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Rogues of K Street: Confessions of a Tea Party Consultant
  • January 10, 2011 : 03:01
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Conservatives now live in the political-party equivalent of Mad Max. Law and order inside the Republican Party has deteriorated, leaving regional warlords to scavenge over what’s left. The trouble is that some of the regional warlords are nuts or crooks. Among the better-known scavengers is Eric Odom’s Tea Party-related PAC, Liberty First, which I believe will be able to raise and spend millions this fall.

The rivalry between different Tea Party groups is real, and the leaders in Odom’s group don’t care much for the other leaders. Other groups are spending political capital fighting to lead a movement. My guys see it more as a fight to help reshape the debate and protect future generations from creeping socialism and unimaginable debt. One of my people puts it better: "There’s room for lots of organizations. There’s room to focus on different races. Eric Odom’s group is more traditional. We’re a little more edgy. We use dirty words." A large number of people in our group have military backgrounds. Whenever squabbles erupt, their catchphrase is "Remember, guys, the enemy is to the left." Then their eyes literally drift to the left.

Here’s a good example of why some Tea Party members aren’t as stupid as you may think: They know the birther argument is a loser. (That’s the theory that President Barack Obama’s missing birth certificate is the key to unlocking a vast conspiracy.) It’s no secret people think my friends are crazy; they are hypersensitive about being considered conspiracy theorists.

Truthers are equally unwelcome. (Truthers believe 9/11 was an inside job.) Before the Texas primary earlier this year Glenn Beck asked Tea Party activist and gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina whether the government had a role in bringing down the World Trade Center. Her reply was "I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard....The American people have not seen all the evidence." The next day she told a local TV station, "The 9/11 Commission Report, you know, great sections of that are redacted, and they’re top secret. That makes us all wonder, Well, what’s happening back there? The same is true with the birth certificate thing. I think it’s healthy that people are asking questions."

Rejecting conspiracy theories is particularly challenging for my Tea Party friends because we share a distrust of the government’s monopoly on truth. So I was especially impressed by the Tea Party’s response to Medina. Within four minutes of the radio clip being posted on, an e-mail circulated to members of the Ensuring Liberty board and to top bloggers Mike Flynn, Dana Loesch, Andrew Marcus and others. Here is one blogger’s response: "There needs to be a loud and resounding rejection of the truthers from the Tea Party movement. On the other hand, every time I have seen a truther show up at a Tea Party event, they have been rejected. So it’s not so much a purging as it is an official eff you. I hope most Tea Partyers get that."

Another leading activist, working out of his home in rural Illinois, said, "This is a teachable moment." Within hours Medina was being treated like a malignant tumor within an otherwise credible movement. At one point she had threatened to garner enough votes to surpass Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and force Governor Rick Perry into a runoff. In the end Medina picked up just 18.6 percent of the primary vote. Medina’s 18.6 percent was still enough to damage the Tea Party brand. There were suggestions about dumping the name altogether. "Now that the Tea Parties have totally fucked up their primary, 'Tea Party' may not be a brand worth carrying. 'Grassroots conservative' may be more effective," wrote one regional Tea Party leader.

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