Today I am broadcasting from the Phoenix Convention Center and the first gathering of the Tea Party Patriots (www.TeaPartyPatriots.org) since November 2’s sweeping wins and since the new Congress convened in January.
“Remote” broadcasts are not a favorite of mine, and even the national conventions-- which the radio audience especially loves-- are organized chaos for the technical side of the broadcast. Most remotes have a thousand things go wrong that drive the engineers crazy, and guests can be less than prompt. But the energy is always high and the background noise adds some wonderful color to the program.
Today’s broadcast will be more than entertaining, though, and I especially hope the sharpies inside the Beltway and the members of Congress back in their districts get a chance to listen. (My D.C. affiliate is 1260 AM WRC, which provides an excellent online listening station if you are away from the car.) The Tea Party Patriots are authentically grassroots, and their founders, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin are genuine old school leaders who resist trying to do anything except coordinate the sprawling network of chapters and who reject the idea that the movement can be told what to do or whom to support. They call themselves coordinators, and while they will offer their own opinions on various issues, they won’t tell you what the Tea Party Patriots are thinking as a whole.
For a sense of that, you have to go to Phoenix, so we are. From top to bottom of the show today my producer Duane will be gathering activists to ask them whether the Congressional GOP has gone far enough in cutting spending, whether Scott Walker is doing the right thing in Wisconsin, and whom they support on the GOP side in 2012 –if anyone. Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain are definitely on the program in Phoenix this weekend, though I am not sure who else will be there. I don’t think any member of the House GOP leadership is slated to appear, which tells me the communications arm of the caucus is still struggling to figure out that the Meet the Press audience is not their key demographic while the Tea Party Patriots are.
I will be talking with some of the key coalition builders and message managers. The folks from HealthCareCompact.org will be there and on my show. I will also talk with Bruce Cook with OneCentSolution.org and of course as many Tea Party attendees as possible. As opposed to Beltway bigs telling the Tea Party netroots what they ought to be saying and thinking, this is an exercise in asking the people who drove November 2 for a mid-semester grade on the new GOP majority.
To his great credit, GOP Chair Reince Priebus will be back on the program for the second week in a row, asking callers and in this case convention goers what they expect the RNC to be doing. Priebus has already grasped that the vast network of new groups and new leadership wasn’t a passing phenomenon of 2010, but that a new conservative infrastructure of groups like TPP as well as AMAC, the Center for America and many more have allied themselves with each other and are willing to help the Congressional delegation for so long as that delegation is moving decisively towards the reform of the Obama-bloated bureaucracy and the federal budget.
So technical problems and background noise aside, today’s broadcast will be one that all the GOP consultants should be listening to, and not just listening to, but hearing and responding to. The Tea Party patriots are far from the only constituency that matters. I believe in the old Reagan three legged-stool, and the gatherings of the social conservatives and the national security-minded will matter a great deal as well.
But on matters fiscal, this is the group for which the sale must be closed and the credibility of the GOP established and nurtured. It has been a rocky start. How rocky we will see and hear later today.