How Drama Queens Sabotage the Tea Party

Drama queens come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. We have all known our share. Some folks revel in crisis. In a sick way, they need it. The only sense of purpose in their lives arises from perceived persecution and perpetual emergency. Such people actually avoid solutions and resent those who provide them because a solution removes any excuse for mania.

In politics, we may call such people anti-activists, as their efforts tend to work counter to that of activists with whom they should align. Unfortunately, they are legion among libertarians, conservatives, and Tea Party groups. Collectively, they present a greater threat to the restoration of our republic than any active Marxist.

The muffled rise of the Tea Party in Minnesota provides a good example. While the movement thrived early on in many states throughout the union, activists struggled to find an active Tea Party group in Minnesota during 2009. It wasn’t for lack of interest. There have since developed many groups throughout the state attended by committed activists who are serious about educating the public and affecting policy. The problem early on: the emergence of an anti-activist leadership.

Perhaps the state’s open caucus system -- which offers the grassroots direct and easy access to their political parties -- contributed. Activists in the know quickly organized within the party structure, leaving newcomers and anti-activists to form the extra-political Tea Party.

Whatever the reason, those who became the face of the movement early on in Minnesota sought to vilify anyone remotely affiliated with the political system. Note, the beef was not with the political establishment, those proverbial “good old boys” whom the Tea Party and other grassroots activists rightly hold accountable. Their grievance was with the system, primarily the major political parties. In practice, this led to a Tea Party inquisition focused on policing its membership, purging the slightest partisan association, and enforcing a uniform commitment to an undefined revolutionary goal.

Coming to the movement in 2009 as a long-time political sideliner, I connected with the national Tea Party Patriots organization. After volunteering to blog for their site, they introduced me to their state coordinator in Minnesota, Toni Backdahl. She invited me to dinner, and I accepted without question. My assumption was that she would brief me on the status of the movement in Minnesota, and we would strategize how to best utilize my volunteered services.

What actually transpired during our meal was far more telling than any briefing I may have expected. Backdahl regaled me with drama. She talked about shadowy conspiracies by Republicans to co-opt the movement. She spent most of our time together warning me against other Tea Party activists that she had deemed traitorous to the cause in numerous ways. As a newbie, I took it in stride. I had no point of comparison, and therefore no reason to doubt her. However, I found it odd that she never presented any kind of strategy for accomplishing anything. Her focus was on fleshing out perceived threats to an undefined cause, rather then advancing the movement in a meaningful way.