The state of the TEA Party: fall 2019

(This will also be cross-posted to my regular site, monoblogue. It’s the beginning of an eventual transition to an author site rather than a book-specific site.)

Since I last updated in July, we’ve had the elections I alluded to in North Carolna – where both Republicans won and maintained the seat for the GOP – but we’ve also had a more recent event which was reminiscent of the TEA Party of old. I’ll grant it wasn’t so much a philosophy-driven protest as it was personality-driven (or perhaps a little touch of desperation) but the TEA Party that came out for Donald Trump in 2016 wanted to take to the streets to support the beleaguered President last weekend.

Led by former TPP and TPX leader Amy Kremer, who now runs a group called Women for America First, the rally was slated on a weekday around noontime, which limited participation. Then they had an issue with the bus companies who were being counted on to bring hundreds more to the “hundreds” who found the time to attend the march in Washington, D.C. (However, nearly 50 other rallies were slated around the country so presumably there were thousands in attendance.)

Considering the Breitbart site set this up as a “massive march” it’s no surprise the meager turnout became the subject of left-wing derision. Of course it was, and the media got its exercise from jumping to conclusions: “Both women seemed to believe that TV video is regularly doctored to make Trump look bad,” said a report from the lefty site Mother Jones. “We are witnesses to a coup!” screamed the Right Wing Watch website, referring to attendees in Washington. “Without the president’s leadership, she fears the United States is fated to trash the Constitution and adopt communism,” intoned Cronkite News (a PBS site) about a rallygoer who actually was quoted as saying, “Not all leftists are against our country, but many have gone with the global philosophy of the New World Order.”

Yet media covered some of these smaller marches, too, in ruby-red places like Wyoming to conservative patches of blue states like Illinois. They encountered opposition in Tennessee.

At least there’s something there to believe in, though. If you’re a fan of the TEA Party Express (as I was) there’s not much to go on anymore; meanwhile the TEA Party Patriots are just hanging out on social media and doing their occasional lunch meeting.

Obviously I can’t see what each and every local TEA Party is doing, but hopefully they’ve made a habit of being involved in their local elections. If change is to be made, the local level is a good place to begin.

As for this ongoing update, I’d like to solicit more opinion and I have some ideas on how to do that. We’ll see where it goes come January.

The state of the TEA Party: summer 2019

There is one big problem with writing a non-fiction book about any subject: the moment ink is placed on paper or the 1’s and 0’s of binary code are set in such a way as to create coherent words and sentences that appear on your e-reading screen, the history is frozen in time. In my case, my history of the TEA Party stopped in the spring of 2019 once I finished The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party – And How It Elected Donald Trump. But, in some cases, the events, organizations, and some of the people I documented marched on, leaving the story incomplete.

This longing for continuation is nothing new. When I originally began working on RAF, the book was intended to conclude with the chapter that came to be known as “Onboard the Trump Train.” As time went on, and the original deadline of the spring of 2018 stretched further and further out, the book evolved to add its final two regular chapters on the attempts to repeal Obamacare and the runup to the 2018 midterms. (I also added the epilogue, which was initially intended to be part of the chapter on Obamacare before I decided it needed to stand alone.) In fact, there are a few items I reference in the book as part of a continuing process, such as the special election in North Carolina that’s a do-over for a flawed 2018 race. These updates are, in part, intended to follow these continuing stories to their conclusion.

But there’s another thing I’ve noticed, and it struck me at times during my ongoing radio tour. There are a few things I’ve been regarded as an expert on over the course of my life: history and sports trivia as part of my high school quiz team, Maryland General Assembly legislation (a.k.a. the “90 Days of Terror”) while I was active in local politics, and now, thanks to this book, I’m considered an expert on the TEA Party. I’ve been asked where the rise came and the fall was and where it will go from here, and I have my opinion on all these questions. Moreover, it’s worth pointing out that I don’t have a vested interest in the success of a particular TEA Party or organization – while I certainly agree with and wish to promote the concept of limited, Constitutional government, it can be achieved whether we have a Tea Party Patriots or Tea Party Express or not. In my opinion, sometimes those well-meaning groups (and many others trading on the TEA Party name) got in the way – but they are still worth following as the political world evolves.

There’s also a second and extremely important part to my addressing this problem: my intent is to eventually transform this website devoted to The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party into a general author site for all my past, present, and future works, including my website monoblogue, which is the vehicle 80 to 90 percent of my acquaintances know me by. I’ve written two books which combined run about 400 pages, but in writing over 5,000 blog posts I’ve probably done enough material for fifty books – and most readers don’t know my first book So We May Breathe Free: Avoiding Ineptocracy (2012) was based initially on a series of blog posts I called the 50 Year Plan, pieces which date back to the early days of my website way back in 2007.

Thus, the intention is that this update will be a quarterly effort. I don’t think there’s enough material for a monthly update, but I don’t want the subject to get too far out of mind such that having an annual or semi-annual edition would create. Four times a year seems just right – and who knows? Maybe this could end up being a print newsletter or something that makes me a few shekels to enhance my retirement.

For now, though, how about we delve into what’s going on with the TEA Party and some of the items I concluded my book with?

I suppose the first update is that NC-9 Congressional race, which will be contested on September 10 because Republican Dan Bishop avoided a runoff by garnering 48% of the primary vote back in May. He faces Democrat Dan McCready, who lost the 2018 election, along with Green Party hopeful Allen Smith and Libertarian Jeff Scott, who also lost that 2018 election. So both sides have a siphon from their support. By the end of September, the fine folks of that district should be represented once again – however, that September 10 date won’t be the only election in North Carolina since NC-3 voters now have to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones, a maverick Republican who often departed from the party line. The GOP already held a seat earlier this year in Pennsylvania.

I hadn’t really talked a lot about the Tea Party Patriots toward the end of the book as the number of TEA Party chapters has dwindled. So in looking up their goings-on over the last few months, I learned that their once-regular monthly updates ceased over a year ago – May 2018 as a matter of fact. Over the last few months, the TPP has basically come down to doing a somewhat regular feature called Lunchbreak Live, which gets a few thousand views. But it’s a far cry from the practically daily releases I sometimes had to wade through to find relevant material for my book.

I will say, though, they still have a broad list of action items so they are still providing guidance to activists who still believe in the TPP’s cause. On the other hand, aside from an admonition about the upcoming spending deal (which I will return to momentarily) as well as an announcement about the “Tea Party for Trump” coming from erstwhile participant Lloyd Marcus, the Tea Party Express has been all but silent over the last few months. I wonder if they even have their buses anymore?

Now, about that spending deal. On Tuesday, thanks to The Patriot Post, I came across one of the most damning indictments of the current situation in Washington that I’ve seen in some time – and unfortunately, every word is true. “New Budget Deal Puts Final Nail In Tea Party Coffin,” cried National Review, and in a nutshell it’s a sad history of our spending avarice.

Thus, to those on the radio who ask me where the fall of the TEA Party occurred, this may be part of answering the question. I’ll certainly admit there are still many millions of people out there who supported at least some of the TEA Party agenda, but the problem came as it always did: believing the political process would be the shortcut we needed to avoid the necessary changing of hearts and minds.

I suppose the only counsel I could give you is akin to advice I’ve given in a couple of my radio interviews: get off the social media, open the front door, and start talking to your neighbors about the benefits of liberty. (Well, maybe some icebreakers about the weather, how the local ball team is doing, and so forth first – work your way around to it.) The biggest problem with political discourse today is that we do it from behind a keyboard, often with an assumed name. I figure if you’re too ashamed to say what you do without being behind the mask of anonymity (with reasonable exceptions) then the statement probably should be taken with multiple grains of salt. It’s what drives me crazy about people who pass along years-old fables and fake news without thinking – oftentimes, they are on the right side of the political spectrum and we’re supposed to be the smart ones.

After all, if we as a group could put together half a hundred rallies around the country in eight February days and top it well over tenfold a few weeks later, we must have a little common sense. Let’s use the lessons we learned from the previous rendition of the TEA Party and figure out a way to work back toward the Constitutional republic we were supposed to keep.

A #TBT special

I’ve mentioned before, someplace, that I have been a writer for The Patriot Post for over a decade now. In going through some old boxes over the holiday weekend (which it was for me since I took Friday off) I found a thumb drive with several years’ worth of submissions, including one I thought was appropriate for this space. This was written in October, 2009 – before we had our own bylines so it wouldn’t be under my work if you did a search there.

Message to GOP: Don’t count TEA Partiers in yet

It’s the dream of every political strategist: a large and highly motivated group of voters ready to get out, work for, and financially support a slate of candidates who they align with politically. Unfortunately, the national Republican Party may have missed the opportunity to take full advantage of the TEA Party movement because the GOP is backing candidates who don’t always work for lower taxation and less government.

TEA Partiers angered by Republicans supporting the bailouts and Waxman-Markey “cap and tax” bill are also bitter at the GOP establishment – particularly the National Republican Senatorial Committee – backing certain incumbent or anointed candidates who are working with liberals in Congress.

To that end, they are throwing their support behind candidates the GOP establishment shunned, such as Chuck DeVore in California, Marco Rubio in Florida (who is in a primary battle against the moderate outgoing governor Charlie Crist), and Doug Hoffman of New York, who was spurned by local Republican officials for an upcoming special election in the 23rd Congressional District in favor of a moderate, Dede Scozzafava, and opted to run under the Conservative Party banner.

In a year where the political winds and poor performance of Democrats both favor a Republican resurgence, their treatment of this motivated voter bloc shows the national party is not doing itself any favors listening to the wonks and not the people. Beltway insiders may look back after next November and wonder what could have been if they’d realized sooner what Americans truly want.

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Obviously this thought definitely didn’t first cross my mind back in 2016 when I started on Rise and Fall, but it illustrates an ongoing frustration I had with the GOP as a whole once you got past the local level. Yet in the near-decade since this piece was published I have learned a lot about the TEA Party and what it really wanted – and so can you by buying the book for which this site was created.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote: this is an edited version from a post that is on my main website.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

Remembering the rant

For the first time, I’m cross-posting from my “home” website, monoblogue.

On a humdrum Thursday morning, there were probably a few dozen thousand who were watching the CNBC show “Squawk Box” and a lot of them probably weren’t paying full attention when one man’s statements were the spark that lit the fuse of pent-up political frustration. It was a fire that raged out of control for several years before being contained by a political party more interested in power and winning elections than in its stated principles.

I half-jokingly wrote that night that I thought Rick Santelli would be the next guy on the unemployment line, but instead he’s become something of a cult hero for those things he said a decade ago. Yet in looking up his whereabouts it appears he’s doing pretty much the same thing as he did a decade ago. In that respect, he’s a lot like most participants in the TEA Party who did what they did out of love for the country, not fame, fortune, or political power. I’m sure his name has come up a lot today, though.

But in just eight days after Santelli made his remarks, tens of thousands of people got together in over thirty cities around the nation and began a phenomenon that people still talk about today. And because there are a number of useful lessons that came from the TEA Party, I wrote a book detailing its history: Good Lord willing, I’ll have it ready in time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of one of the most massive and widespread grassroots uprisings in recent American history, the Tax Day TEA Party of 2009 on April 15. I was at the one here in Salisbury, and five months later I was at the unforgettable 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington. (I posted on that event in two parts the next two days, and the posts reminded me I had even more photos on my then-relatively nascent Facebook page. Revisiting this with the new WordPress block setup allowed me to add the captions I wrote originally, too.) As they say, the rest was history.

And to think: how many people just thought February 19, 2009 was just going to be another humdrum winter’s day?

A couple minor additions

One thing I noticed about my website that I missed in version 2.0 was the credit for the cover photo. So I did a quick little page and added that to the main menu so you can get a little bit of backstory on it.

There are one or two other pages I need to do for the site but those are going to wait for a bit. One of them will be a thanklist of people who have helped along the way and the other will be any reaction I receive to the book from those I have entrusted with looking it over. (So far so good, but I need to follow up.)

I’m also looking into the options on formatting the book, since having an editor or proofreader appears to be prohibitively expensive. (I guess I will have to trust the original Word docs and the automatic spellcheck.) I really want a Lexus book but alas, it’s going to have to be on a Yugo budget.

In just four weeks we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first TEA Party protests. Getting done by then may not be doable, but that would be a great day to put it out, would it not?

For starters…

It took me a little while, but finally I have settled on a theme that’s halfway decent to me and that I can deal with in terms of look and functionality. (It’s actually a cousin to the one I use for my primary website but one with a better front for a full-size image.) So now the Rise and Fall website is ready for the world.

Before The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party becomes a reality, though, I need a few more things:

  • First and foremost, I need a proofreader/editor to check it over for misspellings and poor grammar. It’s not that I haven’t gone through this thing with a fine-toothed comb, but a set of unbiased eyes would not hurt.
  • I also need someone who can design a cover. Part of me wants to use an upside-down Gadsden Flag as the main focus of the cover, which would be some variation of the yellow-and-black colors the flag is best known for. But there’s also a part of me that would rather use a backdrop from the 9/12 rally. (Actually, I’d love to use the image of the guy on my book’s social media page – the circled one on the upper left – but I have no idea who it is and presume I need his permission.) Again, a second pair of expert eyes would be helpful.
  • Finally, I need a person who can format the manuscript to book form and add page numbers, an index, and such. That was one thing my first book lacked and I thought the book wasn’t what it could be without those elements.

The great thing about self-publishing, though, is that I can have things together relatively quickly. To me it would be awesome to put this book out February 27 – the tenth anniversary of the first “Nationwide Chicago Tea Parties” – but that could be a little ambitious. April 15 would be great as well, as that’s the day the TEA Party really hit the national scene. But seeing that this is the ten-year anniversary of its founding, 2019 is the year for this book. Help me make this happen and be a success!