Statewide tea party gathering looks to the future

Tea PartyBeing around in the early days of this “great awakening” known as the tea party, it was with much anticipation that I attended last weekend’s Florida Summit.

The event, organized by Karin Hoffman, founder of DC Works for US, brought together tea party leaders and other conservative activists from around the state.

The first thing evident on the event’s first full day, just a few months after November’s less-than-stellar election, was that participants never received the memo that the tea party is finished.

While I detected weariness in their demeanor, it was matched by a firm resolve. These were the doers among the tea party, and there was an undeniable determination about them.

Almost to a man — or woman — they seem to understand that the tea party is in transition and that the movement must learn and grow from its experiences. Having the opportunity to address the room, I fell back on a quote from Leon Megginson, a World War II vet and a professor from Louisiana State University, who said:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”

It was an encouraging sign that about 150 attendees gathered in the Buena Vista Palace conference room Saturday, about the same number as a similar Central Florida gathering held in late March.

While the ranks do not appear to have thinned, many of the older faces were absent. There were still a few “ambitious” individuals in the room, but many of the carnival barkers of years past were missing in action.

There was little presence from the libertarian-minded, often called the “liberty movement,” although Mark Cross, the Florida chairman of Campaign for Liberty, was there.

With the exception of newly elected U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who addressed the gathering Saturday, there wasn’t an elected official in sight this non-election year —  a stark difference from last year, when a U.S. Senate candidate forum was held, with former U.S. Sen. George LeMeiux, then-U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and challenger Mike McCalister participating.

The Senate race in Florida may have been the proverbial straw that broke the back of the tea party movement here. A faction collaborated with the D.C. insider group, FreedomWorks, in an attempt to create the false image that Mack enjoyed widespread support among tea party groups, with some healthy compensation being a part of the equation.

In fact, a straw poll was held at the end of last year’s forum, and Mack finished third in a three-way race, with his supporters and his campaign vociferously disputing the results.

Interestingly, FreedomWorks was among the sponsors of this weekend’s festivities. Outside of the GOP, the tea party must be leery of the litany of conservative organizations that regularly harvest its fertile ground.

While many have good intentions and most share common objectives, their interests trump that of the tea party. Valuable allies, no doubt, but they should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

There were also no representatives of the Republican Party present — a stark reality that should resonate with everyone sitting in that room, although I sense many are still unsure about whether they’re conservative or Republican. These days, it’s hard to be both.

I suspect the GOP has moved on from the tea party. The “smartest guys in the room” are in need of a scapegoat for yet another dismal election performance, and the “yahoos” in the tea party make for a rather convenient scapegoat.

And you know what? The movement is all the better for it.

There was plenty of discussion about the few successes the movement did experience last year — much of it at the local level, where folks do the hard work of putting action to words. Tampa and Volusia County led the way here.

While some suggest the tea party’s real strength is its bottom-up nature, I’m of the opinion that the movement needs better structure if it hopes to endure. The progressive left is more focused and better organized, and well out in front.

A statewide organizational structure is needed, and the biggest challenge will be in setting up a fair and equitable process to arrive at the end product. And to keep the self-promoters and double agents — trust me, they exist — at bay as this effort takes shape.

There was a lot of talk about the coalitions on the left, and the various factions in the tea party must find common ground where they can, setting disagreements aside for another time. If it cannot do this, it will be but a footnote in history.

That fact was pointed out by Liberty Council’s Matt Staver, who addressed participants Friday evening. As he shared his views on the Second Amendment and updated attendees on the status of the legal challenge to Obamacare, he stressed that the conservative movement cannot afford to throw one person over the fence.

More importantly, Staver was adamant that the stakes could not be higher, and in the end, if the tea party falters, there’s no one else calling for fiscal responsibility and limited government outside of a few politicians pandering for votes. Future generations will look back on these times, and they will write the legacy of how this all plays out.


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Tom Tillison

Tom Tillison

Tom is a grassroots activist who distinguished himself as one of the top conservative bloggers in Florida before joining BizPac Review.
Tom Tillison


12 thoughts on “Statewide tea party gathering looks to the future

  1. canary in the mine says:

    Tea party Republican who went to Florida 5 and reads extensively. Instead of the members of the Republican Party picking a candidate that fits their convictions, the party operatives keep picking what they perceive as winners (or are they party people who will do the party's marching orders?). Then the members don't go to the poll to vote. Then the Republican Party loses in multiple ways. Voters who decide it doesn't matter if they show up, dissatisfaction of their members who jump ship and go liberatarian, and no party unity because we are always looking for the knife. The satisfaction of the Republican membership (you can't have a party of just leaders, you have to have the support of a base) has not been on the agenda of the Republican Executive Committee or State leadership. They wanted distance between the Tea Party members and themselves which again damaged them not the Tea Partiers. We have a party which agreed to a court order which prohibits them from challenging voter fraud which they are still on lockdown with. How many brains didn't see that one coming?

    We all stand together or we all hang together. The progressive left knows what they want and trumpet it from the rooftops. They want the doers to take care of the nerdoers. They want to create a cradle to grave government control of the population on their terms of abortion, health care, education, energy consumption, energy, jobs, placement of housing, transportation,the sex you have, right down to the food you eat. Republicans have problems just stating that it is your personal choice on all of the above, but that with that personal choice you also carry personal responsibility. That if you have children, it's your obligation to house, feed, educate and teach moral principles to those children. If you have sex that transmits a sexual disease you must pay for your treatment, that if you decide that you don't want to be educated then you will live in poverty, that you must pay for your energy use out of your pocket if you rent a 1500 sq ft residence, that your choices are yours not the general public's. Private property rights are what made America the greatest place on Earth through God's love and guidance. The government owning all property is the end of freedoms. Transferring wealth from anyone to someone else is the negation of personal responsibility. Why do you think those baby mommas and daddys keep on having babies? Because they are not planning on being a parent. Parenting is hard time consuming energy that they won't be able to devote to themselves. To think that they will give up their time voluntarily after being trained it's all about them is stupidity. So I think that taking back the Republican party and driving those that are really progressives out is the right idea. Which side do you want to be on God's or Man's, because God sets limits on your actions, men state and do whatever ends are ok to achieve your goals? What is it you believe and want for your legacy? Did you cave and take the low road, or did you percevere? Goals and Ideals are what Republicans lack because they "want to include everyone". The sad state of affairs is that you don't want everyone, because a lot of bad people are out there. We only want the good people.

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