In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the Prince of Morocco discovers that “All that glisters in not gold…” and departs with a disappointment he never expected when he arrived. For the most part, it sums up with a theatrical flourish my experience with Mayor Steve Lonegan – one that began with considerable hope and enthusiasm in 2009 and ended with a jaded, cynical epiphany two years later when I would be inspired to write this article by a recent comment to the post I made about the cancellation of his appearance at the Bayshore Tea Party Headquarters.
The commenter is of the opinion that the campaign against the BTPG did not originate with either Boy Blunder or Wee Willy Winky – but with Steve Lonegan.
I very much doubt that Eichmann and Winkler are the original cause of the attacks on the Bay Shore Tea Party. I think Steve Lonegan is the origin of the attacks. And some of you realize the motive: Lonegan wants to control the NJ tea parties…If you really want to know what a jerk Lonegan really is, buy the video “Anytown USA”…
Anytown, USA is a documentary produced by director Kristian Fraga that explores the 2004 mayoral race between Republican Steve Lonegan, Democrat Fred Pesce and independent Dave Musikant. There is no need to purchase the 90-minute video: you can watch it online here.
It’s an interesting theory. If a united Tea Party front is the bulwark of the Conservative Resurgence in New Jersey – and the source of thousands of hard-working boots on the ground – the last thing Steve Lonegan would need or want is the prospect of Tea Party groups throughout New Jersey asserting their independence and deciding for themselves in which battles they will or will not participate. It follows that any Tea Party group not marching in lockstep with the Lonegan Strategy would necessarily have to be marginalized, ostracized and, if need be, neutralized.
Now the Bayshore Tea Party is the largest and most influential group of its kind in the Garden State and therefore would be the lynchpin to Lonegan’s Tea Party strategy. If they could be marshaled to operate in the same fashion they operated for Anna Little’s primary campaign, they would become potent shock troops of the conservative movement.
We do know that a rift occurred between Lonegan and the Bayshore group in March, when the BTPG declined to participate in Lonegan’s MAXED OUT bus tour in Congressman Chris Smith’s district. (Go here for a detailed explanation of Bayshore’s decision to sit this one out). It’s worth noting that from this time going forward, CNJ’s attacks on the Bayshore Tea Party group increased in both frequency and ferocity.
What, precisely, was Bayshore’s unpardonable sin? They said ‘no’ to Steve Lonegan – a man whose reputation for arrogance and egotism precedes him by light years and whose ability to nurse a grudge makes Poe’s Montresor look like a McDonald’s customer miffed that his Big Mac is missing the pickles.
But does this necessarily mean that Lonegan orchestrated the Jacobin siege of the Bayshore group? Outside of a smoking gun, we’ll never know with any ontological certitude. But we do know this for certain: the purported capo de tutti capi of the conservative movement in New Jersey and state director of the AFP chapter here apparently did absolutely nothing to stop the attacks or facilitate peace – a refusal to act that implies his consent. And if he consented (and continues to consent) to such appalling behavior, it doesn’t take an Evel Knievel leap of faith across the Snake River Canyon to find plausibility in the suggestion that at one point in time, à la Henry II, he lamented, “Will no one rid me of these turbulent Tea Baggers?“
The strong-arm tactics of CNJ/CWA Brownshirts and their public lynching of the Bayshore Tea Party leave little doubt with regard to the fate of ANY Tea Party group that refuses to blindly obey marching orders from Steve Lonegan.
It’s a complicated mess, to say the least. There can be no question regarding Lonegan’s conservative credentials: I am first to describe him as an unreconstructed Reaganite and hardcore conservative through and through.
But the problem isn’t one of ideology, it’s one of personality – the dynamics of which may very well sunder Movement Conservatism in the Garden State as Tea Party groups find themselves in the appalling position of having to choose between unity for the cause on the one hand and preservation of their principles and independence on the other.