This tea party was one of the best I've attended all year. What struck me as key was the continued enthusiasm among activists. I've been attending events since the Tax Day Tea Party on April 15th, and the atmosphere at this rally was even more friendly, inclusive, and focused than before. I think folks feel they've made a difference already. They can feel it in their bones that grassroots resistance is genuinely working to bring down the socialist regime in Washington. I was also impressed with the powerful sense of spontaneity to the event. There were a number of "protests within the protest" so to speak. It was both a tea party and a protest rally against the Planned Parenthood abortion ayatollahs, the SEIU thugs, and the open borders extremists (who were badly outnumbered).
In short, it was good fun all around. And of course I never had any thought -- after making my way home to write up my reports -- that the American tea party movement was in disarray, or that emerging splits in the coalition would be threatening the movement.
But two developments have made me think about it: One is the exchange I've been having with Roger Ogden, the Meetup Organizer of the San Diego Tea Party. The second is the piece that came out yesterday at CNN, "Tea Party Movement Threatened by Internal Rifts."
As for Roger Ogden, he was sporting some extremely unusual tea party signs. I took a photo of the one I really liked, but his numerous signs comparing President Obama to the Nazis left something to be desired, IMHO. In fact, Roger seemed out of place. As I wrote last weekend:
My bet is this guy's a LaRouchie (the other side of his sign was an Obama-Nazi poster, not my favorite). He didn't seem to be with the grassroots folks I've been highlighting, and there were more extreme-o types on the south side of Douglas street, including some 9/11 truthers. I didn't take any more photos of them ...Actually, I did take one more shot, but I didn't post it at the time:
And last night, Roger sent me links to the images, including the Nancy Pelosi/Benito Mussolino poster above, as well at this one here:
And this one:
As noted, these aren't my favorites. They reminded me of the freak-o-LaRouchies that infiltrated the Adam Schiff town hall last August. No one wanted to have anything to do with these people (except the left's HCAN extremists, who stowed their signs under the LaRouche table below):
The following week, my good friend The Blog Prof published a devastating exposé on the LaRouchies, "BUSTED!: "Obama As Hitler" Poster Was A Democrat/Union Plant at John Dingell Townhall! UPDATED with video interview!"
That post spread all over the conservative blogosphere. Not only are the LaRouchies freak-show exhibits, they're Democrats.
Folks can see why I had my second thoughts about Roger Ogden.
Yet, he notified me at the post that he was in fact a top San Diego tea party organizer, and I later published an apology for my mistaken inference. I sent him an e-mail too, although unfortunatelty Roger was in no mood to agree to disagree. He questioned my knowledge of German history and black liberation theology, and after I informed him that I was well aware of both these doctrines, he wrote back angrily:
It is really dangerous for someone with this belief system to be President fo the US and on top of that hardly anyone knows it. If you had half a brain, and not just a Ph.D., you would be screaming it to high heaven, like I am. Otherwise, if you have been informed -- as I have just informed you -- and do nothing about it, you are doing a great disservice to our country and you are no patriot.This went on for a couple of more iterations. I assured Roger we were on the same side despite our differences. Still, I told him he was was making an intolerant ass out of himself. He responded once again:
Nooo. I don't think we are on the same side and I don't think you are a patriot, if you don't think people should be informed about this. If you don't like comparisons to Hitler, what is your proposal to remedy the fact that people are not well-informed about what Obama's religion is? Most people think he is a regular Christian. You are countering my attempt to let people know about it. So, we are definitely not on the same side. You are standing squarely on the side of the moral cowards that are not willing to do anything about this. You are willing to take the chance that he may actually have this belief and try to act on it somehow. You know, there were 5 years or more that Hitler did not reveal what he really planned to do, but it was written in Mein Kampf and people should have acted on that. They ignored it, like people are doing today with Obama, hoping that things will work out.I thought to myself, "You know, I've paid my dues here, and I don't really need the abuse. I'm letting this go." Besides, I've been around the blogosphere enough to realize I wasn't going to have much luck changing Roger's mind, or even getting him to think again about some of his positions. For example, I've never been a big fan of the "liberal fascism" argument, although certainly National Socialism has foundations in the left. No, my sense has always been that Barack Obama's in fact a Leninist vanguard revolutionary, as I wrote in July 2008 during the campaign, "The Ideological Foundations of the Obama Phenomenon":
I was assaulted last night by a stupid fat lady that was supposedly on our side, like you say, because she did not like my sign. I get more oppsition from Tea Pariers that I do from the "other" side. Because Tea Partiers are stupid and ignorant enough of this history that they will allow Obama and Nancy Pelosi to define the bounds of their arguments. It's not the Obama supporters that need to be convinced, it is the people in the middle.
In any case, see also, Anthony Bradley, "The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation Theology," and Kyle-Anne Shiver, "Obama, Black Liberation Theology, and Karl Marx."
So, while there might be a case to be made for some kind of theological link between black liberation and Nazism, it's strained; moreover, I found it highly unusual that members of the San Diego Tea Party community identify as "messiah skeptics." Honestly, this is getting further over into conspiracy territory than I'd like, but who am I to judge? If Roger wanted to ridicule me as "no real patriot," hey, that's his play. I'll just keep doing my thing. I'll have an impact regardless. And not only that, despite our differences, I still believe people like Roger and I share a core set values in resisting this administration, even if our theoretical foundations diverge significantly.
Okay, the second key thing I noticed yesterday was the CNN piece, "Tea Party Movement Threatened by Internal Rifts." Athough CNN's liberal -- and thus I'd discount most of the article as an attempt to sow dissension on the right -- the article make reference to Donna Klink, of the Golden Triangle Tea Party in Texas. I looked her up, and she had this piece at Resist.net, "Coalition Message":
We should all remember the simple principles of “Strength in Numbers” and “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”! Our individual groups can keep their own identity and their own beliefs, while still reaching out to and working with other groups that share common goals. We MUST stop this battle within and fight together. Independent Tea Parties, Republican Tea Parties, 912’s and other groups that are trying to accomplish much of the same things. It is those commonalities that MUST bring us together.Donna is responding to Kenneth Vogel's piece at Politico a few weeks back, "Tea partiers turn on each other."
While Donna's concerned that the movement becomes too diverse, risking a rupture in the absence of a dominant rallying personality (see the CNN piece), my concern is that the tea party movement will essentially become a populist third party movement; and given the historical record of third parties in our structural two-party system, it's possible that the white-hot populism that's driving much of the opposition to the Democrats will go the way of other short-lived third party phenomena, for example, the United We Stand organization of Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign. Later becoming the Reform Party, the movement peaked with the 1996 presidential election, with Perot taking about 8 percent of the national vote; and also in Jesse Ventura's election to the governorship of Minnesota in 1998. The Reform Party is dead today, and it's hard to say if that burst of populism brought about much change in the long run.
My hope is that the tea partiers can come to some accomodation with the most conservative leaders of the Republican Party, especially Sarah Palin. Our movement needs to work within the structural constraints of the single-member, winner-take-all system. This does not mean we need to compromise our constitutional principles of limited government and our moral foundations in divine historical exceptionalism. We do need vigorous but more centralized leadership, that's for sure, because the time is now for a conservative resurgence. It's happening all around us. (Polls show tea party candidates surging ahead of Republicans in generic congressional surveys, which may be good for the movement, but could result in a fracturing of elected leadership on the right.) The Democrats have overreached and will implode of their own hubris and stupidity. Conservatives and patriots can help that process along by continuing to do as we have all year -- by offering a principled free market alternative to the Democrats' socialist agenda, an agenda that's based primarily in the ideological politics of the Marxist proletarian revolution.