6) Guarding Fiefdoms
I began my activism within the Tea Party in 2009. I contributed to an effort to build a national publication of citizen journalists coordinated by Tea Party Patriots. My editor put me in touch with the then state coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, who we will call Mona.
Mona suggested we meet for dinner. I figured the meeting would be dense with information and planning, a detailed briefing regarding Tea Party groups in Minnesota, their level of organization, legislative priorities, issue advocacy, things of that nature.
What I got instead was two hours of griping about everything from the perceived encroachments of the Republican Party to the eccentricities of other activists throughout the state. Nothing resembling a plan was presented. My role as a journalist wasn’t even addressed. Instead, the machinations of Mona’s rivals within and outside the movement were related in conspiratorial detail.
Mona’s primary concern was protecting her position within the nascent movement, rather than effectively promoting its cause. Maintaining control over who used the name “Tea Party” and to what effect was her highest priority.
As a result, Mona actually worked against the formation of Tea Party groups in the state. When I found that no group existed in my area, I took it upon myself to start one. When Mona got wind of it, I received a call which was borderline threatening, warning me not to host Republican candidates or otherwise form associations with those she disapproved of. Had I the experience then that I have now, I’d have told her in no uncertain terms where she could stow her directives. She thought herself the big fish in a then small Tea Party pond, but was eventually humbled and forced to resign.
Unfortunately, the politics of personality remains a nagging hindrance to the movement in our state and beyond. People want to control the Tea Party brand, to take credit for achievements not their own, to prevent the success of any initiative which does not originate with them, and so on. Of course, none of that helps fulfill the movement mission of affecting public policy consistent with the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.