I'm going to take advantage of this month's NaBloPoMo theme to talk a little smack about the Tea Party Patriots, the closest analog in the Tea Party Movement to Coffee Party USA. However, I won't be alone. Take it away Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones
The Washington media was buzzing Wednesday after the leaders of the Tea Party Patriots came to town and announced that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) deserved a primary challenge, along with any other Republican who voted to raise the debt ceiling. Mark Meckler, a national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, told the Daily Beast that Boehner's deficit plan was "an embarrassment." At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Meckler declared Boehner's numbers "fake" and "phantom."
It was an interesting choice of words, since they might also describe the number of tea partiers Meckler and his co-coordinator, Jenny Beth Martin, claim to represent. In the news coverage, Tea Party Patriots has been consistently identified has having at least 3,500 local chapters, making it one of the largest tea party organizations in the country. But many of those chapters are, to use Meckler's term, phantom, which raises the question of whether the GOP House leadership should really be paying quite so much attention to the noise coming from the tea party leaders working the media circuit right now.
That would have been good advice, considering that listening to it resulted in a stock market crash
and a S&P downgrading the U.S. credit rating
Last fall, the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner tried to verify the TPP’s numbers. She attempted to run down every one of its local chapters. Out of the 2,300 chapters TPP then claimed to have, Gardner could only identify 1,400; of those, she was only able to make contact with 647. Most had fewer than 50 members, and some consisted of a single person. That's a fraction of the 15 million people TPP's leaders often claim to represent when they're on the Hill demanding that Republicans refuse to increase the debt ceiling. Which raises the question of why, exactly, Republicans are taking them so seriously.
About the most generous hard number one could use for the membership of the Tea Party Patriots would be the 831,887 accounts who "like" their page on Facebook. Even that would be overly generous, as those accounts could include both legitimate fan pages of other organizations and fan pages of public figures that are separate from the public figures' personal pages, as well as users' sockpuppets they create to be their own neighbors on Farmville. Even taken at face value, that number would overstate their support, as a lot of those people are "slacktivists" who are perfectly happy to read, like, and share the posts on Facebook, but don't contribute any money or even show up at rallies. A better source of the organization's strength would be the number of people on their email list. Good luck getting that out of them short of inducing them to brag about it. Mind you, with this group, that might be easier than one might think.
There are other reasons to question the wisdom of Republicans taking economic advice from national leaders of the Tea Party Patriots and other top tea partiers in the news this week. Consider the fact that before riding the tea party movement to national fame, Meckler was a high-ranking distributor for Herbalife, a company considered by many consumer groups and regulatory agencies to be a pyramid scheme. After that, he got into "affiliate marketing," an industry responsible for all of those "tiny belly" ads haunting the Internet that the FTC says are a scam. His colleague, Jenny Beth Martin, also doesn't have a great track financial record. In 2007, she and husband lost their house and ended up owing the IRS more than $500,000 in back taxes.
I posted this paragraph in a comment to Fiscally Irresponsible
at Hysterical Raisins, introducing it with "the financial rot extends down to the grass roots" and concluding it with "As I wrote, rotten down to the grass roots." At the time, I hadn't read the article at the last link in the paragraph. I should have; things are worse than I thought!
More at Crazy Eddie's Motie News