Columbus Dispatch Reporter, 'Surprised' That Tea Party Is Not in GOP Lockstep, Admits to Being Asleep For Over Two Years

Maybe we ought to nickname him Rip Van Geier.

In his coverage of this weekend's We The People Convention in Columbus, Ohio early Saturday morning, Columbus Dispatch reporter Ben Geier found it "surprising" that many attendees would "go after the Republican Party and House Speaker John Boehner" in expressing their opinions relating to developments in Washington. It's as if he's totally unaware of what the movement's leading members and its grass roots activists have been saying (and proving) since the first anti-stimulus rallies in early 2009 (and at earlier events--see this comment below), since Utah Tea Partiers unceremoniously ousted supposedly entrenched incumbent Bob Bennett in May 2010, and since Ohio Tea Partiers ran serious but largely unsuccessful opposition candidates for State Auditor, Secretary of State, and the State Republican Party's Central Committee slots that spring.

Since Rip Van Geier missed it, here's the message: The Tea Party movement isn't about propping up a party; it's about electing sensible, Constitution-following conservatives to political office regardless of party, revising state and federal laws to reflect constitutional principles, and of course educating the general populace about those principles and their importance.

I attended the We The People Convention, attended almost a dozen breakout sessions during its two days, participated in one of Saturday's panels with fellow Ohio bloggers Matt Hurley and Maggie Thurber, and spoke with a number of people who have attended other activist conferences. Thus, I can confidently attest that Geier's description of the We The People breakout program as "a number of small sessions" is totally inadequate.

Here are excerpts from "Rip's" report (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

GOP Takes Lumps at Conference

It's no surprise to hear members of the tea party movement railing against liberals, progressives and especially President Barack Obama.

But to hear them go after the Republican Party and House Speaker John Boehner is a bit more surprising.

That's exactly what people at the We the People Convention got from tea party founder Jenny Beth Martin [1] during her lunchtime address yesterday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

"Just because they have an 'R' next to their name doesn't give them a free ride," Martin said to loud applause.

... Ohio's first We the People Convention concludes tonight after a speech at noon by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and an evening address by GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.

... Martin spoke particularly harshly about Boehner, calling him out for not cutting the $100 billion from the budget that he and other Republicans pledged, and for not standing up to Democrats on the budget.

... (Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris) Maloney said that the Ohio GOP was proud to have worked with the local tea party groups during the 2010 election [2], and he thought they would continue to work together [3] during the 2012 cycle to "retire Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown."

... In addition to Martin's speech, the convention featured a number of small sessions [4] with speakers from such groups as the Heritage Foundation and School Choice Ohio ...

Notes:

  • [1] -- Martin is "co-founder and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots from Atlanta." She is not the "tea party founder." Geier could have gone to the We The People program, which describes her as "Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator." I guess clicking is a hard thing to do.
  • [2] -- The Ohio Republican Party, which I prefer to call ORPINO (The Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) had a pretty significant staff exodus earlier this year, and I'm tempted to give Chris Maloney the benefit of the doubt for this howler if he's among the newbies. But he needs to know his history, and it's certainly not as he describes it.

    If ORPINO "worked with the local tea party groups during the 2010 election" (as framed, Maloney's statement carries a heavy implication of "most" or "all"), it's one of the Buckeye State's best-kept secrets.

    The fact is that ORPINO, as documented here, here, and here (for starters), was bound and determined to clear the field in last year's State Attorney General race for all-time RINO and recently soundly defeated former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine. To do so, ORPINO Chairman Kevin DeWine convinced a much better primary opponent to run for Auditor instead. Largely as a result of that backroom deal, Tea Party-supported candidates ran against ORPINO's chosen and endorsed candidates for Auditor and Secretary of State, and fielded a nearly complete slate of candidates for the state Central Committee.

    ORPINO was so nervous about the possibility that their candidates and committee members might go down to primary defeats that, in an unprecedented move, it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on colorful mailers, customized to each Central Committeeperson's represented area, extolling their slates' (cough, cough) "Tea Party Values." Additionally and also unprecedented, on Primary Election Day ORPINO placed several representatives handing out similar literature at polling places throughout the state.

    These "successful" moves obviously took significant money away from ORPINO's general election efforts. While the party can obviously point to the statewide sweep achieved by the GOP slate in November as proof of success, yours truly and other observers strongly believe that the its underfunded situation in the fall caused by its paranoid opposition to arguably stronger primary candidates in the spring nearly allowed incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland to overtake Republican challenger John Kasich in the election's final weeks after trailing badly until October. This weakened Kasich's opening mandate, making it much more difficult than it should have been to pass SB5, a collective-bargaining bill similar in many ways to Wisconsin's related and better-known measure. Sparse on-hand cash may have also contributed to the fact that ORPINO did little to counteract the Wisconsin-like demonstrations and attacks by leftist organizations and unions as SB5 moved through the legislature.

  • [3] -- To "continue working together," one has to have worked together previously. Chris Maloney and ORPINO can pretend all they want, but that has yet to ever happen to any meaningful degree.
  • [4] -- Geier "somehow" never got around to telling readers that well over 1,000 people attended We The People. What he described as a "number of small sessions," as shown here, really consisted of 90 sessions on roughly 50 topics presented by subject matter experts in the areas of campaign organization, management, and strategy; statewide issues; national/international issues; historical perspectives; and online activism and advocacy. Ohio residents made well over half of the presentations. Several people who have attended other similar events told me they were especially impressed by the how-to focus of so many of the modules. Attendance at the sessions I attended was hardly "small," ranging from about 50 to about 120.

Like the Tea Party movement itself, We The People was built from the ground up. This year's event came about because of a recognition that as important as the achievements in last year's congressional and U.S. Senate races were, it will take ongoing activism at the local, county and state levels to effect genuine long-term change, build an organizational and philosophical bench, and bring about an ultimate return to this country's constitutional core values.

Ben Geier's Dispatch effort comes off as a bit petty and designed to minimize the significance of an effort which could wind up being seen as the prototype for a successful activist education, training, and networking event in the coming years.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.