For many years I have been on the e-mail list for a group called the 9/12 Delaware Patriots. From time to time their events and announcements have graced my pages – beginning way back with this notice in 2012, ironically on 12/12/12. According to their social media page, the group began the 9/12 Delaware Patriots page back in August, 2009 – a time when the overall TEA Party movement was at its organizational peak.
Yet over the last year or so it seems like the group has run out of steam, with a little bit of help (or call it bad luck.) For several years, the 9/12 Delaware Patriots would hold two monthly meetings, generally with the same speakers for each: one in Sussex County and the other intended for Kent and New Castle counties. But that was before the pandemic hit and eliminated the prospect for monthly public gatherings at the local restaurants which they generally used.
Back in the Zoom meeting days of last spring, I sat in on one of their monthly meetings only to find fewer than a dozen denizens. It was a bummer because I was looking forward to seeing what they were about as we had just become Delaware residents, three years or so after our original intention. And it’s strange: their social media page remains a hotbed of activity despite the dearth of meetings.
Over the last few months, though, their position seems to have been supplanted by a new group called Patriots for Delaware (P4D.) The upstarts are now boasting a social media membership into five figures, dwarfing the reach of the 9/12 group that remains in the 1,600 range. (Since both are private pages, though, this may be intentional on the part of 9/12.) P4D also claimed that a recent meeting drew 150 attendees, which is a phenomenal turnout for a political event not featuring a candidate. (As a comparison, even in the heady days of the TEA Party a decade ago, meetings of our local Salisbury area Americans for Prosperity or Maryland Society of Patriots groups seldom drew more than about 50, and averaged 25 or so.)
Meanwhile, the last event I heard about that was sponsored by the 9/12 group was the bus trip they took to the Capitol rally on January 6. Since then, it’s been almost three months out of the public eye so I decided to ask them if they had gone on hiatus.
My request for information was answered by their president Karen Gritton, who advised me that, indeed, the group was at something of a crossroads.
Gritton told me that she had gone to a P4D meeting, saying, “they seem to be very similar to the 9/12 and very well attended at present.” Unfortunately, she also confided that she could not continue as 9/12’s president and no one on the board was in a position to take over for Gritton. Their next steps would be considered at an upcoming board meeting. “We may be at a turning point where we will restructure,” she conceded.
Having been in that sort of position a couple times myself, I can feel for Gritton’s plight. So what interested me was why the leadership of P4D didn’t just come in to the existing group, and their co-founder Glenn Watson, Jr. let me know:
9/12 is a group that mostly focuses on 2A issues, whereas our vision was much more broad. At Patriots for Delaware we strive to focus on all Constitutional Values, and attempt to do so in a way that attracts moderates from both side of the aisle. Being a “Patriot” is not limited to those that affiliate with the political right. We felt that having a well organized group was very important and starting from the ground up allowed us to do that. We clearly took inspiration from 9/12 but ultimately, our missions are not identical, so it made sense to start our own organization. We wish 9/12 great success and hope to work with them on issues where we share common ground.e-mail from Glenn Watson, Jr., March 30, 2021.
I don’t think the 9/12 group was overly focused on the Second Amendment myself, but that’s just me. Among patriots the gun issue tends to be among those they are most passionate about, and ironically there is a sharp focus on the P4D page on 2A issues right now as the Delaware General Assembly debates more useless gun legislation.
Anyway, one other interesting facet of P4D is the organizational chart they’re already come up with, one which features several committees on various topics (member outreach, political action, finance, critical thinking, press/visual arts, and education) and creates a seven-member board of directors who breaks the tie if the two co-founders disagree on a course of action. It’s a rather mature setup for a group that’s less than a year old.
But I want to come back to something Watson said that caught my eye: “Being a ‘Patriot’ is not limited to those that affiliate with the political right.”
Back in the day, probably about the time when I was still sharing a bedroom with a bunk bed and crib for me and my two brothers in the little two-bedroom house that was the starter home for my parents, politics stopped at the water’s edge and everybody loved America. Certainly Republicans and Democrats disagreed on the direction and role of government, but the rank-and-file of both sides pretty much shared the same values insofar as the idea of America being the shining city on the hill that was later publicized by Ronald Reagan (who famously was a Democrat until the party left him.)
The split over Vietnam, where the youth of America became antiwar protestors and dodged the draft, seemed to be the schism that set us on the course to where we are today. Those on the Left who sympathized with the Jane Fondas of the world also began dabbling in a number of other political venues which separated us out: abortion, gay rights, unchecked immigration, and the attitude that America was no better than any other nation regardless of philosophy and how they treated their people. To them, the banana republic with the tinhorn dictator was just as worthy as we were on the world stage.
Of course, I was way too young at the time to really understand at the time what the college kids were upset about. I barely remember Walter Cronkite telling us “that’s the way it is” after my mom and dad watched him and the local 6:00 news. And I’m probably the last generation who went to public school yet was still told of America’s greatness, warts and all. Watergate didn’t bother me because I had no idea what was going on – I was more interested in the ballgame my Little League team would be playing that week.
So I would tend to disagree with their assessment to some extent because few on the political Left subscribe to the notion that America is something to be patriotic about, but that’s just me.
If I were a betting man, I would suspect that the 9/12 Delaware Patriots have run their course – not because it was a bad organization, but it lost members who would become its leaders as they slowly drifted away over the last few years. One thing I’ve noticed about TEA Party groups: we’re not getting any younger. Perhaps this is something that Patriots for Delaware can address while they are the new, hip thing and create a subgroup called Young Patriots for Delaware. (Even better would be a third group: College Patriots for Delaware.)
Say what you will about the party structure, but it works: I wasn’t a College Republican, but I was a Young Republican for several years in the mid- to late 1990s, culminating with being president of the Toledo YRs in 2000. (And I speak from experience: after I left, the group went on a hiatus for a year or two until new young people revitalized it.) But those College Republicans oftentimes become Young Republicans, and the YRs move up to be the leadership and candidates of the party once (or many times before) they age out. The same should hold true of other political groups, and right now we need young conservative Patriot leaders to counter the indoctrination our youth is being disserved.
That’s also why education should become our new pet issue. I’m not sure which committee gets that idea, but it definitely should go in the Patriot hopper.
If the Patriots for Delaware comes Laurel way, I may just stop in and see what the fuss is about. And if the 9/12 Patriots somehow revitalize their group, hopefully it will be when the state opens up so I can enjoy the experience.