Here’s a rule of thumb — if engaging the tea party movement, focus on the local groups, not the big groups. Tea Party Express has one heck of an impressive track record this year at the national level and they need to be commended for that, but all things being equal it is the local groups that have the volunteers, get out the vote efforts, phone bankers, etc. And I think a number of the national group leaders would tend to agree.
But here is another case in point for bypassing a lot of the national tea party groups. The Claremont Institute, a well respected organization that has one heck of a constitutional history course, is hosting an event for new members of Congress.
The organization is being attacked by a tea party group as being filled with and held by “Washington Insiders.”
For the record, the Claremont Institute is on the opposite coast of the United States from Washington and composed of some of the wingiest wingers in the entire wing-o-sphere.
This handwringing about “Washington Insiders” is verging on paranoid.
One tea party group is giving out the private cell phone numbers of freshmen congressmen to pressure them to avoid competing orientation programs, etc.
Certainly there are legitimate concerns and there must be caution, but Good Lord people, by the time all the cards are on the table we’re going to have all the tea party groups labeling their competitors as Washington Insiders.
This is nuts.
UPDATED: Just got off the phone with a friend of mine who tells me that the tea party event in question had actually been an event set up by Congressman John Shadegg and others. The tea party group was invited to participate because it had scheduled an event on the same day. The groups merged.
Then the Claremont event invitation went out three days after the announcement of the Shadegg/Tea Party event. Shadegg’s group invited the Claremont group to share facilities, etc. since everyone would be there together. Chip Saltsman and the others involved refused, instead trying to pitch their even as somehow more official.
It sounds like Satlsman and the rest really were trying to do some not-quite-authentic event filled with the types of Washingtonians you wouldn’t want, but ultimately the tea party group handing out the private cell phone numbers of members of Congress remains out of line in my book.
Trust me, as a guy who has no hesitation putting up phone numbers and asking people to call, I would never give out someone’s cell phone number. That’s just wrong and, frankly, creates ill will.