal structure, how are we  going to spark people to get involved, why would they be invested in the process if they are not members of the “Executive Committee” or “Board”?

Grassroots is a collaborative effort of free individuals with the help of the coordination of an inspired facilitator or leader with a vision.

A true leader doesn’t take credit when things go right, but is willing to take the blame when things go wrong. They are usually reluctant, but out of a deep conviction of their beliefs, step forward. And a true leader is protective of those who are looking for vision, guidance, and help.

True leadership has a vision and direction, but at the same time has a willingness to make difficult decisions when necessary. They are principled, and sometimes, out front, particularly when they are avid seekers of the truth.

I think it has been so long, and we have come so far from having that, when we are trying to do anything, we turn to the “default” for the answers.

The default is a very formalized, pyramidal structure with layers of bureaucracy. But bureaucracy and pyramidal structures trap potential and paralyze action.

Did Paul Revere run around consulting with a committee before he jumped on his horse?

True grassroots individuals encourage and inspire one another to use their talents and skills to have an impact on the things they are passionate about and agree need to be accomplished.

Rather than going to the “default”, such as the pyramidal structure, it would seem it is better to do things in a as free a manner as possible while still being effective.

Rather than the failed pyramid, we need to try to do things by project. Projects that are hubs of activity but connected with one another and moving toward shared goals.

Anyone who agrees with the goals of a project is free to join in.  We are all adults who want to take personal responsibility and we want to get something done.

In order to be most effective, a new grassroots movement should focus on educating and informing themselves, help one another do the same, and share information and try to educate the public when appropriate. Leaders and members of the group should help get people the tools and skills they need to accomplish these goals.  If “all” a grassroots movement ever accomplished was to move towards an informed electorate, that would be a worthy accomplishment.

But when an educated, skilled grassroots, project-oriented effort is moving toward the overall goal of moving towards originally intended, Constitutionally limited government, it’s difficult to imagine they can’t accomplish more.

A Real Grassroots Alternative & Objective for Tea Party: Summary

Updated:

I am in the process of rewriting this summary. I was mistaken in my idea that there was a consensus on the next round, or at least I underestimated how much the “national coalition” would fall apart.

A consensus seems to have developed regarding when the next Tea Party event should be held: 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. This is a summary of both. The full text of the objective can be found 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, know that 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,  but also to risk the potential backlash from my fellow Tea Partiers, and providing fodder for the vicious 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.

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?

The first round of Tea Party event was Feb. 27th, the impetus for which was Rick Santelli’s “rant” on the CNBC morning show “SquawkBox” on Feb. 19 wherein he said he was going to have a Tea Party on July 4 on Lake Michigan in protest of the mortgage rescue plan and all of the bailouts.

Essentially two little “seeds” germinated the day of Santelli’s rant; American Spectator’s J.P. Freire decided to have a Tea Party at NOON EST in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Feb. 27th while CPAC was in session and a couple of very feisty Twitter users began to Tweet like crazy trying to rally everyone who would listen to do something about putting on Tea Parties.

What happened next is partly unclear, but by mid-afternoon on Friday, TCOT’s Michael P. Leahy scheduled a conference call for anyone who was interested in a “CNBC Reporter Tea Party Event”.  There were approximately a dozen people on the call. Everyone present either agreed to put on a Tea Party or help with effort nationally.

Those efforts grew over the course of six days into 40+ cities with 15,000 – 20,000 participants. A handful of volunteers on the national level and one to three people in each of those cities pulled off a near miracle. They worked extremely hard, showing leadership. Included in that effort was the setup of a NING site for each of the fifty states, to provide a launching pad for organizing the Tea Party events and to lay a foundation for a network in each state.

Although the Feb. 27 events didn’t receive widespread “main stream media” coverage nationally, the phenomenon ultimately went viral.

But even before that began happening, the hi-jacking effort was in full swing. Don’t Go’s Eric Odom, who was not a major player in the events leading up to Feb. 27, put up the taxdayteaparty.com website live by 2:30PM CST on Feb. 28. TCOT’s Leahy by all indications was not aware of this until after it occurred.

By Monday, March 2, Odom and Leahy had somehow come to “terms” and had decided to roll-in another, even newer online entity, Smart Girl Politics. On that evening’s conference call which was supposed to be primarily evaluative in nature and a discussion of next steps, was in reality a top-down call that consisted of announcements of the next steps, themes, “sponsors”, and instruction to forward all contact information collected by local event organizers into TCOT to be shared among the three groups.

Leahy defined success for the next national event day of April 15 this way:

“more people, more email addresses”

He noted the theme:

“Repeal the Pork, Cut Taxes”

How would the collection of email addresses 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 fund raising appeals, or for a major political campaign.

The March 2 had contentious moments. Leahy became what can only be described as irritated when questioned by late comers to the call about the selection of another weekday for another Tea Party event.

Besides the irritation, Leahy reminded callers on the line several times that the conference was being broadcast live on two Blog Talk Radio shows. (You can listen to the Grizzly Groundswell verion here.)

He also deflected particular questions, noting that discussions on those issues would occur “offline”. Most of those offline calls never took place.

A number of others did, however. For the next several days I and several other people across the country received calls from organizers who were not happy about the top-down nature of the call, and questioned the motive behind the instruction to  forward email lists. Most expressed a desire to “do something” about the situation. None wanted to lose the momentum coming out of their events.

Ultimately, some decided not to participate in any future conference calls with more dropping out when fund raising efforts began. To the best of my knowledge, it never went to any of the Tea party coordinators.

In other words, many organizing Tea Party events simply went their own way and a golden opportunity to form a truly grassroots effort with a cohesive message and effective objective was lost.

Unfortunately, the “walk-away message” from Tax Day Tea Party, from most media outlets, even including Fox News Channel, was that the events were tax revolts. The overwhelming majority further painted the events as Republican party, Newt Gingrich, Freedom Works orchestrated tax protests.

And unfortunately, both the truth of the situation and decisions by local organizers about speakers played directly into these characterizations. It is a fact that there has been very curious involvement by Freedom Works from the national level.  I was personally contacted by a man in their Washington, D.C. office, a fellow Nebraskan by Dick Armey himself. People with connections to Newt Gingrich also contacted organizers. And former Speaker Gingrich himself was at one point names “official spokesmen” for the Tea Party movement.

The best thing to come out of the whole movement would be the establishment of truly grassroots local networks.  That assumes, in the absence of effective leadership from the national “coalition” or consistent communications with other organizers a recognition of that fact and a plan for best doing so by each coordinator in each locality.  Considering that they had no guidance on this issue at all, and no good example of what should be avoided, it is difficult, at best to believe that these efforts to be effective over the long term are widespread.

The simple facts are these:

  • 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.

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?