Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why is Michael Steele Trying to Split the Tea Parties

Who are the weird people I see on TV claiming to represent the Tea Party movement, and where did they come from?

Is this a Republican poison pill?

Or is this an attempt by Michael Steele to create a more compliant, more Republican friendly Tea Party?

I saw a woman named Karin Hoffman on TV News meeting with Michael Steele.

Who is she?

Ms. Hoffman claimed to be a Tea Party Leader; but I just didn't recognize her; and it made me wonder, can the media and the GOP just randomly select someone on any day and anoint him or her as a leader in the Tea Parties?

I just spent a year of my life in telephone conference meetings, emails, and twitters getting to know the leadership in the tea party movement. The leaders I know about are named Jenny Beth Martin, Amy Kremer, Micheael Leahy, and Eric Odom; but I never heard of Karin Hoffman.

Almost a year ago, I made plans with friends to attend a Tea Party in Canton Ohio.

My first knowledge of the Tea Parties was a blurb on network news about Rick Santelli, calling for a Tea Party protest of mortgage bailouts.

On the day of my first Tea Party, April 15, none of us brought signs or had any formal connection with any of the other attendees. None of the other five people who came with me have had any formal involvement with the Tea Parties since that time, but I know they all agree with the goals of the Tea Parties.

After the 15th, using a Google search, I found the Tea Party Patriots and I participated in some of their telephone conferences and google group discussions. To any observer or reporter who might have taken the trouble to listen in on some of the early Tea Party discussions, the grass roots nature of the movement would have been obvious.

If the issues weren't so serious, it would have been humorous how we struggled through 2009 to keep our focus on core issues of fiscal responsibility and smaller government; and to steer away from divisive issues or issues that might damage the credibility of the movement such as the so-called "birther" issue.

But we prevailed. The tea party groups prevailed; and along the way, we learned some things about the Republican Party that aren't very pretty. As an example, the millions of people who gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the Obama health care bill, the tens of millions of letters to congress, and the hundreds of millions of phone calls to Congressmen and Senators were pure tea party, and had nothing to do with the Republican Party. What we learned in 2009 is that the Republican Party is not organized enough to create an Astro Turf campaign, as our detractors so vigorously claimed.

Although the Tea Party movement does not explicitly support any political party, the stated principals of the Republican Party are largely the same as those of the Tea Party movement; and it is unlikely that Republican candidates would have won the office of Governor or New Jersey or junior Senator in the State of Massachusetts without the support of the Tea Party Movement.

And that is why I am puzzled by the recent actions of Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee; and I am left wondering if, as some Tea Partiers claim, Chairman Steele and the Republicans are attempting to hijack the Tea Party, and if so, why?

My suggestion to Michael Steele is this -- hands off . . . do not inadvertently (or deliberately) lend credibility to any individual or individuals who claim to be leaders in the Tea Party movement. Anyone who approaches you asking for a high profile public appearance should be considered highly suspect; and by arbitrarily catapulting them into the media limelight, you risk offending and alienating millions of grassroots Tea Partiers who could be your friends this fall if you just keep the Republicans focused on smaller government, fiscal conservative, and respect for the Constitution.

My suggestion to the media (such as the New York Tims) is this -- try to cultivate some subject matter expertise. Try to create a picture of who was involved and when. Some major activity happened in places like Florida, Georgia, and Texas last year. Take the time to understand who was involved and the structure of the organizations they built. Just try not to be ignorant. If some self-appointed leader of the Tea Party movement issues a press release, for the sake of your own credibility, do a little fact checking.

But throughout

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