As an amateur Egyptologist who occasionally writes about Egypt at the Temple of Mut, my specialty is mummies. So, I know dead things and can say with certainty: The Tea Party is NOT dead.
I have been a Tea Party activist since the first nationwide series of events were organized in February, 2009. I assisted in the promotion of San Diego’s event, and helped found the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition. I am also a member of the group’s punditry team, the SLOBs (San Diego Local Oder of Bloggers). So, I also know a thing or two about Tea Parties.
In the wake of this November’s extremely disappointing election results, liberal sites are ablaze in a delusional mixture of glee and schadenfreude that celebrates the demise of conservative activism.
On the other hand, supposedly conservative pundit/school marm Peggy Noonan derides the Tea Party for “rage”. Furthermore, one of the movement’s heroes, Rand Paul, is now joining the chorus of establishment Republicans in calling for amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Critics, deniers, and the weak-willed are in for some big surprises as citizen groups across the country make revised plans, nominate and promote new candidates, and support Tea-Party winners from the many smaller-scale races around the country.
Liberals and progressives cite as a sign of death that there are no more big rallies or town halls, at which independent conservatives wave signs and promote their message. In reality, there are now several networks and organizations that developed after initial connections were made at these events, and which have been set-up with the goal of long-term activism in mind.
An example of such a group comes from one of best known Tea Party activists, Mark Meckler. Meckler, formerly the national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, has recently established the Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG). CSG is a grassroots organization that welcomes Democrats, Republicans, and all other people of any political stripe. According to Meckler, this group provides support for independent-minded Americans who want to see power taken away from big government and large institutions and returned to the people.
“CSG fuses its financial and social capital to serve grassroots activists in America who are working to take power from a disconnected Ruling Elite and return it to a more local and accountable level,” explained Mecker. “We support organizations and individuals who share this commitment, regardless of party. Our platform is a simple one. Our four basic principles can restore us to a citizen-fearing republic with effective self-governance: Disperse power, engage the citizens in the political process, break the Left vs. Right Paradigm, and end the cycle of incumbency”.
Dawn Wildman is President of the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition. She also coordinates the over 200 Tea Party groups within the state. Wildman is currently organizing a “Beer Summit” of the group’s blogging team, in order to plan the next set of propositions to work on for the 2013 California elections. Also, despite the fact there were plenty of losses for conservative causes in the state, the number of challengers offered for 2012 shows that the Golden State’s citizens are battling back incumbency.
“We are still here working diligently to ensure the freedoms most take for granted will exist beyond this election,” said Wildman. “In California, there were only two races that didn’t have a challenger for the seat. This fact shows that we are able to move people to serve and we will get these folks with Constitutional principles elected before too long. California also elected two new Congressmen, Doug LaMalfa and David Valadao, and we look forward to seeing them perform.”
That is not to say that citizen activists don’t see the need to change tactics. Breitbart contributor Mike Flynn wrote an insightful piece (GOP Reaps Its Surrender of Pop Culture), one with which SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition co-founder, artist, and marketing expert Sarah B. totally agrees.
“The secular Tea Party model worked in 2010, and was abandoned by the RNC in 2012: Look where that got us,” Sarah said. “And somebody fire the beltway consultants who play ‘nice’ and keep the messaging vague. There is an army of underground Hollywood conservatives who would love to re-brand the party! Remember, Ronald Reagan was never vague; he gave wonderful civics lessons each and every time he was in front of a camera or microphone. All the GOP can remember about him was that he believed in America. The Tea Party is still out there…working on a local level…but we won’t rally nationally again until we have someone/thing to vote FOR!”
An improvement in pop-culture messaging will also help us get more support among America’s young voters, who may have been responsible for up to 80 of Obama’s electoral vote. In fact, several conservative students note that it was straying from the Tea Party emphasis on fiscal matters, to focus on social issues, that contributed to the number and choices for Americans under 30. Additionally, efforts to get conservative opinions at least heard on campuses (if not actually embraced) will continue through College Insurrection as well as other venues.
One charge leveled at the Republican Party, in terms of its 2012 results, was the lack of outreach among the Hispanic communities. As many Tea Party activists have long realized, you cannot rely on the any political party to act.
Because the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition is in an area with a large Hispanic community, our group was among the first to pioneer this effort (providing Spanish-translation handouts on the propositions and distributing them through Spanish-language oriented communities). As the group’s Media Director, it has been my privilege to become the Executive Producer of Canto Talk, whose wonderful host Silvio Canto Jr. is an immigrant from Cuba. He and I plan to ramp up this effort, by having a major fiscally-oriented opinion or information pieces translated and shared on a website we will be developing. Similar efforts are underway in groups across the country.
One of the unheralded successes of the Tea Party movement is the placement of average Americans into political positions at the grassroots level. A good example is Lloyd Conway, a Michigan activist who now serves as one of two Councillors at-large for the City of Charlotte. He indicates that his seven-member city council is struggling to deal with the legacy costs associated with public employee pensions, deteriorating roads, and dealing with declining revenue in the face on inflation. Conway teaches “State & Local Government” for Spring Arbor University, and he imparts a sense of public service by asking his students to be involved locally (e.g., the PTA, zoning boards, planning commissions).
“The Tea Parties will meet their several fates in manners as varied as they are,” noted Conway while describing his thoughts on the future of the hundreds of citizen-based groups around the country. “Like any spontaneous, headless popular movement, they are too varied to pigeonhole. Some groups will fade away; others will be co-opted by the local GOP establishment, as leaders are ‘cherry-picked’ and brought into the fold by appointments to ‘steering committees’ and the like. Others will be marginalized if they fail to use their influence to acquire power and end up being seen as merely nuisances that may be swept aside without risk. Finally, there will be those that supplant the local Establishment, serving as a fruitful training ground for leaders and candidates who will carry the torch for a generation or more.”
In conclusion, if the progressives, mainstream media, and establishment Republican politicos think the Tea Party is dead, how wrong they are.