Last Monday evening, I had the privilege and disappointment of speaking with yet another Tea Party group that had come to hear a message on How to Become a Force Multiplier.
I say it was a privilege to speak to this group (and others like it) because, as always, I found the group comprised of Americans concerned about the future direction of America and highly desirous to hear a message on how to save and restore it.
Yet, it was also a disappointment because, after nearly four years of this upstart movement—this “beautiful chaos” called the Tea Party Movement—after all the demonization by the institutional Left and its media apparatchik; the backstabbing by the Republican establishment; after millions of dollars of donations from large and small donors alike, last Monday’s group (like so many others) were largely unaware of the size of the behemoth we face and, worse, have never been given the basic tools necessary to lead a movement.
As a former mobilization coordinator for the other side, I was disappointed to meet yet another Tea Party group that, after nearly four years, had not even formed a committee to recruit more people into their ranks—something that is absolutely essential to building a movement. [Worse is the fact that, given the age of many Tea Party activists, attrition in the movement is a very real problem.]
While their naivete is not their fault, I was left wondering: Where has all the money gone from all the donations given to the legacy groups? Though it is, in many cases, too late now, why didn’t anyone teach these amateur leaders of a movement how to lead a movement?
It is for all of the above reasons, we (collectively) need to re-evaluate the direction of this hybrid movement called the Tea Party.
Each and every individual that remains associated with the Tea Party movement, needs to look closer at what has gone well and, more importantly, what hasn’t gone well with the Tea Party.
Below are recommendations, for your consideration, to help rebuild a movement that has been attacked (unjustly) by its enemies as well as its alleged “allies.”
Before you can begin to focus on How to Become A Force Multiplier, as I observed (again) last Monday, there must be a re-examination of the Tea Party and where it is going.
Let’s start with some basic needs:
Rebrand the Tea Party: Keep the mission, dump the name.
The Tea Party brand has been effectively destroyed. After three years of demonizing the Tea Party as ‘racist,’ ‘extremist,’ and ‘radical,’ the brand has become a cancer.
It is now a drag on the candidates it supports, with the Left (and GOP establishment types like Karl Rove) gleefully labeling conservative candidates as “outside the mainstream.”
In the meantime, while the Tea Party had once enjoyed 24% popularity, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, only 8% of Americans now identify themselves as members of the Tea Party.
While that is the lowest it has been in the three years, there is some positive news in that poll: Thirty percent of the poll’s participants do hold favorable views of the Tea Party. That is something to build on.
However, insofar as it has been branded and is now associated with negativism, the brand itself must change in order to build and grow again.
Note: Rebranding does not mean disbanding the movement. Instead, rebrand it—into a hundred (or a thousand) different brands.
After Andrew Breitbart, James O’Keefe, and Hannah Giles successfully exposed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and its misdeeds, many thought ACORN disbanded and disappeared.
It did disband. However, it did not disappear.
Instead, like a hydra, ACORN has evolved into numerous other “community organizing” groups.
There has been a target on the big tent called the Tea Party, and the assaults have come from all sides–nearly destroying the tent and turning people away from the essential ideas that originally spawned the Tea Party: Fiscal Responsibility and limited government.
As a result, activists need to think differently.
One such way would be to break off into smaller, more mobile groups that are less identifiable, yet just as effective as the original army of activists once was.
Keep the mission, dump the name, go forth and multiply.
Retool the Movement
One of the major disadvantages of the Tea Party movement has been the unwillingness of certain legacy groups (as well as grassroots groups) to work together, to share technology, information, as well as on-the-ground efforts for GOTV.
In addition to the arrogance of the Republican establishment, everyone claims to have a better mousetrap, a better gadget and each poured money into their gadgets. A few worked, others famously didn’t.
One thing is certain: The Right has a technology deficit.
Leave the egos at the door and share a cup of coffee.
Before the 2014 mid-term elections become another lost cause—another lesson in just how far the Right’s GOTV (that means Get Out The Vote) pales in comparison to the Left’s—there needs to be one of those ‘super-secret’ meetings among the legacy groups where technology can be demonstrated and chosen as the standard.
Frankly, donors (large and small) should withhold their monies until the legacy leaders, along with grassroots leaders have a kumbaya session to kiss and make up and come to an agreement to work together.
If the Left could do it (again), so can the Right. [Note: There is a standing offer from an unnamed ex-union guy to bring the baseball bats if that helps move things along.]
Recruit to Build The Movement: Get over the ‘outrage’ and fight for a goal.
Even as you read this, there is a race against time that is occurring.
The Left is pushing for amnesty in order to have 8 million new Progressive voters.
Meanwhile, as noted above, many of the Tea Party groups (some independent and unaffiliated, others not) have never even formed a committee among its members to recruit more people into the movement.
To make matters worse, the Tea Party movement has an attrition problem called age.
All-too-often, Tea Party meeting attendees are grandparents fighting to save America’s future for their grandchildren. Yet, the grandchildren are nowhere to be found. Why?
If you’re fighting for your kids’ future, get your kids involved—and have them bring some friends.
More importantly, develop a formal plan and start recruiting.
Instead of sitting at your computer and passing along the latest ‘outrage of the day’ written by the chattering class (including yours truly), develop a simple set of goals to fight for, develop an action plan, and then execute it.
Move beyond the “Obama did it again…” emails and establish a mission and vision that your group stands for—one that can be articulated in messaging, that others will find appealing.
Then, develop a simple way to communicate your message to people of like mind. It’s called recruitment and really isn’t that difficult.
As I told the group last Monday, if 50 people recruited five people each, then you’d have 250 people. If each of them recruited five more, then you’d have 1250 and so on.
It’s called the Power of Five and it works for both building a movement and getting out the vote.
Re-Engage in the Fight
Obama won the election and the Left is diligently working (along with some on the Right) to reshape American politics–forever. Get over it.
Many people wrongly thought that common sense would permeate American electoral politics and Obama would be defeated. It didn’t happen.
The Left’s machine was bigger, better equipped and more finely tuned than many on the Right estimated. Mistakes were made, systems crash, people stayed home and Obama won.
Now, if people don’t get over their doldrums and re-engage soon, the 2014 mid-terms will come and go and the Democrats will have the House, the Senate, as well as the White House.
Right now, America has a $16.5 trillion debt and $122 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
While stocking up non-perishables is one way to deal with a bleak future, we must also not give up.
Getting off the couch and into our communities is necessary.
The other side has been doing a better job of it, but not all is lost.
Unlike the Left, there are no union treasuries to fund our activities, nor can we fight full time. However, with minimal dollars, and more focused collaboration, America can be restored.
If the Tea Party gets back to basics by rebranding, retooling, recruiting and re-engaging, it can and will Become a Force Multiplier.