Lessons on Tax Protests from a British Cousin
AID: What do you think of the tea party movement?
Mathew Elliot: What I most admire about the tea party movement is the spontaneity of the organization. People talk about how Obama used the Internet to mobilize his grassroots. The tea party movement has learned this lesson. These protests can't be micro-managed by organizations in Washington. They require volunteer organizers, whose activism also demonstrates the grassroots nature of the protest.
AID: What would you say if I participated in the tea party movement partly due to your organization's efforts in the UK?
Mathew Elliot: I'd feel privileged that our campaigning in the UK had inspired activism in the U.S. I'm over in Washington, D.C., at the moment to learn from the TPA's sister organization that has spearheaded the tea party movement in the U.S. Groups like FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, and the National Taxpayers Union all deserve credit for inspiring and facilitating this spontaneous uprising across the country.
The last question was not a sycophantic one on my part, though it might seem so. I have attended at least one TPA event in the UK and thought that a similar type of event in the U.S. would be a good thing. The success and influence of this organization all across the UK is testament to its emphasis on grassroots/local events rather than merely meetings in the seat of governance. It's fine to have a strong presence at the national level, but it's local networks that get things done.
I was unaware that Matthew was in the U.S. meeting with organizations not unknown to those of us who helped plan the tea parties in the U.S. I am sure that he was well-equipped to give them advice on how to move the movement forward and what national organizations can do to help the grassroots organizations. I am also sure he was able to advise them how to avoid the pitfalls of too much intervention from the above. There were many in the movement leading up to to April 15 who were rather perturbed by such pressures on their local events from national organizations.
There were others who were less diplomatic in their efforts to influence outcomes of the April 15 tea parties. We are still hearing tales in this regard from various outlets for the national movement. Much of it is very useful and assists new organizers on how to avoid such situations.
Let's hope that tea party organizers, coordinators, and national partners all listen to what Elliot has to say about the TPA's experience with organizing tax protests.