Tea Party Just Getting Started


By: MacKenzie Dreeszen

A new coalition of conservative activists met for dinner at Cupcake Addict in Johnston on Friday. Advocates included Gregg Cummings of the Tea Party Patriots, Sandy Wilson of Ankeny’s 9/12 Group, and Drew Klein of the Iowa chapter of Americans for Prosperity. The guest speaker was Mark Herr of the Center for Self Governance.

The group discussed the need to stay organized and implement campaign promises made on the trail that swept Republicans in control of both the state and federal government.

Cummings commented that at one point there were many Tea Party chapters all over the state. He noted that putting new people in charge is democracy. But as a republic “people need to stay engaged and keep them accountable.”

Sandy Wilson also shared concern that interest with the 9/12 group, epistemically named to remind folks of the patriotism that saturated our country the day after the World Trade Tower attacks, had waned.  She is eager to keep up the fight.

Drew Klein quoted Republican National Committee woman, Tamara Scott, “Politicians are like children. They are best behaved when they know they are being watched.”  He went on further to say, “Our lawmakers are about to start their town halls. We know that AFCSME and Planned Parenthood are going to be there. We need to be there too.”

Gregg Cummings shared a clip from his documentary, Charlie Mike. The mini-documentary covered the Obama administration’s closing of open-air veterans monuments during the shutdown which was essentially the government protesting the people.  He said that the difference between a republic and a democracy is that a republic government protects the will of the people, while a democratic system advances the interests of the majority. Gregg believes that our nation is at a junction where Americans can allow the fire of liberty to burn out, or we can reignite the flame.

Since 2010, the Tea Party has started a movement with a huge impact, as was witnessed in the results of the elections that year. However, Gregg said that in 2012 the Tea Party fell prey to “candidate worship syndrome”, where activists became strongly attached to a particular candidate during the primary season, then refused to support anyone else when their candidate exited the race. This led to a split within the movement.
To counteract this problem, the Tea Party created candidate assessment cards. By 2012, Des Moines had 11 Tea Party groups. At present, the Tea Party Patriots have 63 state leaders. They are one of the largest conservative coalitions in the country. Some of the resources that the Tea Party Patriots provide include organizational assistance to start and operate Tea Party groups, legal advice, training on how to write letters to the editor and how to communicate with legislators, and GOTV efforts.

IMG_4484Sioux County Tea Party Activist, Tammy Kobza, gives a candidate accountability presentation and discusses how to make a policy impact with a Republican “trifecta” at a Woodbury County Central Committee Meeting in April of 2015. 

Gregg said that the biggest problem facing conservatives is holding our government accountable to the American people. While the 2016 Election resulted in landslide victories for the GOP, Gregg fears that the progressive movement within the Democrat party has spilled over into the Republican party.
“If you have two metal bars, and one of them is rusted, while the other is in pristine condition, and you lean them up against each other, what will happen over time? The pristine bar will start to rust from contact with the rusty bar. All too often, that happens to the Republican Party.”

The groups came together to start a new coalition to engage in republican governance. Mark Herr discussed ways to turn activism into results.
Herr decided to fight back the erosion of local control with the Center for Self Governance in Memphis, an area where Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans. His goal is to open lines of communication with legislators and build a grassroots network to increase government accountability. The Center for Self Governance is not associated with a party or issues, but instead trains citizens to be effective advocates. The organization has five levels of training that take place over a 60 hour course. The first two levels teach the basics of how government systems function, while the last three provide instruction on the application of civics, including how to communicate with lawmakers.

“We use politicians and issues like Navy Seals use knives and bullets.” [Editor’s Note: Beat Navy!]
“Most people hate politics because they don’t know how to apply it. We teach people how to be mechanics. An airplane cannot fly without a mechanic. Their mission is to fix the plane. Likewise, our goal is to fix the system. Not to be seen-that is the role of elected officials, and not to push issues, because there are other advocacy organizations to do that.”
The Center for Self Governance is hosting their first level of training in Iowa from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday, January 14th at the Eagle Point Church in Norwalk (9120 SW 9th St). Cost of attendance is $50.  Future courses are expected to be offered in Iowa. By the end of training, Mark hopes that attendees will be able to use what they have learned to influence legislators at local and state levels of government.
“Relationships between activists and lawmakers are critical, especially with government employees who have national connections. It is important to talk to people on both sides of the aisle, because Americans are non-partisan at heart.”

Mackenzie Dreeszen is a legislative assistant for the Iowa House and a political consultant specialized in fundraising.