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We Tore It Apart—We Can Rebuild It

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How will history remember the Tea Party movement of 2009 to 2016? The answer to that question depends on what we do next.

The Tea Party movement was an antagonistic movement. We opposed bad stuff. We sought punishment for bad actors. We saw that the experts were wrong, and we pointed out their folly. Like William F. Buckley’s charter for National Review, we stood athwart history, yelling “STOP!” At its heart, the Tea Party movement opposed a corrupt and insulated establishment class.

With Donald Trump’s election, history yielded to our call. Now what?

From the Tea Party’s earliest days, we have struggled with this moment of antagonistic victory. I remember Lee Presser asking me at lunch one day in 2009, “to what end?” He encouraged me to paint a sensory vision of what life would be like should the Tea Party prevail.

That’s a bigger challenge than it might seem, at least for me it was. And still is.

I tried. But my efforts at developing a vision were often interrupted by the need for more antagonistic response to events. Despite these distractions, a few of us managed to try on a new, protagonist role. We launched a BUYcott in Ferguson following the first riots. We promoted municipal court reform. Some of us backed Eric Greitens for governor.

Above these concrete acts stood an abstract idea that you can see if you look hard enough: being against bad stuff is important, but it doesn’t make things better. To make life better for real people, we tried to apply principles from the right to problems the right mostly ignores. We began looking for ways to help those people who so need help, those who get too much of the wrong kind of help from the political party they support.

In 2015, this blog wrote quite a bit about Arthur C. Brooks’s book The Conservative Heart.

What inspired these posts was seeing the Tea Party heading toward success, which also meant the Tea Party was heading for the history books, like the Mothers’ March of Dimes Against Polio. Once polio was eradicated, the March of Dimes needed a new mission. The Mothers’ March of Dimes took on birth defects. What would be our new mission?

We’ve torn apart the establishment. Okay, maybe we’ve only weakened it. But it’s time now to become the protagonists of our story. It’s time to rise up from opposition. It’s our duty to rebuild the order we helped destroy.

I realize that working for something good is less gratifying to many people than fighting against something bad. Some will ignore our new mission and continue to fight the bad stuff. They might even fight us, just as a few Tea Partiers fought against Trump and Greitens and against those who supported them.

That’s okay. But some of us are builders. We want to leave concrete gifts to the future, not just burned-out buildings. We can look to Samuel Adams for guidance.Via Wikipedia:

While Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House and headed to Boston Harbor. That evening, a group of 30 to 130 men boarded the three vessels, some of them thinly disguised as Mohawk Indians, and dumped all 342 chests of tea into the water over the course of three hours.[143] Adams never revealed whether he went to the wharf to witness the destruction of the tea.[144] Whether or not he helped plan the event is unknown, but Adams immediately worked to publicize and defend it.[145] He argued that the Tea Party was not the act of a lawless mob, but was instead a principled protest and the only remaining option that the people had to defend their constitutional rights.[146]

So what did Adams do after the Revolution?

Adams focused his political agenda on promoting virtue, which he considered essential in a republican government. If republican leaders lacked virtue, he believed, liberty was endangered. His major opponent in this campaign was his former protégé John Hancock; the two men had a falling out in the Continental Congress. Adams disapproved of what he viewed as Hancock’s vanity and extravagance, which Adams believed were inappropriate in a republican leader. 

Adams’s promotion of public virtue took several forms. He played a major role in getting Boston to provide a free public education for children, even for girls, which was controversial.[184]Adams was one of the charter members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780.[185] After the Revolutionary War, Adams joined others, including Thomas Jefferson, in denouncing the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former army officers. Adams worried that the Society was “a stride towards an hereditary military nobility”, and thus a threat to republicanism.[186]

While Adams continued to opposed bad things, he focused on promoting good things: frugality, virtue, and republicanism. After initial opposition to the new Constitution, he supported the document in the Massachusetts ratification convention. Once the Bill of Rights was added, he became a strong proponent of the new federal government.

And his view of armed rebellion changed, too. According to Wikipedia:

Postwar economic troubles in western Massachusetts led to an uprising known as Shays’s Rebellion, which began in 1786. Small farmers, angered by high taxes and debts, armed themselves and shut down debtor courts in two counties. Governor James Bowdoin sent four thousand militiamen to put down the uprising, an action supported by Adams.[190]His old political ally James Warren thought that Adams had forsaken his principles, but Adams saw no contradiction. He approved of rebellion against an unrepresentative government, as had happened during the American Revolution, but he opposed taking up arms against a republican government, where problems should be remedied through elections. He thought that the leaders of Shays’s Rebellion should be hanged, reportedly saying that “the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death”.[191]

Samuel Adams was a worthy role model for our days of rebellion during the Tea Party era. His post-Revolutionary example serves us well as we move to rebuilding faith in American institutions. No one owns the Tea Party, so you are free to continue dumping tea into Boston Harbor. I am moving on toward making America great again.

More to come. Stay tuned.

How Donald Trump Completed the Tea Party

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Sometimes I forget what originally drove me to call for a tea party protest in St. Louis.

One motivation was fear of missing out because a dozen other cities were planning protests. Another driver was a desire change the direction of the country. And at least some of it was the frustrated actor in me looking for an outlet.

Since two-thirds of those motivations appeal only to me, let’s focus on the middle one: change the country.

If we wanted to change the country, we have to answer obvious questions:

  1. From what?
  2. To what end?

I’ll try to unpack those two questions and show why Tuesday’s election means the Tea Party’s mission is almost complete.

From What?

Here are the RealClearPolitics afternoon headlines from Thursday, February 19, 2009:
Mr. President, Enough with Doomsday Talk – Mark McKinnon, Daily Beast
Fixing Our Housing Crisis – Tim Geithner & Shaun Donovan, USA Today
People Don’t Want to Pay Their Neighbor’s Mortgage – Rick Santelli, CNBC
How the World Sees Obama – Joe Klein, Time
My Response to the Attorney General – Bill Willingham, Big Hollywood
Welcome to Canada, Mr. President! – Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail
The RAT Hiding Inside Stimulus Bill – Byron York, Washington Examiner
Time for a Global Stimulus – Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect
Durban II: High-Level Diplomacy? **- Rick Richman, Commentary
**Paterson’s Bumpy Road
– Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics

Stimulus, bailouts, doomsday talk.

As we saw it back then, the expert elites screwed up the world and they wanted us to pay for it. TARP and Stimulus were code words for wealth redistribution. This time, though, we taxed the poor to make the wealthiest people whole.

When Obama announced plans to bail out people upside-down on their mortgages, we’d had enough.

That first Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Protest was the plebes first warning shot across the elitist’s bow.

The “from what” was a world run poorly by a select few. Years later, Peggy Noonan named that select few: “the protected.”

To What End?

From the first moment of the tea party movement, we struggled to answer this question. “To what end?” my friend Lee Presser asked me over lunch. “You’ve started this movement, Bill,” he said. “You need to tell people what the world will look like when you succeed.”

Lee was right, of course. Every movement must work toward something. We needed a way to measure our progress toward a goal.

Just saying “no” will work for only so long. Eventually, someone would demand to know our solution. At least our vision.

Many tea partiers said “constitutionally limited government,” but no one can draw a picture of one. And, frankly, no one really cares about government. We care about the part of life separate from government. We wanted more of that non-government life and less government. But “less government” is a bad answer because it doesn’t anwer the question most people ask.

To people like me, less government means something good. To someone on disability and SSI, less government means something scary and dangerous. And, while we, on the right, have high confidence that those welfare recipients will find a way to survive without government programs, the people dependent on those programs often have less confidence in themselves.

For years, we struggled to paint a picture of “Tea Party America.” We failed. We all failed. As a result, the tea party movement fractured. Some went on to media careers. Some got elected. Most of us worked on smaller tasks, like municipal court reform.

Then, a New York billionaire did our jobs for us.

To Make America Great Again

The answer to “to what?” came from a simple slogan: make America great again. And it came, not from a tea party leader, but from a billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star. Donald Trump finally painted a simple picture for the people Peggy Noonan calls “the unprotected.”

As Ms. Noonan writes today:

Those who come to this space know why I think what happened, happened. The unprotected people of America, who have to live with Washington’s policies, rebelled against the protected, who make and defend those policies and who care little if at all about the unprotected. That broke bonds of loyalty and allegiance. Tuesday was in effect an uprising of the unprotected. It was part of the push-back against detached elites that is sweeping the West and was seen most recently in the Brexit vote.

The tea party was the uprising of the unprotected. Over the first two years of that uprising, we lost our focus as we groped for the answer to the “to what?” question. The answer that seemed most appealing came from the Constitution experts. Ted Cruz became their hero. They pushed Constitution study groups.

But all that academic talk about the Constitution bored the unprotected. As I wrote in 2015, most people don’t know they have a Constitution problem—they think they have an income problem. Our 10th Amendment arguments didn’t pay their rent. Most of all, they didn’t want someone or something to pay their rent; they wanted to earn enough to pay it themselves.

Then along came Trump. “We’re gonna make America great again, folks. We’re gonna do it. Believe me. It’ll be beautiful.”

How would we do this?

“We’re going to bring your jobs back. Good factory jobs.”

“Law and order.”

“We’re going to build the wall, and it will be beautiful. And Mexico will pay for the wall, believe me.”

And Trump said more.

Trump Answers the Question

While the media perseverated on a few controversial tweets and comments, Trump spoke to the people who built and build America. Trump spoke in simple, truthful words:

I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.

So we really need jobs now. We have to take jobs away from other countries because other countries are taking our jobs. There is practically not a country that does business with the United States that isn’t making – let’s call it a very big profit. I mean China is going to make $300 billion on us at least this year.

When I am president, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself, ‘Does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson, who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child America?’

Our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them. Why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them?

Our military has to be strengthened. Our vets have to be taken care of. We have to end Obamacare, and we have to make our country great again, and I will do that.

I own buildings. I’m a builder; I know how to build. Nobody can build like I can build. Nobody. And the builders in New York will tell you that. I build the best product. And my name helps a lot.

The problems we face now – poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them in the first place.

We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.

There it is, my friends. Donald Trump answered Lee Presser’s question, “to what end?”

I’ve said many, many times that throughout our charmed history, God has always given us the President we needed and deserved. If you can get beyond party and ideology, Bill Clinton fit the 1990s the way Ronald Reagan fit the 1980s. Jimmy Carter was the embodiment of the mid-1970s, and his failed president made Reagan possible. In time, I think we’ll see that Barack Obama made Donald Trump possible.

Possible. But Donald Trump and the tea party put Trump into office. I realize some tea partiers opposed Trump. That’s beside the point. Some conservatives like George F. Will opposed Reagan. The tea party movement was not monolithic.

But if you go back to day one of the tea party, February 27, 2009, and you look at the faces and fashion of the people who gathered on the steps of the Arch, you will see Trump’s people.

Donald Trump gave us the vision that eluded me and all the other tea party leaders. Maybe we were too knowledgable and tried to craft a clever vision.

Trump’s vision was simple: make America great again.

That’s all it took and all that matters. We just wanted to make America great again.

God bless and keep President-elect Trump.

One Week To Go. Are You Ready?

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Time is running out fast.

The St. Louis Area Tea Party for Trump is Sunday, August 28 at 4:00 p.m. at Surdyke Harley-Davidson in Festus, MO.

Here’s your checklist to make sure you’re ready:

[frontend-checklist name=”Tea Party for Trump”]

Sign Ideas

Make sure your signs embarrass no one. Don’t give the liars at CNN anything act all righteous about. Here are some sign ideas:

  • Winning with Trump
  • Donald Trump: YOU’RE HIRED
  • Trump Stands With US
  • Trump Never Sleeps
  • Trump Leads from the FRONT
  • All Aboard the TRUMP TRAIN
  • I’m ALL IN for Trump
  • HONK if you’re voting TRUMP
  • Make America Great Again
  • Make America Work Again
  • Make America Safe Again
  • Make America Strong Again
  • I [HEART] Trump
  • Build The Wall
  • You Can’t Fake Great Kids
  • Legal Immigration Rocks
  • Borders Define a Country
  • Dignity = Meaningful Work
  • I’m Choosing Scalia’s Successor
  • What’s Wrong with Greatness?
  • Obama Golfs, Hillary Coughs, Trump Leads
  • Trump: Serial Winner

Please use the comments to add your own sign suggestions.

See you there next Sunday at 4:00 (but I’ll be there early)

Why Is Erick Erickson Protecting Reince Priebus?

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Welcome, Donald Trump fans! Thanks for reading.

Yes, it’s true, I have had disagreements with Erick in the past. I try to assess the situation, not just the person. It’s possible to disagree with someone on one subject and to agree with them on another.

If anything, Erick showed consistency by rescinding Trump’s invitation to Red State. Erick didn’t want the event to descend into chaos led by my friends over the Barbour episode; he doesn’t want a descent into chaos led by Donald Trump.

Some will call me a hypocrite. Go ahead. I’ve been called worse. And being seen as inconsistent on this matter is better, in my view, than siding with boorishness in an attempt to appear narrowly consistent some marginally important prior position. If I must be narrowly and reflexively consistent, I will remain consistent with my belief that the United States deserves and requires leaders of remarkable character, temperament, intelligence, creativity, and charm. I want it all in my next president. And Trump lacks several key ingredients.

Please continue reading. Thanks

Call it the hand of God.

I was supposed to go to RedState Gathering this weekend, but things didn’t work out at the list minute. Now, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

Red State Gathering is blogger Erick Erickon’s annual conservative gabfest. This year, it was in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Reince Priebus and Erick Erickson at RedState. Photo by anonymous Tea Partier

Reince Priebus, RNC Chairman, was one of the speakers. Priebus is under heavy pressure from Missouri’s Ed Martin and others to investigate Henry Barbour’s role in political attack ads that accuse the Tea Party of racism. So far, Priebus has blocked any such investigation.

Reince Priebus is running cover for Thad Cochran and Henry Barbour who called you, dear read, racist.

Traditionally, speakers at events like RedState Gathering take questions from the audience. But Erickson saw that Tea Party Patriots were armed with signs and tough questions for the Priebus .

I asked Erickson, via Twitter, why he protected Priebus from questions. Here’s Erick’s response.

Erickson’s answer is nonsense. No, Priebus did not authorize Henry Barbour’s attack on the Tea Party. He is not responsible for Barbour’s actions. 

But Priebus is solely responsible for his own response to irrefutable evidence that Henry Barbour funded the ads. Erickson has made himself culpable in the cover-up by protecting Priebus who is protecting Barbour. (Priebus and Barbour go way back, as we shall see later.) It’s typical Republican Establishment “cover your ass” nonsense.

Erickson has not responded to my follow-up question: 

Priebus is Chairman of the RNC, for God’s sake. He’s in charge. He needs a blogger to protect him from Tea Party Patriots? Give me a break.

Enter Ed Martin, Stage Right

Meanwhile, Missouri GOP Chairman, Ed Martin, has risked his entire political future by filing motions of censure against Henry Barbour and the Mississippi Republicans who shamefully libeled tea partiers, plagiarizing the vilest tactics from the Al Sharpton playbook.

I realize it’s considered bad form to set up a guest for humiliation in some circles. I get that. But if you’re going to allow Priebus to speak, you have to let him feel the heat for his failure to investigate the shenanigans in Mississippi. By blocking the investigation, Priebus is protecting the bad actors and further alienating grassroots conservatives.

Of course, we all know why Priebus won’t investigate Mississippi. As the Spectator pointed out, Henry Barbour and Reince Priebus are old buddies:

Martin’s request for an investigation would be, one thinks, a no-brainer. This is, after all, the party of Lincoln. Race baiting has no place in the Republican Party, which came to be in the first place because of its staunch opposition to slavery.

But there’s a problem: Take a look at this link to a site for a lobbying group called Capital Resources, which includes a bio for one of the group’s partners, the aforementioned Henry Barbour. If you scan down a bit there is a series of bullet points describing Barbour’s background. The very first one reads as follows: “Helped run RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ campaign for chairman.”

Here’s the most depressing part of this whole sordid story. When faced with the choice of offending the Tea Party or the Establishment, Erickson decided to protect the Establishment.

Maybe Erickson was just being a good and gracious host. That’s what I want to think. But to those of us who’ve been in the streets fighting the establishment, this feels like another sell-out.

This Wisconsin Police Chief Admits Illegal Harassment of Tea Party Leader, After Lying About It

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The weird thing is: isn’t that Sharp Elbows questioning the Chief? When did he become a detective in Michigan?

The chief pleaded nolo contendere to identity theft charges. He presented himself as a tea party leader signing up for embarrassing, sexual email lists. From the La Crosse Tea Party:

A shocking update to the Town of Campbell Situation this week. Detective Spencer from Monroe County Sheriff’s department called and said that Campbell Police Chief Tim Kelemen confessed to harassment/internet stalking/identity theft regarding my complaint filed to La Crosse P.D. in January when someone signed me up for 15 or so internet accounts ranging from a gay profile on to

The La Crosse city council will meet next week to decide whether to terminate the chief.

For more, see the TCOT Report story.

H/T Christina KBo

What Happened to the Tea Party?

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I’ll give Business Insider some credit. After Tea Party-backed candidates came up empty across the board in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, the website that has spent years maligning our rule-of-law movement could have taken the low road.

Instead, blogger Brett Logiurato wrote a fair assessment of what’s happened to the GOP since February 27, 2009.

The much-talked about Republican “civil war” is over, at least for the people who thought it even existed in the first place. Both the Tea Party grassroots and the GOP establishment have taken lessons from the clashes over the past three election cycles. Republicans have learned to adopt more Tea Party talking points, and conservative grassroots voters have shown they are willing to back establishment candidates who have adopted their views.

Read more:

Logiurato describes the changes in Mitch McConnell’s behavior to illustrate the fusion of the two factions:

In 2008, as he had been for much of his career, McConnell was a proud promoter of congressional earmarks and the money he was able to bring back to Kentucky. He ran an ad during that race boasting about the more than $1 billion he brought back to the state.
. . .
By 2010, as Tea Party earned a series of election victories and earmarks became a symbol of waste in Washington, McConnell helped end them. He won’t campaign on “bringing home the bacon” this year, and he stands firmly against an effort to bring back earmarks.


“McConnell’s evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles,” wrote John Hart, Sen. Tom Coburn’s former communications director, on Real Clear Politics.

Getting Mitch McConnell to talk right is one thing; getting him to vote right is another. 

If the GOP lets the Export-Import Bank of Boeing die a graceful death this year, I’ll be impressed. If McConnell and the House leadership begin turning their backs on corporate lobbyists who use government to thwart innovation and kill competition, then the Tea Party can claim a big victory. But I’m not holding my breath.

Let’s face it: none of us knew what the hell we were doing when 50 little groups held simultaneous protests in February 2009. We had no plan for what to do after that first event, awkwardly titled The Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Protest. After that first wave, some of us got together on a call, and Mike Leahy offered a plan. He said “this is a 10-round, heavyweight fight that will end with knockout on Election Day 2010.”

Yeah, we did that. But we never really had a plan for how we would do it. We knew how to hold a damn fantastic rally, though, so we held a bunch of them. We knew how to change the narrative with video, and we did that. We knew how get under Barack Obama’s skin, and we did that.

But victory is often the cruelest defeat. Following the 2010 election, we thought big. Really damn big. We were certain we’d be calling the shots in 2012. After all, the GOP was on life support after the 2008 elections. George Will scolded conservatives for uttering the word “socialism.” The New York Times predicted a permanent Democrat majority in almost every state.

The only center-right heartbeat leading up to the 2010 election was in the Tea Party. At that first Tea Party, Hall of Famer Jackie Smith said he’d never been to a political rally before. He asked the crowd of over 1,000 people to raise their hands if this was their first time. Almost every hand went up.

These people were not on Republican walk lists. There not consistent voters. They were ordinary people answering a call. They were sick of a government that took their blue collar wages to spare Wall Street millionaires and 8-figure CEOs the embarrassment of admitting “we fucked up the world.”

Hell yes, we lost our focus after 2010. At least I did. I started dreaming about rebuilding the Reagan coalition. I was thrilled to stand alongside people who’d been in the trenches for decades. I didn’t ask if their one, true passion was letting people live their own lives. I assumed it. That was a mistake.

In hindsight, I should have been far more humble. I should have paid attention to my own warnings about assuming the future will be a linear progression of the recent past. But I ignored myself. I looked at the Tea Party’s (and my own) recent past and projected out into the future. I like what I saw. I saw myself on TV, and I thought I looked damn good. (I’m always too eager to get my stupid mug on TV. I watched way too much Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson starting way too young, but that’s another story.)

Three dangerous developments emerged in 2011 that I should have stopped. I didn’t. Either I didn’t want the confrontation, or didn’t realize the danger, or I was afraid that challenging a bad idea might drive away a faction–a faction I thought we needed.

Those three developments:

  1. Fascination with massive conspiracies.
  2. Hedonistic pleasure from angry protests.
  3. Intellectual isolationism around 18th century political philosophy.

Maybe someday I’ll explain those three developments in more detail. For now, I just want you to know that I saw them–and did nothing.

The right direction is the one my friend Brian Bollmann took. Brian hooked up with the Center for Self-Governance. He didn’t just scream and yell at politicians. He learned how to talk to politicians. And now, they call him and ask how they should vote.

Brian got some power back.

When a handful of people get some power back, you don’t need 10,000 people yelling in a park. You don’t. Sure, we needed 10,000 angry people in Kiener Plaza in 2009. It was a recruitment drive. We had to tell the thousands like us, “you’re not alone. It’s safe to come out now.”

When a handful of Brian Bollmanns get some power back, you don’t need to shout about Agenda 21. Instead, you quietly inform poor people in public housing that Smart Meters will raise their electric bills to $120 a month from $25. That’s what Self-Governance students in Memphis did, and Memphis Power and Light removed the Smart Meters.

When a handful of Brian Bollmanns get some power back, you don’t even think about cloistering yourself in an ideologically safe vacuum and pleasure yourself with the vibrating echo. You talk to people who never heard of Thomas Paine about how they’re going to pay off their student loans.

I know it pisses off some good people every time I say I like Ann Wagner. I do. I enjoy talking to her, and I admire the things she’s accomplished. I can’t imagine myself yelling at her, and I know it would hurt our cause if I did. I’d like her to fight against extending the Export-Import Bank because the Export-Import Bank represents a redistribution of wealth and puts the government in the position of protecting large corporations from the free market. In short, the Ex-Im Bank is a clearinghouse of crony capitalism.

I know Ann and many of her Republican colleagues in Congress believe in the free market. But the free market doesn’t have a lobby. Except us. Except me.

So what happened to the Tea Party? I hope it got a lot friendlier and a lot more effective. Maybe now we can stop trying to topple big name “Republicrats” and start using our power of persuasion and influence to get Republicans to vote the way they talk.