My Friday broadcast from the Tea Party Patriots Summit in Phoenix led off with a conversation with two of the TPP’s founders, Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler. Both have an easy confidence born of many months of handling unexpected turns and unimaginable growth. They and their colleagues from across the country decided in December to hold this meeting and thousands of activists have arrived. Imagine what will happen when they establish a calendar of events for between now and 2012.
The mood expressed by both of these key coordinators and echoed throughout the ranks of self-motivating activists is disappointed but resolute. (These activists are the opposite of the self-interested public employee union members and the astroturf bus-ins that swarmed Wisconsin in recent days –they are here for selfless reasons, on their own dimes, not seeking anything from any level of government except that the government shrink.)
They are disappointed in the weak tea that the new House Majority has delivered thus far, and they dismiss as bad rhetoric the arguments from House Leadership that the $100 billion cuts promised in the Pledge have been delivered. They are resolute in demanding more and deeper cuts including entitlement reform in the FY 2012 budget and from the debate over the debt ceiling. And their deep disappointment with the stumbling start of the new Congress should help Speaker Boehner stand firm on the cuts that have been made and the limiting amendments that have been passed. It is hard to see how the Speaker can allow Planned Parenthood or NPR/CPB a dime in the final version of the CR, or how he can come back with anything less than the $60 billion in real cuts. The TPP is not the only organization speaking for the massive amount of protest at the swelling of government’s size and cost, but it is the largest, most organized, and easily the most authentic, transparent and energized branch of the movement.
Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the RNC, appeared on yesterday’s program for the second week in a row, to both connect with the TPP and to restate the case for trusting Scott Walker’s resolve in Wisconsin. At the end of our conversation, I asked Priebus if the GOP’s road to Tampa Bay’s convention will include many consultations with the Tea Party movement and he emphatically stated it would. Whether Priebus appoints a deputy to specifically keep the communication going with TPP and all other aspects of the movement or handles it himself, the key is to make sure that the activists remain willing to believe that they are pushing the GOP in the right direction. They clearly did so over the last few weeks with the help of the freshmen class in Congress, and while the start was less than TPPand others hoped for, they direction is the right one and only acceleration is needed.
Back to the Convention Center for day two, but one more note. The level of the substantive discussion is impressive. The Summit is sponsored in part by the HealthCareCompact.org, which is pushing an elegant approach to the repeal of Obamacare as well as a first principles discussion that flows naturally from the idea of the use of state compacts. This is the sort of conversation that marks the TPP as very different from other conservative gatherings of the past many decades. The political rally aspect of the gathering is there –Tim Pawlenty shrewdly accepted an invitation to keynote the gathering– but the level of exchange about the ideas that ought to guide the Republic is high and unique and the sort of conversation that changes minds and challenges participants to more and more effort.
It is the opposite of astroturf, and once again MSM is missing one of the major political stories in the country because it has no ears to hear and nearly zero connections to the center-right.