Friday, April 16, 2010

Tea Parties: the Next Step

Couldn’t make the Tea Party rally on the Fayetteville, Arkansas, square yesterday.

Had to work.

There were several hundred reported to be in attendance. The Cutest Community Organizer to whom I’m married was there. She got drafted at the last minute to give a rendition of a poem on taxation she had come across

Of course, the Cutest Community Organizer was dramatic. As she has been known to be. She told me she got everyone snapping their fingers like real ‘50s beatnik poets and then she recited/sang her poem. Like I said, I wasn’t there, but she did a performance for me last night after I got home from work. Funny stuff.

Today there’s not a lot in even the conservative blogs about yesterday’s Tea Party rallies around the country. Somehow I’m not too surprised. I’ve been a part of the movement since I attended the first rally in Fayetteville exactly a year ago yesterday. I volunteered to be involved with the local Tea Party organization and eventually ended up on its board of directors. After briefly serving there, I resigned along with another board member to be involved in that board member’s campaign for U. S. Senate. A third board member resigned to get involved in a separate campaign and a fourth board member considered resigning to run for political office. Even one of the founding members of the local Tea Party did not stay in leadership in it long; she now has a fulltime job as a statewide conservative grassroots organizer. Non-board Tea Party members are devoting time to poltical campaigning.

That’s part of the future of the Tea Party, I think: it’s going to be a gateway organization to funnel people into political campaigns/offices or into established political organizations. Many Tea Party people, including those of us in Washington County, have become active in the local Republican Party. They, at least, will tolerate us; the Democrats, I’m sure, would not. After all, some Democrats have been quick to use typical leftist tactics against Tea Party opposition: “Dissent? Isn’t that another word for racism?”

There are attempts to nationally meld the local Tea Parties into one organization. That effort doesn’t seem to be going very well. That’s because the Tea Party is still in the grassroots “movement” stage. It’s a movement, not an organization.

Movements tend to go in one of two directions. Either they go through a fairly short life cycle, driven by the emotion of their cause, then sputter and disband when the emotion dies down. Or they organize and take on an institutional life which provides the mechanism to advance what they believe in. A classic example is John Wesley leading the pietistic Christian movement called “methodism.” After he died, the movement institutionalized into the Methodist Church.

Although our local Tea Party is highly organized, I’m not sure if that’s happening around the country. If anything, what I see crystallizing is ultimately not a national organization but a rallying point.

That rallying point is the Constitution.

People are reading it, studying it, and making plans to find ways to return the country to following it. If it’s not happening already, I envision study groups will begin springing up around the country to focus on the Constitution and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

As a result, I’m not disappointed that yesterday’s Tea Party rallies may not have been as large as last year. Or even that attendance is declining in our local monthly meetings.

The Tea Party has brought people together, showed them they are not alone. Now folks are putting their efforts elsewhere: into other organizations, into political parties, into running for office.

All working to restore the Constitution.

Will the Tea Party continue? Perhaps, as a universal rallying point, as a clearing house of some kind. Or as something no one has yet grasped.

And if the Tea Party is no longer drawing the crowds like it did at first? No big deal. People are engaged, deeply engaged.

It’s Tea Party 2.0.

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