Invitations are being sent to all eight GOP candidates for a Jan. 14 debate at Central Michigan University, organizers announced. Two leaders from each qualified tea party group will be invited to participate in a Feb. 25 straw poll at CMU to determine who wins the tea party endorsement.
Uniting under the banner, Michigan 4 Conservative Senate, organizers say endorsing one candidate and rallying behind him is the best way to ensure a conservative candidate defeats Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.
"It's just a way to take a pulse of tea party groups and encourage them to work together and rather than work apart," said Cindy Gamrat, an organizer for Michigan 4 Conservative Senate.
1. What is "qualified?"
2. Who are the designated "leaders?"
3. What is the "tea party?"
That type of talk gets my guard up. It looks like a power move to me.
Speaking for myself, I'm not "tea party." I agree with them more than I don't, but I do things my own way. I've been to a couple of RetakeourGov meetings and met some folks from Brighton Tea Party, but haven't finally contributed to any tea parties. I also am not a member of any leadership there, nor choose to be. I'll stick with being an occasional spectator.
The media talks about "Tea Party" being one singular thing. It isn't. There are hundreds of different local parties with their own personalities and opinions. Some of them are larger and more organized than others. Some are more ambitious when it comes to politics than others. I'm impressed with what I've seen from retakeourgov and their organization at the meetings I've seen. I haven't been to a Brighton Tea Party meeting, but they (along with a Milford group and Retakeourgov) did a good job with the senate candidate forum recently.
Most tea party members I know aren't trying to be "big fish in a small pond." Almost all of them never start out that way. Eventually many leaders or "lieutenants" in these organizations gain a following, get told how great they are, and start to believe their own press clippings. Many, not all, not even most. The good ones stay grounded.
However, this is politics. The definition of politics is "who gets what, when, and how." Power. Power brings out the worst in a lot of people. Politics is nasty for a reason, and nothing can get more nasty than internal political wars (along with local cities, school boards, and townships). Been there, done that, and weary of being involved in it again. I don't know the internals of this, but it's looking like a couple of power moves here.
I don't know much about Cindy Gamrat outside of her being a recent Indiana transplant to Plainwell in Southwest Michigan. Michigan 4 Conservative Senate is the website for this plan. This is modeled after Indiana's attempt to take out the center-left Dick Lugar in Indiana. Dick Lugar however is a Republican. Far leftist Debbie Stabenow is not.
So is this a "Stop Stabenow?" It's not. Stabenow will be quasi one on one (and some 3rd parties) against the Republican nominee whoever it is. This is about "stop Hoekstra." This is an attempt to have a coronation of the favorites of a few people. This is no different than the coronation attempt many establishment folks are trying to set up for Pete Hoekstra.
The question is who's the favored candidate.
"I think it's really disingenuous to have a group of people come together and anoint themselves as tea party leaders and take it further and endorse a candidate," said Patty McMurray, of Birmingham, co-founder of the Michigan Conservative Alliance, which wasn't invited to the straw poll.
Modeled after the tea party unification in Indiana, Michigan tea party organizers say it's important to not only vet the candidates but also the tea party groups themselves. Gamrat has been whittling down the original list of 120 conservative groups in Michigan to ensure their longevity and activeness, and that they are truly a tea party group, not affiliated with a national organization and not a political action committee. Those who qualify are allowed to have two members cast votes in the straw poll. McMurray's group was excluded because it's a PAC, Gamrat said.
Vetted by which people? WHO decides what is "legit?" McMurray's group is punished due to having a PAC? MANY tea party groups have PAC's. It's good organization. Anyone can form a PAC. It's not hard to set up, although it takes discipline to manage properly. Those with a PAC are doing good work. I think McMurray is attacked for supporting Hoekstra.
Currently she expects about 110 people to cast straw poll votes, representing 55 tea party groups statewide.
How large are these 55 groups? How are the votes weighted? Will the locals support this?
McMurray and fellow MICA co-founder, Leisa Audette, are both Hoekstra supporters and feel the event is rigged so Hoekstra doesn't win. Though he co-founded the Tea Party Caucus while in Congress, some fellow candidates have painted Hoekstra as not conservative enough and part of the Washington establishment.
It is rigged against Hoekstra, along as all candidates except one. It's a coronation attempt - the same thing that much of the establishment is doing for Hoekstra.
On a side note, this whole "Tea Party Caucus" in Congress is a joke. This is a case of politicians in DC calling themselves "Tea Party" and trying to pass themselves off as conservatives. I never bought into that talk. Talk is cheap. Votes are what matter, and Hoekstra has a long history of votes. Good and bad. He can stand by those votes and defend them, or admit mistakes if he's changed his mind on the issue. Debbie Stabenow can join the "Tea Party Caucus" if she wants. Does that make her tea party? No way. Talk is cheap. Deeds not words.
Randy Bishop, of the Northern Michigan Patriots, has been actively promoting the tea party convention and openly criticizes Hoekstra. He says unifying behind one candidate is necessary to avoid splitting the vote — as what happened in the governor's race last year leading to a Rick Snyder victory, he said.
"Just as much as much as we respect their choice not to participate we hope they would respect ours to participate," Bishop said of uninterested tea party groups.
By excluding those with a PAC? I'm interested in who Gamrat and Bishop are supporting. I'm more interested if it's the same person, and that is who they and a few others want to win.
The good and bad with tea parties is that many of them are new to politics. The good about that is that the old boys and girls club gets shaken up. The GOP establishment is largely as disliked as the democrats. They want to get involved and make a difference.
However, not all of the "establishment" is bad. Many of us have been involved 10, 20, or 30 years. Many of us are as conservative or more so as the tea party members. We also have a long history of inside baseball and power struggles and good intentions producing bad results. I've seen big fish and small pond syndrome. I've seen folks become yesman to become popular with big fish in small ponds.
That's a danger here I see with consolidation or quasi consolidation attempts. I understand the thought of trying to herd cats or tea party folks to supporting one candidate to stop a Snyder, but:
1. Who decides?
2. What's the process?
3. What's the criteria for the endorsement?
This is a dangerous game that can easilly become more about personalities than about issues. Certain people like to see themselves as power brokers. You get on the right PAC boards and you become "an important person." You can puff yourself up to sound even more important, and can have some yesman who follow you, tell you how great you are, and then try and take your spot in the future. There's also yesmen "leaders" who will automatically "lead" their group to follow whatever some big name wants. That's what I refer to as big fish in little pond syndrome. I've seen it over 11 years of involvement in PACs, C4's, Party, and office politics. Guess what. Most of those who think they are big names, really aren't that important. The ones who puff themselves up in the room, usually aren't important, and deep down, they know it.
I hope the tea parties (plural) stay about ideology, and less about personalities. THAT is their strength. Once they become about personalities and favorites, it's all downhill from there. The cost is respect.
As for this races, I think the primary needs to work itself out over the next few months before any push towards going behind one candidate. I understand the push. Joe Schwarz in 2004 taught a harsh lesson. Hoekstra I'd vote for over Stabenow easily. No hesitation. Candidates will rise and fall as they are vetted, organized, and make more statements. Our Senate primary is in August. Not February.