Major Withdrawal From MI4CS
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
You may recall this article that I wrote about some tea party organizations in Michigan having some concerns with a group calling itself "Michigan 4 Conservative Senate." In it, I mentioned several misgivings about an attempt to unify the tea party vote eleven weeks in advance of the filing deadline, and in fact attempting to unify the voices of the Michigan tea party network at all (coordinate, yes; unite, not so much). Given everything that's come out and been discussed about MI4CS since then, and given also that the straw poll convention is this coming Saturday (scheduled for 25 Feb 2012, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. according to the River City Patriots), I thought that I should tell you about a major development . . . following the break.
According to my notes, the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network consists of just over 120 individual organizations covering almost all of Michigan's 83 counties, literally reaching into every corner of the state. According to the MI4CS information page, 55 of those organizations (representing a collective membership of about 13,000 patriots) comprise their group, their mission being: "To ensure the United States senatorial representation of Michigan reflects conservative values and strict adherence with the Constitution of the United States as worded and originally intended by the writers of this sacred document."
I'll cede that the intention is solid, as the reason that Michigan currently has Governor Snyder is because we had just enough conservative candidates running to sufficiently split the vote and hand RDS the 2010 primary win. (I think it was Jason who mentioned that a three-point spread in a four-way contest with 20 percent still undecided on the GOTV weekend was a scary prospect.) With the prescient need to pack as many constitutional conservatives into the Senate as possible, the concern of having so many conservatives in a primary race that the vote may be diluted, again, is indeed daunting. Any reasonable effort to weed out the field and flag, ideally, one honest conservative behind whom the support of the tea party movement can coalesce, is a good idea, to say the very least.
However, there has always been considerable backchannel discussion as to exactly how this is going to work. With regard to MI4CS specifically, much of the discussion has revolved around which tea party organizations are in this group, and how that was decided, as well as whether or not MI4CS was already "in the tank" for a particular candidate (or already pre-stacked against a particular candidate). I had referenced Dan Wholihan in my earlier article, but there have also been posts by Jen Kuznicki and Bill Gavette on this matter, among others. The tweets of Pat Battaglia haven't helped matters any, either.
A review of the FAQ page of the MI4CS website provides a rundown of the criteria for tea party involvement, which had me wondering what the hell the perception of a big secret was all about. The very next item is a discussion on why MI4CS is keeping their membership list under wraps, "in order to protect their privacy as well as to discourage divisiveness within the TEA Party movement." For a group that's supposed to be all about uniting the Michigan tea party voices behind a single senate candidate, that notion seems a tad strange, but given all of the crap that's swirling around about this, maybe that's wise. According to Cindy Gamrat, each individual group is free to out itself if it wishes to do so, but she's keeping the list under wraps.
Even more strange is the word circulating on tea party forums in Michigan that, as of February 8th, MI4CS claims only 15 tea party organizations within its convention framework. Since the MI4CS website doesn't have any note anywhere reflecting this drastic change, I double-checked with Cindy Gamrat, who confirmed that (as of 8:00 p.m. Sunday night) at least 40 organizations are participating, holding an aggregate membership of at least 10,000 people, with about seven organizations that haven't finished their deliberations yet. From this morning's press release:
"We are changing the landscape of the way politics is done in this country. It is a change that has been needed for a long time and it is great to be a part of it. Americans are waking up and are not going to stand idly by anymore as our freedoms are stolen from us and our future generations. MI4CS is one way of making an impact in who we send to Washington D.C." stated Cindy Gamrat, MI4CS facilitator.
Cindy also mentioned in our phone conversation earlier today that she and I arrive at our numbers a little differently. I consider any tea party group that holds its own meetings to be a separate organization, even if it's a "franchise chapter" of an "umbrella organization," whereas she aggregates them as one organization. As an example, the Ottawa County Patriots have three semi-independent subordinate organizations that meet in Holland, Hudsonville, and Grand Haven; I view that as four organizations, while she treats it as one.
But I do know that one of the largest tea party organizations in Michigan isn't participating in the MI4CS convention. Last week, I received an e-mail from Tina Dupont, one of the founders of Tea Party of West Michigan:
A message to all members of Tea Party of West Michigan
The Tea Party of West Michigan currently lists 2,568 members on their website, spread among between 16 and 20 chapters throughout the 13 counties of Central-West Michigan, (plus outliers in Bay, Benzie, and Manistee counties). I know that the actual active membership is a much smaller number, but I don't know how much smaller, so how that plays out across the rest of the MI4CS organization I don't know. I do find it interesting that a major tea party organization felt the need to go public with their non-participation in MI4CS, and I'm aware that several others (Rattle With Us, Grassroots In Michigan, and the Ann Arbor Patriots among them) have also withdrawn from participation.
I'm curious as to how many more tea party organizations will feel compelled to go public either this week or next with the message that MI4CS doesn't speak for them, which will then raise the twin questions of how that ought to be handled and whether that should even matter. Because I don't think that conservatives sniping at each other is the wisest thing we could be doing.
Major Withdrawal From MI4CS | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
Major Withdrawal From MI4CS | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ this article that I wrote
+ Michigan 4 Conservative Senate
+ according to the River City Patriots
+ MI4CS information page
+ a three-point spread in a four-way contest
+ Dan Wholihan
+ Jen Kuznicki
+ Bill Gavette
+ FAQ page of the MI4CS website
+ Ottawa County Patriots
+ Tea Party of West Michigan
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine