Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Tea Party Splatters

How do you take a spontaneously erupting grassroots phenomenon fueled by rebel anti-government rage, and mold it into a coherent political movement? Not very easily, it turns out. That much is becoming clear, as 600 members of disparate groups from across the country prepare to descend next month on Nashville for the first National Tea Party Convention. The group’s big coming-out party is threatened by a rash of infighting, finger-pointing and paranoia. The stars of the movement, such as they are, will be out: Going Rogue author, former GOP vice-presidential nominee, and newly minted Fox News contributor Sarah Palin; Minnesota GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann; and prominent birther Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily, among them. But a number of Tea Party activists recoil at the very idea that their movement should have stars—and are steering clear because they don’t want to follow any one leader. And FreedomWorks, the nonprofit headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey—and the group that helped foster the early growth and development of the Tea Party insurgency—has decided to stay away. “We would strongly oppose any person or organization becoming the movement,” says Adam Brandon, press secretary for FreedomWorks, in explaining his group’s absence. “At that point, it crashes into the mountain.” Brandon was complimentary of the organizers of the event: Tea Party Nation, a group founded by Tennessee defense lawyer Judson Phillips, who says he aims to make a profit on the event and turn money over to conservative causes. “Let a million flowers bloom,” Brandon says. But he says FreedomWorks favors a “different model” of activism. At the group’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, a book called The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations is required reading...read more

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