Following the 2016 election defeat, Democrats are in a real funk. The coming Trump presidency combined with Republican control of the House and Senate gives Democrats little hope that they can have any real impact on passing meaningful legislation. They’re concerned that they lack the power to defend current laws like Obamacare let alone push their own progressive agenda.
Their current strategy is to challenge the Trump cabinet nominees and expose the extreme ideology many of these conservative nominees represent. Democrats lacking the votes to move legislation and, faced with an extreme Republican agenda, should take a page from the Republicans’ 2009-2010 Tea Party Movement playbook.
Democrats find themselves in a similar situation to the Republicans’ predicament following the 2008 election. In 2009, President Obama had a House and Senate in Democratic control. Democrats dominated all three branches of government just as Republicans do today.
Democrats quickly ran into a new powerful political opponent, the Tea Party Movement. The Republican-dominated Tea Party Movement burst upon the political scene soon after President Obama took office in 2009. The Tea Party’s opposition was fueled in part by the Democrats’ passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus package). The Tea Party organized nationwide protests opposing the stimulus as well as health care reform. They also linked their protests to the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), even though that was passed in 2008 with bipartisan support prior to Obama taking office. The Tea Party very effectively linked these, as well as the auto bailout, into a successful anti-Democrat and anti-Obama campaign.
The 2009 congressional August recess became the public boiling point for the Tea Party Movement’s protests. Nationally, there were multiple loud and rowdy public town hall meetings that turned into chaos. Congressman and Senators of both parties faced increasingly ugly and rowdy public meetings. Many were canceled or moved to avoid angry confrontations. Iowa’s representatives faced similar outbursts as well. Politico reported an incident between an angry protester and former Iowa Representative Bruce Braley over his work on health care reform. Braley was quoted in that article about his opinion on the increasing public anger, “I think it’s just the fact that we are dealing with some of the most important public policy issues in a generation.”
The political power of the Tea Party Movement was largely based on turning out large numbers of the public for mass protests. On tax day April 15, 2009, they organized over 300,000 people in 346 cities to protest taxes. On September 12, 2009 the Tea Party Movement held a taxpayer march on Washington that turned out over 75,000 angry protestors. In February 2010 the Tea Party Nation held their first convention featuring the political firebrand Sara Palin. By April 2010 they had established the National Tea Party Federation to organize national rallies, issue national messaging and endorse candidates.
We all know the result of the Tea Party Movement on the 2010 elections. The Republicans took back control of the House and increased seats in the Senate. The Republican Party acknowledged the Tea Party Movement played a significant role in that upset. Republicans were able to overcome the Democrats’ majority with pure political organizing of public opinion.
One of the most fascinating facts about the Tea Party Movement was their embrace of the liberal organizing tactics of Saul Alinsky. Recall in the 2008 election, Republicans painted Obama and Hillary Clinton as dangerous radicals for their connection to the liberal community organizer Saul Alinsky. Republicans loved to hate Alinsky until they suddenly realized the value to the Tea Party of the Alinsky organizing model. Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, by Alinsky became a favorite primer for Tea Party activists trying to overthrow the Obama agenda. Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a leader of the Tea Party movement, recommended the book to his Tea Party friends.
What can Democrats learn from the Tea Party Movement experience? Number one is the power of the public’s voice on influencing members of Congress. If members of Congress perceive that they are out of favor with public opinion, they will respond. They always live in fear of getting voted out of office. If they perceive their actions and/or votes put them at risk in 2018 they will respond.
Democrats should embrace a Tea Party-like movement to scare and intimidate Republicans. Democrats can hold Republicans responsible to the public if they make their voices heard at town hall meetings, public events and at congressional offices. Raising the awareness of the public to the radical Republican agenda will require Democrats to take this fight to the streets. It will require passion, commitment and a willingness to get involved. Democrats can resist the Republicans’ agenda, defend our values and champion progressive issues if we unite.
Democrats have two choices: be depressed and get run over by Republicans or fight back with all the energy, passion and commitment that makes you a Democrat.
Democrats, are you ready to go Tea Party and fight back?
by Rick Smith
12 Comments on "Democrats Should Go Tea Party On The Republicans"
“Democrats can hold Republicans responsible to the public if they make their voices heard at town hall meetings, public events and at congressional offices.”
I’m 1000% with you, Rick. If our elected officials ever held public events or town halls I’d be there with bells on.
I had to pay $25 to the Des Moines Partnership to get into the last Q&A held by Sen. Grassley. He’ll count that as a public meeting.
“Scare and intimidate”? Sounds like bullying to me. Shouldn’t we be against bullying?
That’s the difference between Democrats and tea Party. The Tea Party was a grass roots movement. It was not funded by the GOP. It did not hold rally’s and leave the site a mess like Democrat events. It didn’t intimidate it promoted serious issues based on logic and reasoning.
Agree with you completely. And this isn’t bullying. Wish you would have given credit to the congressional staffers that wrote the INDIVISIBLE document recently. Go to their website and become a part of their movement Rachel maddow had them on her show last week. WE NEED MORE OF THESE GROUPS IN IOWA. There are a few. We have one in Dubuque and we’ve done a lot since the Nov election. We’ve phone banked several times for the dieviak election candidates inScott county. And we’ve organized a Women’s March on Dubuque to coincide with the one in DC. We also are on top of calling our 3 Republican legislators about the cabinet nominations and repeal of the ACA. get involved!
Why isn’t scaring and intimidating bullying? Honest discussion based on facts rather than fearful emotions will go a long ways.
I agree with you, Bob . We don’t want to imitate the uncivil behavior of those we opposed to. However, it’s been my experience since the election that Trump supporters don’t want to or can’t have a meaningful conversation about our political differences.
The ACA its an albatross around the neck of Democrats:
– broken promises on keeping Dr’s, health plans and lowering cost
– oppresses people by making them pay of plans that are not based on choice
– includes zero competition
– ignore real problems like tort reform
Maybe you all remember the Tea Party rally at the Alamo. When it was over, the attendees cleaned up the place, leaving it more pristine than before the rally. Democrat support groups will need to emulate those practices to convince middle class, hard-working Americans that Democrats really care about productive people. It’s a challenge. But I know Democrats can do it!
Agree, but the tea party wasn’t exactly a grassroots movement. It was bankrolled by Freedomworks, the Koch Brothers, and others.
Another way to get Dems together is through neighborhood groups. Grass roots organizing with local Dems and providing meetings and events where Dems can tell our story to the public. It doesn’t have to be a march or demonstration but just plain grassroots visibility to let the publics know the Dems are around and we have the visibility and organized power to tell our story to get the job done. This can also provide a platform for our ideals, ideas and candidates and encourage local Dems to run for local offices. The more Dems we can get to serve on city councils, school boards,other boards and commissions the better it will be for us to have an impact. It takes time and work. Many Dems expect top offices right from the start. That won’t happen without a polical base of contacts and experiences. It takes, patience, persistence and organizing ability. It’s a quiet and peaceful way to get things done.
Area Democratic groups can organize however they want to. they can be a loosely organized group or organize into a state PAC group so they can legally and ethically collect and spend monies to contribute to candidates and to operate their own organization. They don’t affect Democratic policies or platforms as that is done by the County Central committee and delegates to the county and state conventions. But they can have a big say on promoting Democrats and Democratic ideals
Read Indivisible. The link is attached below: