This headline from Politico caught my eye: “Tea partiers turn on GOP leadership.” Of course. One of the most common misconceptions about tea partiers – especially myself – is that we’re all blind GOP supporters. Ahem, no, sorry to disappoint. I vote for the best person for the job and that person isn’t always a Republican. I’ve said this in front of thousands and I think it speaks plainly for most of the tea partiers: I’m a conservative. I value liberty and my country and no party or politician is sacred to me. I didn’t approve of the Wall Street bailout, I disliked NCLB, and certain provision of the Patriot Act scare me, frankly. I’m not saying this as some sort of penance; I’m saying it because those weren’t conservative actions and I didn’t support them because of that.
Whether it’s the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates — even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.
We’re starting to do that here in Missouri, and one of the first from the groundswell is Paul Curtman. Remember him?
I first wrote about him way back at the beginning of the summer at a special listening session put on by Claire McCaskill and the AFP as a gesture of peace to tea partiers who showed up to her office and were locked out by staffers who later called the cops. (Liberals incorrectly spun this as a town hall that the tea party took over, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It was set up for tea partiers and we insisted that it be open to the entire community out of fairness.)
Curtman is now running for state-level office. I don’t endorse candidates as a media personality, but I wish he was in my district because he’s an easy choice.
“We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States … isn’t to be protected,” said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September ‘Taxpayer March’ in Washington. “If you can’t take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you.”
“We’re not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not,” added Armey, a former GOP congressman.
This paragraph frustrates me and I’ve been plain as to my feelings on Freedom Works before. I’m angry because I feel like a politically-aligned organization jumped in after the success of the initial protest (we had FW people here in St. Louis grabbing hold of media people and messing up the details for the first protest here back in February. They had not offered to help but wanted the press for their organization and it ended up making our organizing efforts that much more difficult.)
Their involvement gave ammunition to the left who used Dick Armey’s GOP-ness as a way to invalidate the entire movement as some action propped up by the GOP. I don’t know him personally but I’m sure Armey is a great guy; however, it seems to me that certain people got involved in this thing who prioritized notoriety for their group/book/bank account/insert agenda here more than maintaining the purity of the movement.
Freedom Works is not responsible for the tea parties – the movement was borne of the people and is still carried by the people, not by any group. Certainly there are some tea party groups who welcomed the beltway co-opting, they welcomed the dollars, but neither myself or Bill Hennessy ever sought that out mostly because we loathe political parties. We understand that the purity of this movement is part of its currency and we fiercely protect that. We’ve made enemies both on the right and left because of this stance and honestly? We could care less. That’s not what it’s about for us and a lot of others out there.
Erick Erickson, founder and editor of the influential conservative blog RedState, has urged tea party activists to “put down the protest signs” and stage takeovers of local Republican parties.
I agree with this. Honestly, I’m tired of rally after rally, not because I’ve been doing this hardcore since February, but the rallies have served their purpose. I think there will be cause for one around election time; protests are still useful when a time and purpose is thoughtfully selected for maximum impact. The goal of the rallies was to wake people up; we’ve done that.
Now we need to educate about legislation; we need to get heads of committee precincts; we need to canvass neighborhoods; talk to our neighbors; go beyond that and to the neighborhoods that neighbor ours; we need to petition; we need to use our numbers to bulldoze the old, “tenured” RINOs and almost-RINOs out of office and make way for new blood. We need to restore the elected office back to the purpose which our Founding Fathers intended: everyday citizens deciding to take on the extra task of representing their people in an elected body; they do their duty (like jury duty) and exit office with dignity. No more career politicians. That’s where our focus needs to be.