The haul between those heady days back in 2009 – when Tea Parties sprang into existence like so many blades of new grass – and today, where the rubber meets the road and the Tea Party movement has proven itself to be a powerful force for political change here in New Jersey, has been a long and arduous one. Many lessons have been learned – most of them the hard way, by trial and error. Though sometimes sadder for the experience, we are hopefully that much wiser and that much stronger.
As it happens that certain Tea Party groups have grown in size and power, it follows that these groups have attracted the attention of the Republican political establishment in this state, which presently is dominated by RINOs and career political hacks at the leadership level; these folks despise the Tea Party movement and would sooner have it disappear altogether. They never forgot what we accomplished in 2010 (particularly, Anna Little’s astonishing victory in the Republican congressional primary) and they are determined that it will not happen again. Yes, there will be those occasions when the RINO leadership will appear to extend an olive branch or seem unusually cooperative and willing to “work together” with a particular group or the movement itself, but don’t be lulled into a sense of false security: the moment you are no longer of use to them or their agenda changes, they will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat. The sooner that individual Tea Party groups understand and accept this fact of political life, the better off they will be.
This is not to say that we must write off the entire GOP in New Jersey. Let’s face it: many if not most of the Tea Party population are registered Republicans and while most are rank-and-file, there are a great many who occupy low-level positions within the party hierarchy. Moreover, there are also members of the GOP establishment who, while not active members of any particular Tea Party group, are nevertheless sympathetic to the cause. We know who they are and we must seek out their support and allegiance. It follows that we must likewise reject out of hand even the thought of forming a third party: it would only split the anti-Democrat vote and ensure that the party of Big Government dominates the political landscape forever.
Instead, the Tea Party movement must work hard to return the Republican Party to its Reaganite roots; this can only be accomplished at the grassroots level as each individual Tea Party group makes every effort to influence elections on the municipal, county and even the state level by promoting their own candidates or carefully vetting those already running. In order to effectively accomplish this, it is imperative that each and every Tea Party group in New Jersey jealously preserve its independence, for that is the hallmark of the Tea party movement. This means that we must, at all times, avoid being co-opted or dominated by ANY political or advocacy organization – including those that profess to “lead” the conservative movement – be it in the Garden State or nationwide. This even includes national-level organizations that claim to represent the agenda of the Tea Party movement but, in reality, have their own particular agenda.
Here in the Garden State, the conservative movement has lately been gaining momentum and has found a home in a loosely-knit coalition of political leaders (such as State Senator Mike Doherty) and activists (such as Rob Eichmann and Bill Winkler) allied with former gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan. This coalition – known as the Conservative Leadership Caucus – is working hard to increase its base of supporters and enlist the aid of the Tea Party movement. It is likewise despised by the RINO establishment – perhaps more so, because it presents a very real political threat to the political status quo.
At this point I present to the Tea Party movement in New Jersey a cautionary tale, one that ends with the admonition to look very carefully before you leap.
Late last year, after the November elections, the Bayshore Tea Party group decided to ally itself with Steve Lonegan and the movement he was organizing that would eventually become the Conservative Leadership Caucus (CLC). For several months, the relationship was a mutually beneficial one until April – when Bayshore declined to support Lonegan’s “Maxed Out Spending” bus tour in Congressman Chris Smith’s district because they believed the bus tour should also have included the districts of Frank LoBiondo and Leonard Lance.
That was when the attacks began at a website that calls itself Conservative New Jersey. Over the course of the next few months, the attacks from both Rob Eichmann and Bill Winkler increased in both frequency and vehemence – particularly after those occasions when Bayshore persisted in maintaining its independence. It should be noted that each and every one of these attacks had no foundation in fact but rested entirely on the quicksand of half-truth, insinuation and innuendo.
But these attacks were not limited to the Bayshore group alone: they were leveled at other Tea Party organizations – particularly individuals who planned and implemented the “Citizens’ Convention: The Battle for Trenton” held on April 16, 2011. It started with an anonymous e-mail sent to many Tea Party groups, viciously attacking those organizations involved with the gathering. These attacks continued on CNJ. All of this began after Steve Lonegan and Mike Doherty of the CLC – who thought they would be delivering speeches at the convention – were informed they were not scheduled to do so, although the invitation to attend the convention and participate on the rank-and-file level was certainly open. It is worth noting that, although both were invited to attend as participants, neither Lonegan nor Doherty showed up. So much for devotion to The Cause if no publicity spotlight is available. Ever since then, Eichmann and Winkler have engaged in ceaseless attacks on the Tea parties involved in this convention.
For its part, the BTPG maintained its silence – refusing to dignify these attacks with a response. No one from the CLC came forward to condemn the slanders and libel, giving the casual observer the impression that Eichmann and Winkler were acting with at least the tacit approval of Lonegan and the other members of the caucus.
During this time I was busy writing for RightDirection.com and I saw the enormous injustice being perpetrated by those who call themselves conservatives against those I knew for a fact were good and patriotic conservatives. Unfortunately, the editorial leash around my neck prohibited me from saying anything meaningful in defense of the BTPG. All of that changed, however, after I resigned from Right Direction in late June and launched Bulldog Pundit on July 4. Since then, I have defended the Bayshore Tea Party with a full-throated roar.
Those who seek the truth will find it in these pages, where I have exposed the CLC for what it really is: the “Pseudo-Reagan Wing” of the establishment GOP. The CLC has adopted all the outward trappings and accouterments of the RINO establishment, including an hierarchical structure and the subjugation of principle to political expediency. In both form and function, it is a clone of the RINO establishment and the difference between the two lies in the nature of the principles subjugated: where the RINO establishment sacrifices ideological purity, the CLC sacrifices morality – and in this respect its modus operandi more closely resembles that of a Soros-funded, Leftist attack organization than a movement dedicated to the principles embraced by Ronald Reagan.
In their world, conservatism – as they define it – trumps moral character and ideology far outweighs personal integrity; the triumph of The Cause – as they define it – is to be achieved at all costs. It necessarily demands a cult-like dedication that rejects out of hand the possibility of error together with a ready willingness to crush any opposition – however loyal - and silence every voice that expresses dissent or even constructive criticism by any and all means. It is the perverse reflection of Lenin’s dictum that you can make an omelet only if you are willing to break a few eggs.
The CLC regards the Tea Party groups in New Jersey as their “shock troops;” unquestioning obedience and total fealty are expected. Dissent or disagreement – however civilly expressed – will be met with swift retribution. Refusal to do everything the CLC orders it to do will earn severe punishment. Any Tea Party group that engages in behavior deemed a violation of Conservatism as defined by the CLC will be viciously slandered, libeled and defamed until it is cowed into submission or silence.
This is precisely what has happened over the past six months to the Bayshore Tea Party Group – which dared to dissent from the CLC party line. Other Tea Party groups have since become targets and victims of the same insinuations, innuendo and outright lies directed against the Bayshore group. It has become clear by now that the attackers are operating with the approval of the CLC leadership (Steve Lonegan and Mike Doherty among others) because that leadership has done nothing to stop the attacks – even after being publicly called out to denounce them. But they are also operating with the approval of the RINO establishment, which wants nothing more than protracted conflict between the Tea Party movement and the CLC.
The landscape ahead will not be a pleasant one for New Jersey Tea Party organizations: on the one hand, they are despised by the RINO establishment and on the other, they are expected to be the handmaidens and shock troops of the CLC, taking their orders from Steve Lonegan and following those orders to the letter. If they assert their independence, they risk the wrath of the CLC in the form of their blogger henchmen and can expect no assistance from the Republican Party leadership – particularly since GOP State Committeeman Rob Eichmann is spearheading the attacks. You read that correctly: for all practical purposes, the NJGOP has joined forces with Lonegan’s CLC to attack the Tea party movement in New Jersey. Politics really does make for some pretty strange bedfellows, no?
Under the present circumstances, every Tea Party organization in New Jersey is faced with a difficult decision going forward: accept the status quo or draw a line in the sand. A group that chooses the former must be willing to accept the yoke of the CLC under the cynically collaborationist eyes of the RINO establishment and be prepared for punishment if they stray from the party line.
A group that chooses the latter must have the courage to say “This far and no farther” and be willing to endure the slings and arrows that will come its way courtesy of the CLC and its henchmen. If so, then Bayshore Tea Party Group, Ocean County Citizens for Freedom and the Jersey Shore Tea Party Group welcome you to the battle for Tea Party independence.