Arkansas Tea Party Movement: Now What?

Does the Tea Party movement matter? Maybe! Here’s the link to my aforementioned piece on the Arkansas Tea Party movement in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which looks at the phenomenon in a bit more detail and examines some of the challenges they’ll face going forward.

It’s not intended as the definitive word on the movement in Arkansas, but a first stab at assessing  its potential to turn into an effective and constructive political force. In many ways, some of the impulses behind the Tea Party movement remind me of those that fueled the Reform Party’s short-lived spurt of relevance in the 1990s (the outsider orientation and focus on fiscal responsibility and economic accountability especially).

One advantage today’s Tea Party movement has over the ’90s Reform Party is a vastly superior set of tools for grassroots communication, coordination and organization. Here’s a Ning social network page set up by organizers in Central Arkansas, for example. (Yes, this comparison to the Reform Party might have added a nice historical perspective to the article, but it didn’t occur to me until too late and it was long enough anyway. And yes, the Reform Party is still around, if you were wondering.)

A couple of caveats: First, the activists I quote in my article are all based in Central Arkansas. There’s a much broader statewide network of activists and organizers who are deeply committed to the Tea Party movement, and if I omit them from this discussion, it was simply a function of time and available space.

If you’re interested in learning more, Mark Moore of the Arkansas Watch blog hosts a weekly Tea Party radio show at this site that’s worth a listen for more insight into how participants in the movement view their involvement and how it’s shaping up. The June 16 episode has some good discussion between Moore and movement activists Laurie Masterson and Bob Porto about the Tom Cox Senate announcement (which caused some perhaps short-lived friction among activists) and other Tea Party issues.

Along those lines, I noticed this site linked from Instapundit today, which lists a variety of Tea Party events  around the state on July 4. I’d never seen this site before, which reflects the movement’s decentralized and amorphous quality. Most of these events are likely independent productions, in fact, neither dictated or endorsed by any centralized movement leadership, because at this point such leadership does not exist. (I’ll reemphasize that a huge test of relevance for the movement will be finding ways to do something more constructive than hosting an endless series of protest rallies.)

But enough of that. Just go read my thumbsucker on these matters over at the ADG.

UPDATE: A note on usage: I always write “Tea Party,” but you frequently see it rendered as “TEA Party,” with “TEA” presented as an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.” I’d been curious about this usage, as I hadn’t seen it used in earlier discussions of the movement, and from what I can tell the acronym is a back-formation (or, as this Wikipedia entry notes, a “backronym”) that developed after the movement had already generated momentum. Most activists and organizers I’ve interacted with do not use the acronym version, for what it’s worth, preferring the simpler “Tea Party.”

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8 thoughts on “Arkansas Tea Party Movement: Now What?

  • June 21, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Holy Crapping Crap David…almost the entire front page of the Perspectives section and 3/4 of the back page? Excellent article. Well written. Thoughtful. Provocative. Coherent. Absorbing. Intelligent. Engrossing. OK, you get the point, it was all those ‘ative and ‘ing and ‘ful words. Too bad they wasted all that space on the left hand column of the page. You would have better filled that space as well.
    This morning, I raced out to the curb, dragged my paper out from under the spider webs in the hedge at the base of my ARDEMGAZ yellow paper box, and raced back into the house, full of anticipation. I ripped the wet and spider filled yellow wrapper from my DG, threw aside the drivel-filled sections of B and C and even the Help-Wanted ads, finally reaching the section I sought, Perspectives. Not wanting to waste time, I simply yanked the section open and snapped to the back page expecting to find four or five columns on the upper half of the page. Imagine my shock, I was staring at the last three quarters of the story. Indeed, I was immediately informed the writings on this page were but “continued from Page 1H.”

    Perhaps it is time you make public your considerations to take on Blanche. “Kincade for Senate” has a certain cachet to it, don’t you think?

  • June 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I wonder if maybe they shouldn’t slap an advisory sticker on the front page that says “WARNING: This is gonna be really long. Do you really wanna read this?” It would be a public service.

  • June 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I just finished the article…Started at about 8am. Wow that was long. I had to use a book mark.

    Seriously, that was a good piece. I especially like the two paragraphs about the conflicts with in the movement. It was very constructive and I believe it will alert us to the need to work together and embrace conflict while protecting our goals.

  • June 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    It is my understanding that Tom Cox is now a US Senate candidate and no longer an organizer. I may be wrong, but this is how I interpret his “stepping down.”

    I see this as a dis-service to those who look to Tom Cox for direction. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to sign up at campaignforliberty dot com and consider being part of a well organized grassroots revolution movement.

    I am the Second District Regional Coordinator for the Arkansas chapter of the Campaign for Liberty. As an organization we are organized on the county and state level in all 50 states and we have a national headquarters. We currently have active chapters in Garland, Pulaski, and Faulkner Counties. It is my focus to get chapters started in Saline, Conway, Van Buren, White, Yell, and Perry Counties by the end of this year.

    Anyone concerned with the direction America is headed and eager for real change, a change in our viewpoint as to what the role of government in our personal and economic lives should be, join us.

    “The time has come to act. May future generations look back on our work and say that these were men and women who, in a moment of great crisis, stood up to the politicians, the opinion-molders, and the establishment, and saved their country.”– Congressman Ron Paul

  • June 21, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    The Reason for the Tea Party Movement is to locate, support individuals that are fiscally responsible candidates. We are so pleased that we had 2 of our members of the Arkansas Tea Party, Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas announced their conviction to run for office at our June 15th “Rally on the River”. Rep. Dan Green Greenberg for State Senate and Tom Cox for U.S. Senate in 2010. We are still looking for many more candidates. We are starting with the dogcatcher’s job and working our way up to the President in 2012. If you feel you are a person our movement would like to support, please contact us at or

  • June 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Joanne, I hope you understand the reason for contempt for your group coming from the NWA Arkansas group is that when you do something, you do it in a fashion that says “This is THE movement.” In fact, what you are doing is not bad, but how you characterize it threatens others.

    You could do away with this altogether by simply saying “What we’re doing is…” But you choose to state it as “The reason for the Tea Party Movement is…” and the fact is that the Tea Party Movement itself is about so much more than just identifying candidates.

    I’m very pleased to be a part of what you are doing, but at the same time I must say that I am proud to be a part of the Tea Party Movement, which is so much more than just what you and your group is doing, wholly.

    If your group would stick to “we’re doing this as our own group” and stop identifying yourself as the entire movement, all the contempt should go away and I bet the NWA group would embrace you, if not flat out endorse you.

    By posting what you just did in the way you did post it, whether intentional or not, with your words, you have claimed attorney over the entire movement itself when in fact your group is PART OF the movement, not the entire movement itself.

  • June 21, 2009 at 8:56 pm


    Your mother had tears streaming down her face when she read your column this morning. She had to put out a fresh Pall Mall she had just lit to regain her composure. We’re very proud of you boy.

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