Social Networking and Politics: Origins of the Tea Party in 2007 with Ron Paul
I wanted to write briefly about the Tea Party movement started initially through social networking. Outside of that, I felt an urge to correct the mislabeling of the Tea Party movement and its original base.
Tea Party Origins:
The Tea Party movement started out of the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign. In fact, you can find the exact time, the Tea Party movement started as a group from the Boston Globe written in December, 2007 by Michael Levenson.
Ron Paul supporters marched today through the snow from the State House to Faneuil Hall, then smashed the one-day fund-raising record for a Republican presidential candidate.
As of 7 p.m., the supporters said they had raked in $4.3 million, surpassing the record $4.2 million total they raised on Nov. 5.
Most of the 33,000 donations were made over the Internet in what the supporters called a “money bomb” timed to coincide with the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The last fund-raising blitz, which took in 40,000 donations, was timed to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates a British mercenary who tried unsuccessfully to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605.
"This basically shows that Ron Paul is a viable candidate," said Rachael McIntosh, a spokeswoman for what was dubbed Boston TeaParty07. "People are so engaged in this campaign because it’s coming from the grass-roots."
The supporters of the Texas congressman pick anniversaries of such historical events to highlight what they call the “Ron Paul Revolution.”
Paul has stood out from the Republican field with his libertarian views and his opposition to the Iraq war. While he has remained in the single digits in polls nationally and in New Hampshire and Iowa, the fund-raising success has separated him from other lower-polling candidates and has enabled him to air TV ads in New Hampshire.
His supporters are unusually enthusiastic. Today, one waved a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on Beacon Street in front of the State House while a dozen others clutched “Ron Paul” placards in the sleet.
Linda Poole, 53, a certified public accountant, wore a Santa hat with a Ron Paul sticker on the fur brim. She came to the rally from her home in Macon, Ga., she said.
"I’ve been supporting Ron Paul since May and following him since 2005," Poole said. If the "founding fathers" were alive today, she said, "Ron Paul is the only person they would vote for."
McIntosh said 400 supporters later marched to Faneuil Hall, where about 700 people listened to speeches by Rand Paul, the candidate’s son, Carla Howell, a libertarian who ran unsuccessfully for Massachusetts governor in 2002, and others.
Supporters also re-enacted the dumping of tea in Boston Harbor, by tossing banners that read “tyranny” and “no taxation without representation” into boxes that were placed in front of an image of the harbor.
"They’re trying to get the attention of the mainstream media, almost like a child that is acting up, trying go get the attention of their parent," McIntosh said.
The Tea Party movement started online as a fund raising effort for Ron Paul. Tea Party backers eventually started going rallies in support of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. They continued to organize afterwords (largely because the digital campaigns taught Paul supporters the basics of election mechanics, a reason why you see a lot of new faces this year in 2010).
The idea that the Tea Party movement is simply a re-branding effort of traditional Republicans is completely untrue. All of the Tea Party supporters who started the movement in an effort to assist Ron Paul were aware that he was A) Against the Iraq War and wanted to pull out immediately B) Supported the elimination of most government agencies C) Supported the legalization of marijuana (and other drugs) as a matter of principle and ending the “War on Drugs.” All three of these viewpoints are definitely not in line with Republican leadership perspectives. It represented an awakening of an paradigm that had largely evaporated since Barry Goldwater’s campaign in the 1960’s.
The Tea Party did not start because of:
- Anti-Immigration groups
- Racist groups
- Evangelist Christians
The Tea Party started because of two major ideas born out of the Ron Paul 2008 presidential bid:
- Limited government
- Ending wars and intervention abroad, bringing back American troops world wide and using military for defense. This most manifested itself in the idea of bringing back all our troops in the Middle East (and in 2008, specially Iraq and Afghanistan). But it also applied to military stationed elsewhere.
The led to three disparate groups to unite:
- Libertarian activists interested in limited government (both fiscally and socially).
- Traditional liberals and moderates against the Iraq War
- Smaller fringe groups concerned about the government (mostly in relation to the implementation of the Patriot Act - which Ron Paul was vehemently against).
The common thing among all three of these groups is that they were all technology savvy. The libertarian activists had been congregating on the message boards of Reason Magazine (www.reason.com) and the Cato Institute’s message boards for years prior to online organization being used by any political group. The liberals and moderates focused against the War in Iraq where spread out among various parts of cyberspace and were equally savvy. This group supported Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich with relatively equal fervor. Once Kucinich was eliminated, a contingent of Kucinich supporters moved over to support Ron Paul online. The final group, the smaller fringe groups, had largely been forced to share ideas online for awhile. These smaller groups were largely why the Tea Party movement was labeled as conspiracy theorists. Although they may have been conspiracy theorists, they still supported A) Limited Government and B) Ending the war in Iraq.
Given the alliance among these three groups online, Ron Paul was able to largely dominate all online polls related to the Republican primary elections.
The Starfish and the Spider: The Tea Party as a leaderless organization
A large distinction between the Tea Party movement and other political organization is that it is largely leaderless (although it may share common causes). The libertarians, anti-war activists and small fringe groups all share their ideas on different social networks and message boards. They don’t take their views from an central source. Ideas with large support turn into viral digital memes that spread further. Ideas that don’t share support are limited to the initial social network they started in and die out. If you’ve read the Starfish and the Spider, the Tea Party Movement would be considered a “Starfish” organization.
With that being acknowledged, the Tea Party movement today has added other groups against various government initiatives. Some of these folks may be neocons, however the idea that neocons somehow started and are running the Tea Party movement is a complete lie. They didn’t start the movement, and technically no one is running it. No one is running it, because it is a leaderless organization sharing common interests.
The ideas that propagate into large causes and rallies are the ones that resonate among all the disparate groups. Which is why many large media outlets are completely in left field when they try to characterize the movement by any particular view of any single member. They don’t recognize that many of the members have vastly different views on side topics because they were born and came out of different social networks. End rant.