The DC Examiner examines the Tea Parties:
If things go as organizers plan, thousands of ordinary, hard-working Americans will hit the streets Wednesday in hundreds of Tea Party Protests called to oppose the high-tax and deficit spending policies of President Obama and the Democratic Congress. Some observers have compared the Tea Party Protests to the Tax Revolt that began in California in the 1970s and spread nationwide, eventually providing important support for President Ronald Reagan’s landmark 1981 tax rate cut. But there really is nothing in modern American political history to match the spontaneous explosion of grassroots political activism in recent months among what once was known as the Silent Majority.
The movement started with a “Porkulus” protest organized by Keli Carender, a blogger-mom in Seattle getting her first taste of political activism, three days before the now-famous Feb. 19 television news rant by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Carender was concerned about Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package. Blogger Michelle Malkin got wind of Carender’s activity and touted it, which led to similar protests in Colorado, Arizona, and Kansas. A national movement caught fire, organized by a bunch of mostly unconnected people who found each other via social networking on the Internet. These facts about the origins of the movement render especially goofy recent accusations from pro-Obama groups on the left that the Tea Party Protests are somehow part of an evil right-wing conspiracy funded either by CNBC or Fox News.
NBC sponsoring a political movement? Like that would ever happen!
By the standards of the Obama campaign and MoveOn.org, the Tea Parties happening all across the country are not very organized. Contra Talking Points Memo, no single group “owns” or is instigating tomorrow’s events. The closest thing one could call to a centralized Tea Party homepage is Eric Odom’s TaxDayTeaParty.com. Freedom Works has popularized a Google Map which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times that’s become the unofficial directory of the event. Newt Gingrich is driving attendance through his American Solutions (a/k/a Drill Now) list, as are a myriad of other groups.
Contrast this to a MoveOn or MyBO (now OFA) mobilization during the election. A single group would send out a call for a single day of action to its massive e-mail list (in MoveOn’s case, this would go to 5 million people; in Obama’s, to 13 million people). They would direct people to an online event planning tool, which would either have the hallmarks of MoveOn’s internal toolset or the Blue State Digital “PartyBuilder” toolset. Host and attendee information would be hosted on a centralized database. Reminder e-mails would be sent at timed intervals through the same technology. It would be a relatively clean, seamless, and centralized process.
Nothing of the sort has happened with the tea parties, at least from a technology and logistics perspective. Organizers have had to self-report their events to various national groups. One group claims credit for putting one set of events; another group for a different set. It’s a much messier process that belies the stereotype of the right as a group of mindless automatons.
This is why it’s amusing to watch the left try to debate Jon on the charge of “astroturf.” MoveOn virtually invented massively replicable online grassroots organizing — which many would equate with astroturf, in that activity is actually being directed by a few people at the top, and thousands of people on the ground are (willingly) following orders.
MoveOn is far from infallible, of course. If the Tea Party movement seems eager to replicate 1773, MoveOn, whose URL is a permanent reminder of Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, seems not to be able to MoveOn past events eight years later.