The Morphing of the Tea Party

The Tea Party movement morphed from protest signs to campaign signs.

That's how a Texas Tea Party activist succinctly put it when I asked him what's become of the movement. He said, "We put down our protest signs, and picked up campaign signs."

He said that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's victory lap after passing Obamacare was a "wake-up call." It signaled that mass demonstrations would not bring significant changes. Change would only come through the ballot box.

Hearing the call, the Tea Party vacated the town squares and hit the streets where it began organizing for the long-term.

It was always a grassroots phenomenon, so no territorial shift was required.  And since it enjoyed little, or no, support from established GOP county structures, it didn't need to ask permission from the local GOP leadership, or accept its judgment as authoritative.

Consequently, the movement was largely a Greenfield project, unencumbered by any pre-existing cadre of party hacks, as it morphed from event-driven protests to election-driven activism focused on supporting like-minded candidates.

Today, the local independence of Tea Party organizations remains, but communication between Tea Party organizations has continued to expand, in scope and sophistication. 

The absence of central planning is a key to its strength. Decentralization gives it operational flexibility, local ownership of decisions, and continuous learning as concepts are formally, and informally, shared between local organizations.  It's a network.

When James Carville recently said that the Tea Party was over, he knew better. He merely signaled what the progressive left of the Democratic Party, which now controls the party's agenda, fears most.  Progressives recognize that the Tea Party represents a more clear-and-present danger to their agenda than that posed by the go-along-to-get-along mentality within the GOP establishment, where politics as usual is usual. 

Those holding the mindset of the old establishment Republican Party -- like, Obama's Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, soon-to-be-former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Bush 43 advisor Karl Rove, and others like them -- are not stupid. They know change is coming to the GOP. The question is: Will they (1) embrace it, (2) fight it, or (3) aim to co-opt and manipulate it?  Options (2) and (3) will fail.  

Meanwhile, the Tea Party doesn't need "political consultants" or "Republican strategists" to chart its course. Political gurus like Rove, and spin doctors like Carville, are anachronisms in the Tea Party world.

An August 1, 2012 Fort Worth Star Telegram article entitled "Tea Party gains steam with Cruz's victory," has this quote from a "Republican strategist":

"This is a wake-up call for everyone in office in Texas and across the country," said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and former aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is vacating the seat that Cruz is heavily favored to win in November. "If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere."

One would have thought Mackowiak would have heard the "wake-up call" after the 2010 mid-term elections. Apparently not. By now, though, only the Republican dead are deaf to it.

In a broad context, the Tea Party is the reaction ,underway both within and without the Republican Party, to the progressive take-over of the Democratic Party. Its aim is to move the GOP away from the passive stance of pols like former Republican House Minority Leader Robert Michel (8th Cong. Dist., IL; and once Ray LaHood's boss), former Senator Bob Dole, and current Senator John McCain. The Republican Party of the future, if it's to have one, will move toward conservative Republicans who understand that the dogma of the progressive left doesn't recognize compromise as an option.

For progressives, compromise is not the art of politics; it's weakness. For them, the art of politics is defeat and subjugation of their political opposition. It's bloodless war.   

So what are the current threats to the Tea Party? There are at least three:

1. The Anti-Tea Party Meme: The anti-Tea Party meme, a construct of liberals propagated by their shills in the legacy media, calls Tea Party people dangerous extremists. The accusation of a violent streak among Tea Party supporters is at the core of this meme.

The Tea Party has thoroughly debunked that charge with characteristically civil behavior.  

Charges of racism against the movement also share the core of the anti-Tea Party meme. The media is still working to make that charge stick. But the disappearance of large Tea Party gatherings have taken away opportunities to display largely white-faced crowds as a sign of racism. Besides, liberals have cried "racism" so often and falsely that the charge has grown stale.

In short, the meme that, from its beginning, characterized the Tea Party population as old-angry-violent-white-people has been a bust. But we'll hear it all again as November nears, because, while the Tea Party morphed its identity, the anti-Tea Party meme didn't change. To use Carville's word, it's the meme, and not the Tea Party, that's "over." 

2. The Threat of Widespread Voter Fraud in November: Tens of thousands of dead people will vote for Obama in Chicago. The question is: How widespread will be voter fraud on Election Day? Will it be enough to counteract the get-out-the-vote efforts of Tea Party organizations across the nation? Or, will the voter fraud efforts of the remnants of A.C.O.R.N., which has morphed from its former identity into multiple new identities, be enough to swing a close election to their candidate?

3. The Threat of a Manufactured Crisis: Rahm Emanuel once advised never letting a serious crisis go to waste. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that the Obama Administration will manufacture a crisis to their candidate's advantage shortly before the election? 

Think that's tinfoil hat thinking? Maybe. But chew on this article from a periodical that focuses on current U.S. military thinking:

Small Wars Journal "publishes contributed work from across the spectrum of stakeholders in small wars. We look for articles from serious, authentic voices that add richness, breadth and depth to the dialog that too often occurs in cloistered venues." 

So what sorts of contingencies are being discussed within the "cloistered venues" of the U.S. Army's intellectual elite?

Last July 25, the Small Wars Journal website posted an article entitled "Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A "Vision" of the Future."  One co-author, Dr. Kevin Benson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, is a seminar leader at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The other co-author, Dr. Jennifer Weber, is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Kansas.

Their article notes the following:

The U.S. Army's Operating Concept 2016-2028 was issued in August 2010 with three goals. First, it aims to portray how future Army forces will conduct operations as part of a joint force to deter conflict, prevail in war, and succeed in a range of contingencies, at home and abroad. Second, the concept describes the employment of Army forces at the tactical and operational levels of war between 2016 and 2028. Third, in broad terms the concept describes how Army headquarters, from theater army to division, organize and use their forces. The concept goes on to describe the major categories of Army operations, identify the capabilities required of Army forces, and guide how force development should be prioritized. The goal of this concept is to establish a common frame of reference for thinking about how the US Army will conduct full spectrum operations in the coming two decades (US Army Training and Doctrine Command, The Army Operating Concept 2016 - 2028, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, dated 19 August 2010, p. iii. Hereafter cited as TD Pam 525-3-1. The Army defines full spectrum operations as the combination of offensive, defensive, and either stability operations overseas or civil support operations on U.S. soil). [bolding added here and below]

A key and understudied aspect of full spectrum operations is how to conduct these operations within American borders. If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil. Army capstone and operating concepts must provide guidance concerning how the Army will conduct the range of operations required to defend the republic at home. In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government officials, right up to the governor. Under present law, which initially stemmed from bad feelings about Reconstruction, the military's domestic role is highly circumscribed. In the situation we lay out below, even though the governor refuses to seek federal help to quell the uprising (the usual channel for military assistance), the Constitution allows the president broad leeway in times of insurrection. Citing the precedents of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and Dwight D. Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in 1957, the president mobilizes the military and the Department of Homeland Security, to regain control of the city. This scenario requires us to consider how domestic intelligence is gathered and shared, the role of local law enforcement (to the extent that it supports the operation), the scope and limits of the Insurrection Act--for example maintaining a military chain of command but in support of the Attorney General as the Department of Justice is the Lead Federal Agency (LFA) under the conditions of the Act--and the roles of the local, national, and international media.

So far, there's nothing particularly noteworthy here. The U.S. Army, as well as the entire U.S. military establishment, continuously engages in contingency planning.  There might be one to repel a vampire invasion.

But consider this description of a hypothetical situation called "The Scenario (2016)" that appears in the Army's report:

The Great Recession of the early twenty-first century lasts far longer than anyone anticipated. After a change in control of the White House and Congress in 2012, the governing party cuts off all funding that had been dedicated to boosting the economy or toward relief. The United States economy has flatlined, much like Japan's in the 1990s, for the better part of a decade. By 2016, the economy shows signs of reawakening, but the middle and lower-middle classes have yet to experience much in the way of job growth or pay raises. Unemployment continues to hover perilously close to double digits, small businesses cannot meet bankers' terms to borrow money, and taxes on the middle class remain relatively high. A high-profile and vocal minority has directed the public's fear and frustration at nonwhites and immigrants. After almost ten years of race-baiting and immigrant-bashing by right-wing demagogues, nearly one in five Americans reports being vehemently opposed to immigration, legal or illegal, and even U.S.-born nonwhites have become occasional targets for mobs of angry whites.

In May 2016 an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the "tea party" movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina, occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor under house arrest. Activists remove the chief of police and either disarm local police and county sheriff departments or discourage them from interfering. In truth, this is hardly necessary. Many law enforcement officials already are sympathetic to the tea party's agenda, know many of the people involved, and have made clear they will not challenge the takeover. The militia members are organized and have a relatively well thought-out plan of action.

The description of the hypothetical crises continues. Does it sound familiar?

The U.S. Army's 2010 contingency plan for how to engage in "Full Spectrum Operations" -- in other words, how to make war -- within the U.S. borders against U.S. citizens uses a hypothetical situation where insurrectionists are "motivated by the goals of the 'tea party' movement."

Makes one wonder: Is the military already engaged in compiling intelligence on the Tea Party movement in anticipation of a potential insurrection? If that's happening, with whom is that "intelligence" being shared today?

And finally, just how big is the step between taking advantage of a crisis, like Rahm recommended, and creating one in order to grasp some advantage?

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