In the beginning, the Left tried to argue that the Tea Party was little more than top-down organized publicity stunts fomented by FOX News. The reality was actually quite different and much more amazing. In Kentucky, each Tea Party started spontaneously and independent of others. To this day, statewide communication between the different Tea Parties in each city is spotty at best, and yet in city after city thousands of folks gather at local events. This has been the dynamic of the movement nationwide. When a so-called "national" Tea Party convention was held last year, state and local organizers throughout the country issued statements to make it known that there was no national organization that spoke for them.
The Tea Party sprang in each state de novo. It wasn't created by a network. It wasn't created by a billionaire. It came from the people. It has no single leader, is often adamantly against leadership and threatens the power structure of both political parties. It threatens the perquisites and privileges of the establishment and, therefore, many on both sides of the aisle think it must be destroyed. That the Tea Party has so many enemies in the establishment media and government should tell its members they're doing something right.
Open Mic Night
On the campaign trail, I always described the Tea Party as an "open mic night," or a forum to redress our grievances. It came into being to fill a niche that neither party allows—dissent. Americans who normally put in their day's work, arrive home to their spouses and kids, and go to school events and soccer games are largely ignored by Washington, but they are now worried enough to march in the streets. As much as the Left wants to depict the Tea Party as an angry mob, it is better described as a multitude of concerned and worried average citizens who have spontaneously banded together because they fear the consequences of massive overspending and debt. I've traveled thousands of miles across Kentucky over the past year, and I've met the Tea Party, one person at a time, one city at a time. They often come from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds but unite to address head-on the daunting problems facing our nation. And although they come together, they never really come together too much. There really is no Kentucky Tea Party—simply independent groups, organized by city, inspired by patriotism and informed by common sense.
Has there been a movement in the last hundred years where in many cities across the country people just spontaneously show up for a protest? This happened on April 15, 2009 in about ten cities in Kentucky but probably over a thousand cities nationwide. This is quite amazing when you consider that not only do the Tea Parties not communicate with one another, but they don't really communicate with anyone nationally. Each group values its own autonomy. In my experience, the Tea Party doesn't have aspirations to coalesce as a national organization in large part because they so dislike rules and authority. Tea Partiers often don't like to have politicians speak at their events because they don't want to be too attached to the political machine, unlike Republican or Democratic gatherings where the politicians do all the talking and citizens are rarely given a forum to express their opinion. Such party meetings are typically made up of a small clique of partisan insiders who jealously guard their own political turf.