Tea Partiers as open source political movement and open source warfare

Excerpts from Global Guerrillas. Lots more in the full post including how the Republican Party will fight back and try to co-opt it and if it could morph into a real insurgency. Read the whole thing.

The Tea Party movement in the US is an open source political protest. It emerged due to a substantial loss of government legitimacy (primarily from the mishandling of the global financial crisis) and continues to percolate as legitimacy continues to drain away from the government (health care, banking reform, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, deficit, etc.)

As a movement, it is very similar to open source warfare and therefore shares many of the same dynamics. Here are a few of them:

  • Its main value is systems disruption. It can slow political processes. It can say no (the name, “Tea Party” is derived from an act of disruptive, albeit non-violent, domestic terrorism directed at the government).
  • There are lots of people trying to control it (grab the baton to lead the parade) and form it into a cohesive whole. All of these efforts will fail. Every attempt at control will be attacked and defeated by a majority Tea Party groups/members.
  • Swarms. Groups will rapidly converge on attractive protest targets.

I see the Tea Partiers as populists. The Populist Party of the 1890’s had real power for a while, succeeded in implementing some of their causes and certainly injected them into the mainstream. They were mostly Midwest farmers who were getting screwed by the banks. They ended up getting simultaneously co-opted and backstabbed by the Democratic Party, which should serve as a cautionary lesson for Tea Partiers.

Are they controlled by shadowy right-wing operatives? Well, I’m sure such operatives are trying to. But it seems home-grown enough to me. This is genuine dissent. It’s not unlike the Iraq anti-war protests, where the vast bulk of the protesters were anti-Bush and anti-war even if some of the organizers were hardcore Marxists with a primary goal of trying to recruit into their party. (Yes, I was there.) They didn’t succeed much at that. So, I can’t see how Republican operatives will make many inroads. The base they want to recruit isn’t interested in their message.

Firedoglake is seriously trying to link up with Tea Partiers. I agree. There’s is definitely common ground. They explain that the way to defeat triangulation tactics of the major parties is with a pincer movement that outflanks them on both sides.


  1. In conversation outside of these hallowed halls (it’s a locals thing): yes, there is indeed common ground with the ‘teabaggers’, but common ground need be met half-way. Consider that (Oregon) Measure 66 didn’t need Multnomah county to pass, and Measure 67 didn’t need much help. As the Oregonian reported,

    “Measure 66, in fact, was leading by 5,000 votes before the counting ever reached the Multnomah County line. (Multnomah then tossed in its margin, just more than 100,000.) Measure 67 barely trailed, by 11,500, outside the state’s most populous county. It hardly ever works like that. Liberal measures, and Democratic politicians, historically have tended to get beaten up in the rest of the state and then limp into Multnomah hoping for a powerful boost to edge ahead.”

    Oregon is no longer as ‘conservative’ as it once was. And the ‘liberals’ are better armed…

  2. I appreciate the comments here on the Tea Party movement. On the assumption that there is an interest — the Tea Party will not be co-opted everywhere. The Tea Party is taking over the GOP in many places. The rulers hate us. In Oregon, the word is out that “Democrats” are trying to take over the party.


    I have seen a little of the Left-Meets-Right scenario and I note the “meet half-way” comment above. Sorry, Alinsky taught us well — but we aren’t all leftists and we don’t share your goals. Some of us love freedom. Liberals who don’t support freedom aren’t liberal now, are they.

    Anti-war — yes. Our current wars are wars with world-dominating pretexts.
    Cleantech — maybe. If it works and makes real economic sense to me right now.
    Progress — LOL! Again. Give me a break.

    I’ve seen more backwards movement based on notions of progress. Keep your progress. Keep your change. I’ll decide for myself what progress is. The Tea Party, increasingly, is an equal opportunity totalitarian basher. Look closely in that mirror folks. Do the right thing. Bossing people around isn’t it. We’re got a lot of socialists who seem to be quite happy with the methods of Mussolini.

    • Increasingly people of the left, like me, realize we share similar goals with Tea Partiers. Like, we’re not real fond of the banksters, the corruption in DC, and the increasing surveillance state either. That’s common ground.

      As for Alinsky, I’ve written lots about him, what he did, how he organized. He wasn’t socialist – a common misconception – and in fact thought them irrelevant. He was also one of the best organizers the US has ever seen.


      I think he’d appreciate what Tea Partiers are doing.

    • “Democrats” are trying to take over the party. Gee, seven generations my family has been in Oregon and I never heard that. Are you sure you’re in Oregon?

      Note: if you are in Oregon, get out. You’re not welcome here.

      Note 2: Note the Wobblie Cat. Don’t call me a ‘liberal’. Unless you’re looking for a fight. And I guarantee I’m better armed.

  3. I posted this week about the state-level movement to defy the federal government. Once again, the expected left-right or GOP-Dem divide does not apply: one of its most vocal leaders is Democrat Dave Freudenthal, Governor of Wyoming, who’s pushing for a Constitutional amendment.

    Francis, it sounds like you bring to the table a healthy dose of traditional conservatism, something that’s been missing from the discussion for decades. I consider myself a conservative, but with little in common with the neo-liberal neocons– yet with enough in common with so-called liberals that I visit Bob’s blog regularly.

    What Robb says also has a ring of truth to it: Some of my friends who are tea party supporters are knee-jerk GOP. Others are disillusioned Dems. Some, like me, are lifelong independents. Most of us agree on what’s wrong. I wonder if any two can agree on how to fix it?

    • I’m more radical than liberal. I think socialism has some good ideas, but how do you stop a socialist system from having the same problem we have here, a rapacious ruling class siphoning power and money to itself. Yeah, in socialism, the people are supposed to be in charge. Just like under our Constitution. But it’s not working out quite that way, is it?

      • The only way to prevent concentration of power is to devolve it to the lowest possible level. This isn’t a new idea: Catholics have the Principle of Subsidiarity, Gandhi had panchayat, Sarvodaya has gramswaraj. And of course there’s NH, a tiny state that has more reps at the state legislature than any other, and mostly still practices the town meeting.

        But politicians from anywhere on the political spectrum don’t like these ideas for obvious reason: what good is being a politician if you don’t have any power? It scares a lot of voters, too: what if the neighboring town bans guns? Legalizes them? Bans abortion? Legalizes it? Replaces income tax with a sales tax? What does that mean for us here?

        There are some basic functions, like civil rights and national defense, that need to be set at the national level– but we also need to get over the idea that what another community does might threaten us by setting a precedent that might later get nationalized. In a devolved system, the premise is that communities find their own solutions to their unique set of problems. Top-down doesn’t work.

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