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How Dare They Crash Our Tea Party

Kirk Shelley
Campaign For Liberty
March 8, 2010

I’ve seen a few articles floating around the Web concerning the political class’s attempt to “take over” the so-called Tea Party movement.  Republican politicians are speaking at their rallies; some of their organizations are backed by establishment sources.  Most critics fret for the future of the movement and offer this or that recommendation for preserving the movement’s integrity.

The phenomenon unfolding should come as no surprise.  The tea parties were, from the beginning, an expression of outrage toward status quo politicians.  Do you really not expect politicians not to act in self defense?  They manipulate events, twist words and lie.  Of course they are going to take over the tea party.

In this battle for the tea party movement, there is a lesson.  Why would anyone expect that a “bottom up” or “grassroots” organization is beyond being taken over?  These organizations are the most vulnerable to takeover.  If you want to be informal, unincorporated, and allow everyone to participate, then “everyone,” including politicians, will.

I remember a taxpayer’s group in Newton, Iowa that was actually being effective.  It was deliberately set up as a “citizens’ group” with no formal structure.  Well at one meeting, everyone from local government showed up at the meeting, took it over, and killed it.

The political class is easily able to subvert informal groups, and they’ve had centuries to perfect the art.  And don’t forget that even without subversion, informal groups are prone to collapse at any time that the core of volunteers gets distracted with other projects.  History lacks a single example of an informal group making any significant change.

The lesson here is that it is always better to make your group “formal” and attract a following with your issues and actions.  Or, you can ignore history, and try to prove me wrong.  But if you are being effective, expect to be taken over.

Embrace the fact that you owe it to your ideas and issues that you need to run your organization like a business” because ultimately, it is.  You can’t hide from the laws of economics.

Rather than make yourself crazy fighting the natural tendency of things, you can make the same opportunity of the tea parties as your rivals do.  A big gathering of outraged conservatives with no specific single issue: what better setting for signature gathering and recruitment could you possibly ask for?  Indeed, my only objective at tea party events is recruitment.  Predict the attempted takeovers, use them as proof of the movement’s success, and explain why therefore being a part of a solid organization (eg C4L) is so important.

Also, regarding another sore point about the tea parties:

If you define “neo con” as being pro-war or pro-interventionist foreign policy then you need to realize that most Republicans hold those views.  57% of all citizens think we are doing the right thing in Iraq and Afghanistan.  71% of the GOP is all in favor of invading anyone we think is a threat.  The Democratic Party is split 47/46.  There shouldn’t be any surprise that most people showing up at a tea party are all in favor of blowing up anyone who gets in America’s way, even if they were never in our way in the first place.  (

If you think our current foreign policy is wrong, recognize the reality going in and try to pursue those who don’t agree with you, don’t smash into them head on: you won’t get far with this crowd. Â  However, you can assume that most of this crowd is going to understand the principles of limited/constitutional government, so use that common frame of reference. Â  If they can understand that the government is lying about everything else, sooner or later they will catch on that they’re lying about foreign threats, too. (  Leave the issue alone until you get to know someone well enough that you can have a civil discussion with them. Â  Don’t browbeat them at their rallies.

If you have the patience to find common ground first, you can persuade them in the long run.

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