Tea Party Shows Muscle in Tuesday Wins

Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 05:22 PM

By Ernest Istook

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Politics-as-usual got stomped by an unusual coalition Tuesday in Georgia. In Atlanta, the tea party, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club found something in common — their dislike of an $8.4 billion tax increase to expand transportation in metro Atlanta.

And in Texas, the movement again demonstrated that it is strongly racially inclusive by boosting Cuban-American Ted Cruz to an upset victory that gave him the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

In Georgia, the political establishment outspent the plan’s foes by perhaps 250-to-1. The establishment lost by a 63-to-37 percent margin.

“We ran a unpredictable, out-of-the-box campaign; we broke all the rules,” tea party leader Debbie Dooley told me on “Istook Live!” the morning after the vote. She is co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party and a state coordinator with the national Tea Party Patriots.

“You’re not supposed to reach out to the Democrats or liberal-leaning groups and form a coalition with them. We did that. We were highly successful,” Dooley said.

Supporters of the tax plan included Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat. With a host of big-business groups, they, through the “Untie Atlanta” organization, pushed the theme “Less Traffic. More Jobs. A Stronger Economy.”

Dooley told “Istook Live!” that the sponsors outspent opponents by about $8 million to $30,000 (266-to-1), but took for granted that they would have support from Democrat-heavy, mass-transit-friendly Fulton and Dekalb Counties. So when the sponsors focused instead on Republican-leaning areas farther out from Atlanta’s core, Dooley says that provided an opening to form the coalition with the tea party, NAACP, and Sierra Club.

“We activated the tea party activists in all the counties. We got a lot of earned media. We were able to use the media that was very highly supportive of this massive transportation tax. It would have been the largest tax increase in Georgia history. We went after the governor and speaker of the house for supporting this tax increase,” she says, “and even Democrat-heavy, mass-transit-friendly areas voted no.”

As she explained to me, Dooley began tailoring the tea party message to appeal to the Democrat base in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

“We talked about:
  • Distrust of government
  • ‘Aren’t you paying enough taxes?’
  • The fact that this [contracts] would go to political cronies
  • That elected officials tell us they don’t have enough money for transportation but they were preparing to spend $300 million of taxpayer money for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.”
I told Dooley, “I think there’s a lesson there,” that the tea party and NAACP had found something in common to work on.

Not only did this and other elections (like Ted Cruz’ victory in Texas) demonstrate how rumors of the tea party’s death are greatly exaggerated. It also clobbers the left’s false claims that the tea party somehow is racist.

Also on Wednesday’s “Istook Live!,” Phillip Dennis of the Dallas Tea Party noted that the movement’s diversity was proven again in its successful support of Ted Cruz, who is Cuban-American, bucking the political establishment and overcoming a massive disadvantage in campaign funds.

The rising stars in the Republican Party, Dennis said, are all minorities who are winning with massive tea party support. He named Cruz, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Congressman Tim Scott, R-S.C., Congressman Allen West, R-Fla., and Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana as examples.

As Dennis described it, his Dallas group has grown from 300 people to 22,000, and nationally the tea party has gone from being a rag-tag group to one that is well-funded, communicates internally, and successfully trains people to organize and to get out the vote.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook chaired the House subcommittee that handled funding for transportation nationwide. Now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, he hosts the “Istook Live!” daily talk-radio show. Read more reports from Ernest Istook — Click Here Now.

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