There has been a lot written on the Tea Party, especially in the last 2 days. The most interesting report on what the Tea Party is and what they believe comes from National Journal:
The Tea Party is an interesting phenomena in American politics. There has been nothing quite like like it in my lifetime. It is a grassroots movement that dislikes Republicans as much as any other party:
The tea party began as a network, not an organization, and that is what it mostly remains. Disillusioned with President Bush’s Republicans and disheartened by President Obama’s election, in late 2008 several dozen conservatives began chattering on social-networking sites such as Top Conservatives on Twitter and Smart Girl Politics. Using those resources and frequent conference calls (the movement probably could not have arisen before the advent of free conference calling), they began to talk about doing something. What they didn’t realize was that they were already doing something. In the very act of networking, they were printing the circuitry for a national jolt of electricity.
The spark came on February 19, 2009, when a CNBC journalist named Rick Santelli aired a diatribe against the bank bailout. “That,” Meckler says, “was our source code.” The next day, the networkers held a conference call and decided to stage protests in a few cities just a week later. No one was more astonished than the organizers when the network produced rallies in about 50 cities, organized virtually overnight by amateurs. Realizing that they had opened a vein, they launched a second round of rallies that April, this time turning out perhaps 600,000 people at more than 600 events.
Presently, the largest Tea Party group is the Tea Party Patriots. Generally speaking, this is how they are organized and why:
Strange though it may seem, this is a coordinated network, not a hierarchy. There is no chain of command. No group or person is subordinate to any other. The tea parties are jealously independent and suspicious of any efforts at central control, which they see as a sure path to domination by outside interests. “There’s such a uniqueness to every one of these groups, just as there’s an individuality to every person,” Wildman says. “It has this bizarre organic flow, a little bit like lava. It heats up in some places and catches on fire; it moves more slowly in other places.”
Lava is a pretty good analogy. Ask the activists to characterize their organizational structure, however, and usually they will say it is a starfish.
The Starfish and the Spider, a business book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, was published in 2006 to no attention at all in the political world. The subtitle, however, explains its relevance to the tea party model: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
Traditional thinking, the book contends, holds that hierarchies are most efficient at getting things done. Hierarchies, such as corporations, have leaders who can make decisions and set priorities; chains of command to hold everyone accountable; mechanisms to shift money and authority within the organization; rules and disciplinary procedures to prevent fracture and drift. This type of system has a central command, like a spider’s brain. Like the spider, it dies if you thump it on the head.
The rise of the Internet and other forms of instantaneous, interpersonal interaction, however, has broken the spider monopoly, Brafman and Beckstrom argue. Radically decentralized networks — everything from illicit music-sharing systems to Wikipedia — can direct resources and adapt (“mutate”) far faster than corporations can. “The absence of structure, leadership, and formal organization, once considered a weakness, has become a major asset,” the authors write. “Seemingly chaotic groups have challenged and defeated established institutions. The rules of the game have changed.”
The problem with the media trying to locate and name a head to the Tea Party movement is because there isn’t one. There is no leader, but there are leaders. The Starfish type organization makes sense for them, and lends evidence to just how powerful the Tea sentiment is in this country at the moment. It may be that the decentralized movement could fizzle, but, right now and likely through to November 4, the movement will change the face of the House and may even remake the parties.
Despite the Delaware debacle–the nomination of O’Donnell, assuming she loses the general–there is a tsunami brewing. The two parties are going to have to reckon with an engaged electorate as a result.