The state of the TEA Party: winter 2020

This update is going to be a little bit different than the first ones from last summer and fall. Most of the immediate loose ends left untied by the publication of my book have now been tied up so it’s time to shift focus.

I got to thinking the other day about where the TEA Party was during the 2012 Presidential campaign, which was the first one it faced as a political entity. At this point in the 2012 campaign the TEA Party – which, in real time, was just before Christmas of 2011 because the Iowa caucuses were held on January 3 of that year – was still weighing its choices between a slew of TEA Party-approved contenders like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum or holding their nose to get behind the favored and more centrist and establishment Mitt Romney, who eventually won the GOP nomination – much to the chagrin of many TEA Party believers. (One of those who also flirted with the idea of running during the 2012 campaign before bowing out just weeks later: Donald Trump. It would be four years later that his campaign ignited a second firestorm among TEA Party adherents.)

Fast forward to 2020 and flip the coin over to the other side of the political spectrum and you see the dilemma of the far left Democrats: do they stick with the infighting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, switch over to the unproven Pete Buttigieg, or hold their nose for the known commodity of Joe Biden as the best chance to defeat Donald Trump? In short, at what point do you abandon principle for practicality and work for an election in the hope that maybe you won’t lose any more political ground with a more moderate candidate? That seemed to be the fate of TEA Party people in 2012, and perhaps they learned pragmatism from their first two major elections: the Doug Hoffman New York Congressional race in 2009 and Scott Brown’s first Senate run in the winter of 2009-10.

I’m thinking that may be a question I will ask later this summer, but here’s the idea for this feature going forward.

If it’s not apparent to you after all these years of writing, the TEA Party as envisioned was a political movement right up my alley; hence, I’m pretty passionate about it. Why else would I spent over 2 1/2 years writing a book to help document its history and effects? (Hint: it ain’t the money.)

After a decade-plus of existence, we can now see what impact the TEA Party has had on the political scene, but there’s a portion of me that feels it needs continued study on how to maintain and increase its relevance and make it more effective in implementing its principles. The question arises, though: what are its principles, and how have they changed over time?

So, every three months, my hope is to distill what those who are most involved in the TEA Party as its Founding Fathers (and Mothers) and other longtime leaders have to say about the topics I’m introducing here – not just as a blog post but in more of a newsletter style. (My model in this is a familiar one to me: The Patriot Post, for whom I write weekly.) Not only would it promote academic-style study, but it would also be a legacy project for those involved – we have lost several of the early leaders already, and it’s a movement we need more than ever.

To that end I’ve already determined a number of topic questions that will carry us through the remainder of 2020.

April: The TEA Party got its start as a movement claiming we were “Taxed Enough Already.” We have found that the tax cuts we received from President Trump in 2017 have indeed bolstered the economy and put more money in our pockets, and that’s great – but we still run trillion-dollar deficits just as we did in the heart of the Great Recession. How can we sell a message of spending reduction to the masses like we pressed for tax cuts? And, corollary to that, how do we defend ourselves from the charge of hypocrisy given we got the tax cuts we wanted but still find ourselves deep in red ink?

July: As noted earlier, the primary elections don’t always give us the candidate we want. For many of us, Donald Trump was an example; however, the way he has governed has been a pleasant surprise. What are some of the “red line” issues that are non-negotiable to you, or, put another way, are there instances where you can’t abide by the rule made popular by Ronald Reagan, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” Or is just moving the ball enough after primary voters have spoken?

October: For good or bad, Donald Trump has been our President for the last three=plus years. On the off chance that he is defeated in November, however, where does the TEA Party begin with its resistance to the far-left agenda sure to be enacted by the Democrats’ nominee? Or, if Trump wins – and doesn’t have to worry about re-election ever again – what issues do you want him to exhaust his political capital on in his second term?

I believe these are compelling questions worth asking, and hopefully I will have a plethora of answers from those most passionate about the TEA Party movement.

As far as a timeline, ideally April would be the last State of the TEA Party blog post exclusively at this venue. I would love to have a functional site for this proposed digest (as well as a nice little mailing list) by this summer, but that is going to depend on how much assistance I receive. At this point the help is more in the area of expertise than finance, since the goal is simply to promote this information in a venue that is inherently not looking to support or oppose particular candidates but to be a clearinghouse to discuss ideas and correctly write the TEA Party’s history and overarching goals.

By its very nature, 2020 should be a year of vision. Let’s bring the state of the TEA Party into a much clearer and more broadly understood focus.

The state of the TEA Party: fall 2019

(This is cross-posted to my book site for The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.)

Since I last updated in July, we’ve had the elections I alluded to in North Carolna – where both Republicans won and maintained the seat for the GOP – but we’ve also had a more recent event which was reminiscent of the TEA Party of old. I’ll grant it wasn’t so much a philosophy-driven protest as it was personality-driven (or perhaps a little touch of desperation) but the TEA Party that came out for Donald Trump in 2016 wanted to take to the streets to support the beleaguered President last weekend.

Led by former TPP and TPX leader Amy Kremer, who now runs a group called Women for America First, the rally was slated on a weekday around noontime, which limited participation. Then they had an issue with the bus companies who were being counted on to bring hundreds more to the “hundreds” who found the time to attend the march in Washington, D.C. (However, nearly 50 other rallies were slated around the country so presumably there were thousands in attendance.)

Considering the Breitbart site set this up as a “massive march” it’s no surprise the meager turnout became the subject of left-wing derision. Of course it was, and the media got its exercise from jumping to conclusions: “Both women seemed to believe that TV video is regularly doctored to make Trump look bad,” said a report from the lefty site Mother Jones. “We are witnesses to a coup!” screamed the Right Wing Watch website, referring to attendees in Washington. “Without the president’s leadership, she fears the United States is fated to trash the Constitution and adopt communism,” intoned Cronkite News (a PBS site) about a rallygoer who actually was quoted as saying, “Not all leftists are against our country, but many have gone with the global philosophy of the New World Order.”

Yet media covered some of these smaller marches, too, in ruby-red places like Wyoming to conservative patches of blue states like Illinois. They encountered opposition in Tennessee.

At least there’s something there to believe in, though. If you’re a fan of the TEA Party Express (as I was) there’s not much to go on anymore; meanwhile the TEA Party Patriots are just hanging out on social media and doing their occasional lunch meeting.

Obviously I can’t see what each and every local TEA Party is doing, but hopefully they’ve made a habit of being involved in their local elections. If change is to be made, the local level is a good place to begin.

As for this ongoing update, I’d like to solicit more opinion and I have some ideas on how to do that. We’ll see where it goes come January.