Tea Party, Taken Over and in Trouble at the Base

Ideas and Issues

t1larg.tea.party.giMissoula   Usually when you see a headline that says something is “far from dead,” it pretty much always means that it’s on its last legs. That was the headline in the Missoula Independent on a piece written by the co-founder of the Bozeman Tea Party. Now, I was interested!

Then I noticed a piece in Mother Jones by Andy Kroll that featured yet another inside look at the fading, or should I say, aging Tea Party. Jason Cline, an Arkansas political consultant, was the director of Alliance for Progress – Arkansas, described as “one of AFP’s strongest chapters,” wrote an internal memo noting the decline of the Tea people, which had made its way to Mother Jones. Here’s his cut on the matter:Cline writes in response that he was not biased against elderly activists but rather sought out younger activists for AFP-Arkansas due to a dropoff in support among older tea party followers. He explains:

We have a declining tea party engagement and we need to engage new forms of activists. The comment [made by Cline to a fellow activist] was specifically, ‘These old people are not gonna get it done. These kids are workers.’ Not in the sense that they can’t accomplish it, but that there are too few of them.

The problem of declining support from older tea partiers, Cline continues, is a national problem:

On my very first phone call with Jen Stefano as my new [AFP] regional director, I asked her if declining tea party engagement was just an Arkansas problem or if everyone was experiencing that. Her comment was that it’s a problem everywhere.

At the time, Cline and Stefano were prominent figures within AFP. As the director of AFP-Arkansas, Cline led one of AFP’s strongest chapters. Stefano is a national regional director for AFP and a fixture on Fox News and Fox Business News. If they believe tea party support is drying up, the problem is probably real. AFP spokesman Levi Russell declined to comment, and Stefano did not respond to a request for comment.

Henry Kriegel, the Montana Tea person, somehow thought it was a sign of robust health that pollsters have found one-third of Americans support the Tea Party. He also claims the remaining membership is “somewhat better educated, slightly more affluent, and have slightly less minority involvement.” The way Kriegel uses the term, “slightly,” makes you think he is involved in way more horseshoe games that political struggles. Interestingly, Kriegel is now deputy director for the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity – Montana.

It has already been well documented that this political season the Tea Party has been lacking. Their adherents in US Senate and other high profile races have all been crushed by the establishment candidates within the Republican ranks.

I wonder if it’s not more than a long-in-the-tooth membership that’s the issue for the Tea Party, because god knows angry old people are still a dime a dozen, and they vote faithfully. You can’t build any party or organization by losing, no matter how much money coagulates with the fiery, blood thirst of the members.

I wonder if the Koch Brothers looked at all of the teeth when they bought the Tea Party leadership and ensconced them in paying jobs within the AFP structure. I wonder if their greed at acquiring a grassroots base and movement on the cheap by buying off the leadership didn’t also bleed the heart of the movement as they sold their agenda, rather than the populist pleadings of the Tea Party.

Admittedly, this is their problem, not mine, but organizations are organizations and parties are parties, so like it or not, they are all more the same than they are different.