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I Don't Know Dick

A little while ago, on one of the blogs I read regularly, I came across a rather interesting article. The author, a proud resident of Texas (but I repeat myself), was amused to get a robo-call from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison touting her endorsement by "National Tea Party leader Dick Armey."

I shared Sgt. Mom's amusement at the thought, but it stuck in the back of my mind. And I started noticing that there was a lot of talk about how the Tea Party movement was an astroturf organization, that it had been put together and was being run behind the scenes by GOP bigwigs and other moneyed interests. And Dick Armey's name kept coming up, too.

First up, who is Dick Armey? Well, he was a high-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives for almost 20 years, peaking as Majority Leader for his last eight, leaving office in 2003. Since then he's been a lobbyist and headed up a couple of Washington think tanks. He's also partnered with a group calling themselves "Tea Party Patriots." (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

But back to the Tea Party movement. I find these charges against it quite puzzling. Whenever you have a national organization backing something, it's usually because the cause is something that would benefit from the strengths a national, centralized organizational structure offers. but I just don't see how that fits.

Funding. The Tea Party movement is politics on the cheap. They don't use mass-produced signs and placards. They don't all put on distinctive T-shirts. They don't rent out big venues and transport folks in by the hordes. They don't have high-priced consultants and coordinators and spokespeople and support staff. Members spend their own money, create their own protest materials, and use cheap or free media to spread their messages.

For example, my old blog-buddy Rob Port of Say Anything. He's probably fairly close to being a "leader" in the North Dakota Tea Party movement. And how did he do it? By leveraging his blog into a friendship with a talk-show host, then a part-time talk-show gig of his own. His radio station chartered a bus to one Tea Party rally -- and then sold tickets. They did it as a promotion for the station and its talk shows, but it's possible they actually turned a slight profit on that gig, and quite a few people who wouldn't have been able to attend got there more cheaply and conveniently.

Unity Of Message. I've attended a Tea Party, and there was very little unity of message there. Oh, most were there for the same general theme -- the government takes and spends too damned much money as it is -- but there were a lot of others who wanted to spread their message, too. The Paulbots were the most noticeable, but there were those whose pet peeves were illegal immigration, resistance to ObamaCare, a general disgust with Democrats, a few pro-religious folks, and a few others. There was NO discipline imposed on keeping the message simple and uniting.

And to me, that wasn't a bug, that was a feature. It is the sheer amateurity of the Tea Party movement that reflects its grass-roots nature. These are not slick professionals, they're average folks who've had enough.

National Coordination. The Tea Party movement is doing just fine without professional assistance. Somebody somewhere comes up with an idea. ("Let's have a bunch of protests on April 15!") Others decide they like the idea, and they talk about it and jump on it. With the explosion of cheap mass media and social networking, the idea takes off like wildfire. They don't need highly-trained and highly-paid professionals to work their magic with Outlook's Calendar and Lotus Notes to find the optimal day for events, and to use their networking magic to spread the word. They don't have to go through the mainstream media and tradtional PR outlets to get the word out. And they don't.

No, there are exactly two groups who would stand to benefit from having Dick Armey crowned King Of The Tea Parties. The first is Dick Armey himself, and his people. Hitching their star to such a fast-growing and wildly popular movement would give him great credibility and political power -- the kind of which he could parlay into a run for the presidency.

The other group that would love to see Dick as the face of the Tea Party movement are the opponents. After all, they know that one of Alinsky's Rules For Radicals is to "Pick the Target, Freeze It, Personalize It and Polarize It."

Right now, the Tea Party is utterly immune to that form of attack. (That's why their opponents have invested so much in another Alinsky attack -- "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.") You can't personalize an attack against a group that has no single person or group as its leadership.

And that is precisely why the Tea Party should continue to politely refuse any attempts to be co-opted by political leaders. Sarah Palin attended their first convention, but it was clear that she was there at most to feel out a possible alliance -- she wasn't looking to become their leader, and they weren't looking to crown her.

And Dick Armey should be told -- politely but firmly -- that if he'd like to help out the Tea Party movement, he's more than welcome to do so. But he ain't gonna simply step in and take the reins.

Of course, there's no central leadership to tell Mr. Armey that. So, instead, a whole bunch of people all need to say it, until enough have said so that he gets the hint. At that point, we'll see if he's really interested in the Tea Party Movement's stated principles, or he's just looking for a leg up for his own personal benefit.

Time will tell about Mr. Armey's intentions. Personally, I'm not inclined to put much faith in a guy who spent 18 years in Congress, then became a lobbyist. But if he's sincere, I personally will welcome his assistance. I just doubt I'd ever vote for the guy.

As of right now, the Tea Party movement has achieved a hell of a lot more than a lot of other political movements -- especially those built around a single, unifying leader. Two examples that come to mind are Ross Perot's Reform Party and the Ron Paul nuts. And they've done it without a leader, without backers with very deep pockets, and without some single, transient issue to hold them together.

If they're smart, they'll keep it that way. And so far, the Tea Party folks have impressed me with their political savvy.


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Comments (14)

Jay: "There was NO disci... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Jay: "There was NO discipline imposed on keeping the message simple and uniting.
And to me, that wasn't a bug, that was a feature. It is the sheer amateurity of the Tea Party movement that reflects its grass-roots nature. These are not slick professionals, they're average folks who've had enough
."

100% accurate. thx!

I've attended several now...and they are exactly that! Just "average folks who've had enough!" The power of so many "average folks" realizing that an over-reaching overbearing Government is the PROBLEM...not the solution...is amazing.

Right now the Orcs in control of Congress are running wild...but the Tea Parties will have their say between now and November. Especially in November!

Don't Tread On Us! (or even think about it)

Dude, are you talking shit ... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

Dude, are you talking shit on Texas? I've got a knotted plow line in the shed with your name on it.

Time will tell ... (Below threshold)
Time will tell about Mr. Armey's intentions.
Sen. Bailout's intentions are less uncertain -- she was trying to get nominated for governor against an incumbent who had already staked out Tea Party sympathies.

It's also interesting that the third candidate in that race claimed to be pro-Tea as well, and had quite a bit of vocal support on the internet for pretty much no other reason than that she was neither an incumbent governor nor a member of the U.S. Senate.

As for Armey, I liked him when he was House Majority Leader but the fact remains he's a Beltway insider and it's no surprise to me that he would hope to co-opt the Tea Party identity as essentially the property of not only the GOP, but of his and Bailout's wing of the GOP.

I don't think he's trying to actually become its leader, so much as to be seen and portrayed by the media as one of its leaders. I doubt they'll cooperate; they'd much rather give that title to the moby who called himself a teabagger.

The 'usual suspects' in the... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

The 'usual suspects' in the MSM have tried the 'ridicule' trip, so far they're the only one's who've come up looking like idiots.

Keefums? Chrissy? You reading this?

I have photographed a few T... (Below threshold)
M Malone:

I have photographed a few Tea Parties in Chicago, including the first one a week or two after Santelli's rant. That event was unorganized but attracted people as the group moved out of the Loop and up to Pioneer Court between the Chicago River and Tribune Tower. The person who attempted to "take the reins" of that event was a Republican Cook County Commissioner named Tony Peraica. Well Peraica led the march out of the Loop, down Wacker Drive and across river on the Michigan Ave. Bridge, at which point Tony stopped to pitch his spiel.

I was shooting the front of the march and talking to some cops when Tony started his speech, the problem the cops had with the setup was that Tony was blocking most of the marchers from crossing the bridge, I on the other hand thought that it would be a good idea to photograph the speakers in the middle of the plaza - Under the 30 foot tall sculpture of the couple in Grant Woods' American Gothic! So the cops and I got the group to move under the couple and their pitchfork.

Some lessons were: Utter disorganization, people who weren't really prepared for public speaking and the potential of politicians to glam onto the rallies. Another lesson was the attraction this movement holds to regular people, I saw people who were just walking down the street when they saw the march and saw kindred souls, they joined in or shouted encouragement, and that was in Chicago. There was even a couple who brought a tea service and served hot tea, it was freezing that day.

When I photographed the April 15 event I shot from the stage and witnessed a few of the non-politician "leaders" from the first event attempt to get on stage "for just five minutes", they were denied. I do not recall any elected officials speaking at the April 15 event. And as to a unifying theme? Hah - My favorites were the anti-Scientology group in Guy Fawkes masks!

my wife, daughter and her t... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

my wife, daughter and her two children walked a parade route as a Tea Party group last July 4th, in Grass Valley, CA. HUNDREDS of people showed up to be part of that group. It stretched 1/2 the length of the parade route at one point.

And we're going up on April 15th to Sacramento to part of the huge event there!

There doesn't need to be organization...when you've got REAL people involved!

And that is precis... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
And that is precisely why the Tea Party should continue to politely refuse any attempts to be co-opted by political leaders

The Tea Party can't do anything as a single entity including refusing attempts to be co-opted by political leaders or hijacked by Paulbots. The Tea Party movement is only organized around the single issue that the Federal government is spending too much money, which every sane person knows must result in higher taxes. That issue is the genesis of the name Tea Party, so whenever anyone is talking about the Tea Party movement they are talking about people who believe that the Federal government is spending and taxing too much.

Other than the too much spending and taxing issue there are no stated principles as there is no person or group that has the authority to set them. The single issue of "too much spending and taxing" makes the Tea Party movement the largest political tent in the nation. People with diverse political, social and economic beliefs can all agree that something must be done to curb spending and the future tax increases that must follow. It's the vast and growing number of people in the vast tent that gives the Tea Party movement its political clout.

Organized around a single issue the Tea Party movement can grow and prosper without any leaders or hierarchy. As a Tea Party participant just walk away from those who want to inject other issues into the movement. They do so only to serve their own interests and can only damage the movement. That's particularly true if it's a Paulbot.

Interesting thread. I agre... (Below threshold)
epador:

Interesting thread. I agree generally, though locally a Republican (not elected official) has been herding the cats of our local Tea Party movement in organizing when and where they meet, but not on what they say or do, and has encouraged anyone to speak that wants to. Very good to see folks of all walks of life, and amazing (considering the far-left coastal area) how many folks honk and wave. I've seen only one ornery cuss trying to bait people in three different rallies. Impressive.

"The Paulbots were the m... (Below threshold)

"The Paulbots were the most noticeable,"
Jay Tea: Modern science has isolated the compound that causes this:
Paulbotulism: While extremely small amounts can paralyze the brain, taken in large quantity, it can kill a political movement.

What Tea Party participants... (Below threshold)
davidt:

What Tea Party participants have in common is their knowledge that the politicians are out of control, and they are uniting in an attempt to regain control of the political process.

When a politician tries to harness for his own use those trying to regain control of the politicians the natural reaction is rejection.


When it comes to arrogance,... (Below threshold)
OLDPUPPYMAX:

When it comes to arrogance, self-importance and the belief that even GOD could learn from them, politicians are ALL EXACTLY ALIKE!!! Left or right, these people have nothing but contempt for the American public and are interested in nothing as much as ways in which they can use people for their own purposes.

When it comes to the Tea Pa... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

When it comes to the Tea Party participants, the usual political pundants try to make it much more complex then it is. Most of us are tired of the arrogance of Washington (both sides), tired of the spending and tired of the giving of taxpayer money to those that refuse to do for themselves. Cannot get any simpler then that. ww

Salt banned in NYC... (Below threshold)
olsoljer:

Salt banned in NYC?
Fines and jail for citizens who don't license their firearms?
Banning twice fried cherry pie?
No smoking in establishments - but not allowing smoking only establishments?
A government that wants to dictate what is to be taught in school?
Banning of books?
Reverse discrimination of race, religion and ethnicity?
Government funded programs like ACORN?
Billions of dollars sent overseas to nations in poverty while we have homeless, starving, sick and poor here in the US?

What is sadly lacking in government at all levels is the lack of common sense.

We have to balance our budget, we have to feed, clothe, educate our families, pay taxes, why should we hold our governments to a lower standard? Our government's responsibility is to OUR nation. While we give away our money, resources and jobs to foreign nations to persuade the "world" what a benign compassionate nation we are, we are giving away our security, individual freedoms, and sliding into the cesspool of a third rate socialist nation.

Stop these morons from spending money like drunken pirates and curtail the powers we ceded them, and health care would not even be an issue.

TERM LIMITS?? Don't need them, just vote the bastards out of office.

Tea party, a blessing of Dr... (Below threshold)
Liberty_for_Life:

Tea party, a blessing of Dr. Paul's 07 campaigns! With the simple message; Freedom, Prosperity and Peace.
http://mysite.verizon.net/nathanielyao/index.html

If the message above is nutty then I am guiltily nut American.




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