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EDITOR OF REDSTATE

Tea Party Movement 2.0

Move beyond protesting to fighting in primaries, ballot boxes, and becoming more effective activists.

“[T]o change the paradigms, to … blow them up, we must get involved in the existing processes of politics and government, not create something new to compete.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admits the tea party movement is getting members of Congress to thing about retiring.

Most excellent.

And that is what the movement should be about, more or less, but there is much more too. And judging by the reaction from yesterday, a lot of people got the point I was making, but a vocal minority not only did not get it, but were highly offended and thought I was attacking them.

Of course I was not attacking them. I would have to be attacking myself. I have said repeatedly that I consider myself part of the tea party movement. But their reaction and that of others suggests to me too many have become so fixated on being a part of this thing called the tea party movement that there is a reluctance to move forward into something else.

A friend suggested I should have referred to it as Tea Party 2.0, which actually gets to the gist of what I am talking about, but I am more and more convinced we must leave behind the moniker of the tea party.

Let me see if I can break this down again without causing more wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The Good

The tea party movement has gotten a lot of people off the sidelines and into the political arena. The reason the tea party movement is so shocking to so many is because you never see those types of people protesting. Tea party activists are worried about making ends meet, taking care of their families, and doing their jobs. They are not typical protestors. When they take to the street people notice.

Look at what Hoyer said.

The tea party movement also brought together a lot of likeminded citizens who thought they were alone in the world. They realized that not only were they not alone, but there were millions of others just as concerned.

Both Democrats and Republicans have become fearful. In fact, I know that just the other day a group of Congressional Republicans were sitting around a table ridiculing “teabaggers.” And some of these are Republicans that the tea party movement has embraced as their own.

They hate us because of our success.

The Bad

With the success of the tea party movement came the charlatans who could turn a silver phrase and dazzle the masses. And the money changers came in too. Read, if you will, this article this morning.

This happens in every successful group, but many of us have found it off-putting. My rule of thumb has been and remains to work with local tea party activists, not the national groups. That’s not to ding the national groups, but I find it more productive to work with local groups. And that won’t change.

There is, however, something more troublesome that I am seeing more and more of after yesterday’s post. A lot of people in the tea party movement have gotten a bunker mentality. My suggestion to move beyond the tea party movement was seen as an attack on it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve been derided as selling out for CNN, using my post to promote “competitors,” etc. There will always be crackpots convinced of something that is not so, but those people are not the majority of the tea party activists. But it gets me back to my overarching point.

In fact, already this morning I’m getting emails related to this article that this is just another media attack against the tea party movement. No it isn’t. And I think some in the movement need greater discernment.

The issues and advocacy within the tea party movement are issues that resonate with the majority of Americans. By continuing to be a “tea party protestor” I and others willingly pull ourselves out of the class of people known as “Americans” and become just one of those “tea party guys.”

Couple that with all these national groups that want to keep us as tea party guys and it becomes increasingly harder to reach the next step — to get to Tea Party 2.0.

I would submit that the people who want to get involved have gotten involved. And now to keep them involved, we need to move on lest they get bored. There is only so much protesting we can do.

And (and I realize this wasn’t clear enough originally) this requires the existence of local tea party groups. It just requires them to step up their game and be willing to let go.

What Tea Party 2.0 Looks Like

First of all, I think tea party 2.0 requires we stop calling ourselves tea party activists. We are citizens, taxpayers, voters, and Americans. Saying we are part of some designated group makes it too easy for malicious souls to dismiss us. We are Americans dammit!

I have cringed in the past 24 hours when I have seen people say I was attacking the tea party movement. That’s just it! The attacks sustained by us within the tea party movement by the media and the left have been attacks against our country’s ideals. They aren’t tea party attacks. They are attacks on the America as we know it. And I’m not the one attacking.

Throwing the tea party movement under the bus would be me throwing myself under the bus.

But for a while now I’ve thought that there has to be something more. The national groups doing tea party organization have been nibbling at the edges, but I don’t think are doing enough — putting a little tabasco into the existing sauce really isn’t changing it up to have a greater impact. If anything, the tea party movement appears to be pulling itself out of the existing political process trying to reinvent the wheel. We should be pushing ourselves into the process.

My personal and internal private motto on Redstate lately is “blow s**t up.” It is the existing paradigms that need to go. That is one reason I am insistent on supporting outsiders as candidates these days. But to change the paradigms, to metaphorically blow them up, we must get involved in the existing processes of politics and government, not create something new to compete. The deck is stacked against us from the outside.

That is why I am supportive of things like American Majority’s Post Party Summits and the Defending the Dream Summit and Right Online among others including but not limited to Freedom Works and Smart Girl Politics. I have no affiliation with these groups, but I gladly give up my time, vacation, and family time to go to these events and speak in groups, one on one, and in workshops about greater activism, commitment, and education.

I have to laugh at the accusation that I’m out to undermine the tea party movement because of my affiliation with American Majority. American Majority just happens to be doing exactly what I think needs to be done: training existing tea party activists to get them to the next level of political involvement.

Another reason I like these groups is because they are very clearly separate from the tea party movement, but involved as facilitators. They’ll help local groups, train local groups, and get them to where I think we need to go.

The Nutshell

So where do we need to go?

In a nutshell: back to the classroom then into our town halls, state legislatures, Congress, and online. Some are already doing that. Good. I encourage that.

But I go to tea party events all over the country and hear people say “Get involved,” only to have actual tea party activists go home, email me, and ask the “how” that the person on stage never bothered to get to.

We must move beyond the protests and get to the fight. We are effective now. We should not settle. How much more effective can we be? I submit we can be more effective by throwing off the tea party label that has become, way too often, a clique, and embracing this as a very American cause — the first amendment right to protest, petition, and speak up.

This post is already too long, so let me get to bullet points:

  • Learn how to be a better online activist.
  • Start paying attention to your local government.
  • Learn how to run for office and be a campaign strategist, whether or not you want to run or want to be a strategist. You will find the skills extremely useful.
  • Write letters to the editor of your paper.
  • Call in to local radio shows — not national, local.
  • Find candidates you like and support them, blog about them, promote them and fund them.
  • Stay connected to like minded souls in your community to know you are not alone — why I still like and support local tea party groups.
  • Become active in the political party of your choice. Change it from the inside, not the outside.
  • Learn to discern.
  • Above all else: remember that when the left attacks the tea party activists, they are attacking the foundation of America. Stop responding as an aggrieved tea party activist and start asking what part of the American way of life they have a problem with.

All of the groups I mentioned above and others can help.

Conclusion

We have moved beyond the tea party movement. It served its role well and ably. It got people off the sidelines. But we need to move on. We need to become more involved in our local communities, politics, and above all else we must get into the existing political process.

You want to keep protesting, that’s fine by me. I support it. What I don’t support though is staying in the mindset that has developed. We must move on. The tea parties have served an honorable and good purpose. But we have to grow to Tea Party 2.0, which involves embracing the tea party legacy while moving beyond it.

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