Tea Party Knockoffs: Watered Down, Bitter
The tea party movement started just over a year ago -- disorganized, homegrown protests spurred on by out-of-control federal spending and a common feeling that elected officials in Washington were more interested in gaining power than in acting on their constituents' best interests.
The first scattering of small protests grew into a national movement that had an impact on special elections in New York and Massachusetts. Conservative Doug Hoffman unseated Republican Dede Scozzafava with tea party support, before losing the NY-23 congressional seat to Democrat Bill Owens 48% to 46%. Scott Brown, the new Republican senator from Massachusetts, also gained significant support from grassroots tea party groups, including ad buys in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Suddenly, the same Democratic politicians and pundits who dismissively referred to those involved in the populist revolt with a sexual pejorative found that it was a force to be reckoned with -- and, if possible, to be undermined and marginalized.
There is perhaps no clearer example of an attempt to co-opt and undermine the tea party movement than the false flag operation that appears to be taking place in Nevada for the benefit of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Unpopular nationally for being thin-skinned and surly, Reid is foundering in his home state of Nevada, where he faces reelection in November. Reid has consistently trailed Republican challengers in his reelection bid; he trails all four in recent polls. Without a major shift, Reid's political career would seem to be on the cusp of drawing to an ignoble end.
And then in walked Scott Ashjian.
You can be forgiven if you don't know who Scott Ashjian is, or where he came from, or if he's even a serious candidate. Even local journalists haven't had much luck figuring that out. All we know for certain is that Ashjian seems poised to jump into the 2010 Nevada Senate race as a third-party candidate representing the newly formed Tea Party of Nevada.
The group, established merely weeks ago, is attempting to trade on the name of the grassroots tea party movement. Though while tea party protests arose organically and simultaneously over the past year, the founding officers of the Tea Party of Nevada don't seem to have been active in any local or regional tea party events. In fact, they don't have any ties to the movement at all. If anything, they seem to be an odd mix of cranks and conspiracy theorists, fronted by a registered Democrat who once represented a reattached John Wayne Bobbit. And the perspective candidate Ashjian may as well be Nessie for his reclusiveness and unwillingness to give interviews or make public appearances.
The Tea Party of Nevada doesn't seem to be a serious attempt at a third party, but instead seems intent on siphoning off enough support from Republican candidates leading in the polls to put Reid back in contention. Whether or not the Democrat-led Tea Party of Nevada is successful will likely depend on how well Republicans and real tea party activists do in exposing the group attempting to co-opt the votes of their more casual supporters.
Not content to wage false flag operations to save their Senate majority leader, some desperate Democrats seem to have decided that mimicking the tea party movement may blunt its effect on the 2010 elections. Annabel Park seems to have started the so-called "Coffee Party" movement, a group of disaffected liberals that want to "end obstructionism" in Congress and find a way for the people to work with their elected officials. Following a refrain that has become common among left-wing bloggers and the more radical liberals of the Democratic Party in recent weeks, Park and her allies claim that Congress is "broken" because legislative rules do not allow the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to ram through favored bills, such as ObamaCare, cap and trade, and similar destructive legislation.
You can read all about Ms. Park and her movement at http://coffeepartyusa.com/.
Is the Coffee Movement a real grassroots effort, or simply another attempt by Democratic politicians to drum up the semblance of support for a sputtering agenda that the majority of Americans are against? Frankly it is difficult to tell, but it is perhaps not surprising to find out that the grassroots effort involving Parks also involves her boyfriend Eric Byler. Byler filmed Parks for the Coffee Party's How We Began video and registered the Coffee Party website.
But he didn't register it just as an individual.
Byler registered "Real Virginians for Webb" as the registrant organization. Real Virginians for Webb is the organization Byler founded to help elect Jim Webb as senator of Virginia. Like the Coffee Party movement, RVFW also claimed to be a real grassroots organization, as did their now defunct follow-up, Real Americans for Democracy.
The Coffee Party movement seems to be merely the latest entrant into Byler's parade of "authentic angst." How many "grassroots" organizations can get started by the same people servicing the same agenda before they start looking like the public-facing end of an organized astroturfing (fake grassroots) campaign?
But despite these desperate and perhaps too-late attempts to blunt the momentum of the various formal and informal tea party groups, tea party supporters and candidates do seem to be making a run on establishment politics.
You don't have to look very far to see the impact of tea party politics, either in the aforementioned runs of Hoffman and Brown, or in the exploding popularity in Texas of Debra Medina, a small-town girl from Lytle, Texas, with a Palinesque profile and revolutionary message. She is running a tea party candidacy to unseat incumbent Rick Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson for the Republican nomination for the governorship of Texas. Professional pollsters will tell you that odds are strongly against Medina pulling an upset victory in the primaries, and Guardian reporter Paul Harris may have very well hit the mark when he found a political science professor who likened the populism of the tea party movement to the sort of outrage that fueled Ross Perot's presidential runs in 1992 and 1996. Perhaps future historians will look back on the tea party movement one day as a flash of outrage that only amounted to a minor "politics as usual."
At the moment, however, it sure seems like a lot of folks want to be the next Ross Perot.