On July 4, the tea party will dust off the tri-corn hats and head into the streets to fight the second revolutionary war against “Obamacare.”
Tea party organizers tell TPM that the movement is planning a big Independence Day push in response to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of President Obama’s health care reform bill. The decision ruling the law constitutional — and the surprising vote of Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority — has breathed new life into the tea party, members say.
But the tea party is also growing up. And that’s one of the reasons why, organizers say, crowds will mobilize in small towns, but not on Capitol Hill.
Instead, the tea party and its corporate backers say they want to leverage their base to identify voters and activate a get-out-the-vote army in the fall. The Supreme Court’s decision made that process much easier, tea partiers say.
“My email and phone has been flooded with calls since the ruling,” said Everett Wilkinnson, president of the South Florida Tea Party. Wilkinnson vowed to defy the health care law after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, and he said people are ready to take to the streets again.
“I see people very energized,” he said. “I haven’t seen this since they passed [the health care law] or the stimulus bill.”
Wilkinnson said the people beating down his door want to get to work right away. “They’re saying, ‘What can we do? We want to get involved right now,’” he said. “The focus is really to get Obama out. We’re getting a fair amount of calls like that.”
The South Florida Tea Party, the self-described largest tea party group in that key battleground state, is deploying its own computerized voter ID and GOTV operation. Wilkinnson said bolstering that infrastructure is his short-term focus.
The tea party failed to sustain the kind of massive protests that launched the movement to prominence in 2009. So it scaled back its ambitions to focus on local events, drawing smaller crowds across the country as opposed to the huge national 9/12 event in Washington D.C. held in 2009.
That’s apparently the model the tea party is going with for its health care comeback next week. Tea partiers told TPM this week there was some chatter following the decision about a national rally to pressure Congress to overturn the health care law — but grassroots activists and corporate-funders alike seem to agree that’s a bad idea.
FreedomWorks, the Koch brothers-funded group responsible for many of the tea party’s largest rallies, is hosting a strategy call Saturday afternoon with tea party activists to plan the initial next steps of the grassroots health care fight. Group campaign organizing director Brendan Steinhauser told TPM that FreedomWorks plans to target key battleground states with big organizing efforts. The federal holiday next week is the big kickoff.
“We are going to do a campaign around July 4 and Independence Day so that we can recruit new people into the tea party movement who are not currently involved,” he said.
It’s not just FreedomWorks. On Friday, national groups Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express also launched July 4-based appeal. Tea Party Patriots urged its members to find out where their members of Congress will be while on recess next week and flood “every parade, town hall, civic speaking engagement they plan to attend.”
It’s an old tea party tactic reminiscent of the town hall battles of 2009. It’s clear the Tea Party Patriots want to recapture that spirit, starting on July 4.
“When you see them, ask them 2 questions ON VIDEO: a. ‘If elected will you repeal government-controlled health care in full in early 2013 so that the taxes increases are not implemented and we maintain control of our doctor-patient decisions?’” reads the email. “b. ‘If elected will you vote to balance our budget in 5 years without raising taxes and actually have the fortitude to stick to the budgeted spending?’”
But so far a big, boisterous D.C. rally doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. Steinhauser got the city permit to host the first 9/12 rally in DC back in 2009, but said trying to harness the new tea party energy into recreating that event wouldn’t be prudent.
“It’s costly, it takes time to plan and I don’t think it’s the right call right now,” he said. “It was the right call then, but I don’t think it’s the right call now.”
Steinhauser said “the most productive thing” for tea partiers to do after the Supreme Court decision is “to go to their town squares” on July 4 “and recruit people from those parades, from those gatherings … and build a machine.”
Tea partiers at the local level aren’t wild about the idea of another large national rally, either.
“You know, I’m kind of personally rallied out. And I think a lot of our members are. In 2009 and 2010, we had so many rallies,” Wilkinnson.