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Control the Grassroots Conversation August 21, 2010

Posted by nukemhill in Politics (Ghahh!), Tea Party.

I originally made this comment over at Ace’s blog, on this post.  But I decided it was worth my own post.  Ace makes this point, in the middle of a larger post, which is worth reading in total:

Further, not voting, and not getting out the maximum vote possible among conservatives in such districts, also loses out on all those important state legislature slots, those judgeships, those crucial Board of Elections postings, the AG, the Secretary of State

My response was this:

This is critical. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve spoken with a few Tea Party organizers here in Maryland, and some seem to get it.  Getting control on the local level is really the key to the process. And it needed to start years ago, given how close to the precipice we are as a country. At this point, it may be too late.

As it is, we need to organize at the local levels, run candidates for local boards, county seats, and state legislatures. Get people into positions where the machinery is controlled. Once we have our hands on the levers, we can bring much more integrity to the processes.

And then we work our way up the ladder. Win the gubernatorial races. Control the legislatures. Defeat the trolls who are our “representatives” in Congress. On both sides of the aisle.

But it has to happen from the ground up. We may very well take Congress back this Fall. But that will just lead to gridlock,which is not necessarily a bad thing; but we need to reverse a shitload of bad actions, and gridlock won’t allow for that. If we don’t reverse the badness coming our way, then the voters will either give up or vote new people in. And we have to have more fire power in place at the local levels to take advantage of the discontent.

This is a multi-year, if not decades long, fight. The only way we’re going to win it is at the grassroots level. We have to control the conversation at the local level.

I will say, in addition, that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Tea Party organizers around the country seem to understand this.  I’ve heard about them taking over precincts, running for county seats, etc.  It is happening.  It needs to happen at warp speed, though.  There is so much “bad politics” inertia built up over the years that it is going to take a tremendous amount of energy to overcome.

Hopefully, it’s not too late.

The biggest problem the Tea Party movement is facing, frankly, is the nature of its structure.  In spite of the fact that there are several national-level organizations claiming to represent the movement as a whole, it is by its very nature a very localized phenomenon.  Yes, there have been country-wide protests on particular days (tax day, 4th of July, 9/12, etc).  But I think they’ve only been successful as a sum of the locally organized protests.  There is not some huge monolithic national structure that runs the party from the top-down.  It is inherently a bottom-up organization.  Which is both its strength and its weakness.  It’s a fabulous venue for people to express themselves, and feel like they’re making a difference, at the local level.  But it’s difficult to enact anything on a national level.  Herding cats and all that.

However, the advent of Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc., have lent a great deal of new strength and power to social movements, which the Tea Party is, make no mistake.  Given the incredible ease with which people can instantly communicate and organize, the Tea Party, I think, can afford to exist as a loose confederation of many groups.  Having national figureheads, like Palin or Beck, can be effective for giving facetime to our messages.  As long as they’re truly speaking for the “movement”.  On the other hand, I’m getting kinda tired of getting Yet Another Email from Joe the Plumber.  He’s a great guy.  But he really doesn’t speak for me.

But in the end, the power of the Tea Party lies in its ability to localize.  It is the people on the streets, building their businesses, paying their taxes, making ends meet in this hideous economy, who make the difference.  And it’s those individuals being engaged in their local politics that will ultimately make the difference.  Or not, if they disengage.

That’s where the Tea Party holds all the power.  Engaging those people.  Getting them to educate themselves.  Tracking the actions of the local politicians.  Voting their consciences.  Being in action.

Controlling the grassroots conversation.