When another inevitable tea party break-up happened in my home town of Houston, the derivative group–a fine field of motivated folks–discussed their alternatives. We talked about branding. I suggested that they don’t use the words “Tea Party” at all, but instead become a mission-focused organization. They did just that and currently fight corruption in local elections.
That seems to be the future of the Tea Party movement ultimately–breaking down into activist organizations either locally or nationally to fulfill a certain purpose. Some of those involved have jumped into the Republican organization with the goal of transforming it to a small-government, fiscally conservative party again. Others have decided to become watchdogs of their local school boards. Still others have organized Get Out The Vote efforts.
There’s a lot of work to do.
Today, RedState’s Erick Erickson has decided to leave the Tea Party movement behind–to move beyond it. He alludes to the Tea Party movement disintegrating into sects like churches.
The last straw? This:
Then last week, in what everyone would have thought was a joke had it happened on April Fools Day, a bunch of tea parties, or at least one saying it was doing it for more, put out a press release announcing the birth of the National Tea Party Federation, which is not an organization, not a structure, not a new set of leaders, but an evolution of alliances of 19 tea party organizations and a handful of other groups, except for the Tea Party Patriots, which has worked overtime to be simply a volunteer group of concerned activists who neither get paid nor make money. Yeah, I have a soft spot for Tea Party Patriots living up to their ideal.
Most of us can sit back and ask one simple question: What the heck happened?
The tea party movement, one year later, is descending into a self-parody of infighting, money making, claims of national leadership, protests, unions, federations, amalgamations, etc. The groups have been so busy organizing themselves to distinguish themselves from each other that the core message is gone and media and left have been able to seize on the discord and paint a picture of the tea party movement as something other than it is and what we all know it to be — concerned Americans.
This has nothing at all to do with actual tea party activists. Let me be clear. I do not want to nor intend to slight the activists who care and show up with their hand painted signs, sometimes risking violence against themselves by the left and ridicule by the media.
But I have a simple message for them all — it is time to stop calling yourselves tea party activists and start calling yourselves concerned Americans.
The Tea Party Federation nonsense, and it is nonsense, bothered me too. Dan Riehl has touched on the problems. Here’s my take:
A small group of spokespeople would be the mainstream media’s dream come true. Only four or five “leaders” to undermine and smear? Awesome. Should one of these people have personal issues, misrepresent the movement, the media can smear the whole movement with the actions of one “hypocrite” (almost as bad a word as racist in the media world).
Why in heavens name would the Tea Party Federation group want to give the opposition ammo and line up to be shot?
Power. Money. Opportunism.
Yeah, that. There are bad actors in every movement and there are those kinds of folks in the Tea Party movement. And those folks are trying to get a federation of some kind to aggrandize themselves–TV appearances, business, whatever, under the pleasing call to put out a unified voice.
The Tea Party movement doesn’t need a spokesman. It needs concrete action.
And that is happening. Sure, there are protests and that serves a very good purpose: Demonstrating the sheer numbers of people fed up with big government. It also gives people an image to associate with an idea: millions of people wanting smaller government heartens those who fear that the government is going to take over everything. Cynicism is a democracy killer. The public image helps that.
Still, more needs to be done. If we want empty bloviating, we can turn on C-Span to watch the latest Senatorial panel. What we need is to fundamentally change some things.
Are you a Tea Party activist or leader wondering what to do? Here are some ideas:
1. Go after education reform. If it seems like we’re raising a bunch of no-mind Marxists, it’s because the curriculum overwhelmingly favors liberal ideology.
2. Watch the School Boards or better yet, run for them. These bastions of local politics are notoriously corrupt and misguided. Help find ways to cut costs, hold teachers accountable and increase parent involvement.
3. Become polling-place observers. How many wrong things happen at voting stations? Depends on the place. Go observe. Bring your camera. Bring your video camera. Catch the corruption on tape.
4. Get out the vote. Make sure you get people out to vote on important days. Today in Texas, for example, is run-off day. Make sure people vote.
5. Run for office. Don’t just stand there, do something. Sick of corrupt politicians? Replace them!
6. Blog. Oh, party operatives will hate you. Politicians may hate you. Heck, your brother might hate you. But since the MSM simply refuses, or because of funds, can’t write stories keeping officials accountable, bloggers can and do. And no, there are still not enough of them.
7. Inform: Email, Twitter, Facebook, lunch with the ladies: Preach the small government gospel to anyone who will listen. Hearts and minds need to be won to the cause and evangelism happens person to person.
8. Fundraise. Good politicians, efforts and ideas need money to transmit and promote them. One blogger friend of mine said that he was changing his focus from blogging to giving money to candidates. He was done screaming and wanted to put his money where his mouth is. Many people, formerly unwilling to give politically, see the consequences of staying out of the process and would donate to help others.
9. Become a teacher or college professor. Start inculcating the next generation with pro-democratic ideals and free thinking.
10. Be an individual success. Be a star at something, or if you already are a star, and then, on your big platform, come out of the small-government closet and trumpet your message of excellence. Explain why you succeeded. Explain why America is great. Lead by example. Do you know how many people are still afraid to verbalize their ideology for fear of being called stupid, racist, fill-in-the-blank evil? Yeah. Have courage and state the truth.
There are so many ways to make a difference. Many Tea Party organizations are doing many of these things. Most aren’t just showing up and complaining. Most are turning their words into action.
Do I think the time for the Tea Party is over? No. I’ll be at a Tea Party event this week and why not? It’s inspiring to be with like minded folks and to hear the stories of triumph. We need that.
It doesn’t have to be either/or. The Tea Party brand is strong still and will be a catalyst for greater things to come.
Guest post by Sid Burgess. Cross posted at sidburgess.com
First, to set the mood you should watch this video. It is going to blow your socks off.
As citizens, we have more and more options to reach our elected officials and leverage social media. Social networking sites are not for everyone and some people choose to leave them to their family life. But if you are interested in using your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or StumbelUpon account for good in your community, here is your how-to that is sure to fill your pothole.
1) Define your project/issue
Take a picture of your issue or project. Even if this isn’t something that is physically wrong in your community, a picture adds great context to your message.
Upload your picture(s) to your Flickr account. If you took a video (which would be awesome!), add it to your Youtube account and be sure to mention what community you are in, who you are, and define the issue while you narrate the video.
Go to SeeClickFix and and log in with your Facebook Account. In the “Location” type in your community. Zoom in and create your ticket. Then go to the Issue Page and check out all your options! Before you go on a sharing frenzy, let’s add some important people to your network.
2) Friend your leadership
First, find out if your local community has a web site that lists your elected officials. If they are there, grab those names and start searching for them on Twitter and Facebook or whatever social network you want to use. Once you have found them, ‘friend’ them! This is a great way to shortcut all the headaches of voicemail and unhelpful staff. Keep in mind that not all elected officials are hard to reach so don’t feel like you can’t at least try to use the phone before you drop your tweet on them.
Speaking of tweets, GovTwit is a great place to find your elected officials on Twitter.
3) Follow-up and engage your community
So you did it. You reported your issue, found your city councilman, and sent her a Facebook Direct Message. You are feeling quite proud at the moment I bet. You should be! You have just gotten farther than 95% of Americans at getting something done in their community. However, we can still capitalize on all your hard work by “sharing” what you have done. Send out the link to your project that you posted on SeeClickFix to your Twitter followers and ask them to comment or “vote up” your project. On Facebook you can share it right from the issue page. It is really that easy. When the issue is fixed or addressed, always be sure to post follow-up details for all of your friends and be sure to say thank you.
Again, what you have just done is so much more than most people ever take the time to do. The reality is our communities are falling apart largely because we are failing to let our leadership know that we actually do see and care about these things. As a councilman, I was always trying to look at the big picture stuff. It was easy to become oblivious to the small things that could be causing friction in the community. Never fall into believing that it is rude to bring up something that is wrong. These are your streets, your parks . . . it is your community! And more importantly, whatever doesn’t get fixed while we are around will get left for our children to clean up. Speak up and let’s get this stuff done.
Try stepping up your game next time. A YouTube video with commentary is a great way to convey your message, especially if you can get helpers from your neighborhood. Here is a nice example of one.
Best of luck and be sure to report back to all of us as to how things went!
PS: Do you have a story about how you were able to use the Internet or social media to solve an issue in your community? Would love to hear it!
Our experiences make us who we are, and I am no exception. I am a product of years of public service, small business & self-employment, and a family that believes in me. From combat in Iraq, to ‘combat’ on the city council, I have faced, learned from, and overcome challenges and opportunities. I value people over ideas, and ideas over the status quo. Please drop by my blog and share your thoughts and ideas.