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May 21, 2009


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Is AFP putting on the protest or is "Take Our State Back" sponsoring it? I didn't realize that providing transportation to a grassroots event was tantamount to sponsoring it and undermining its "grassroots" authenticity.

Ed Cone

The event site (linked in the post) says in large letters, "Sponsored by Americans for Prosperity."

At the bottom of the page its says "© 2009. A Project of Americans for Prosperity."

And what is "Take Back Our State?"

In addition to AFP, there is a large-type list of "coalition members" -- the constituents of the so-called "Take Back Our State coalition" credited with creating the event -- which includes foundation-funded political organizations and other established groups.

So you've got a bunch of well-heeled, well-organized agenda-driven groups putting on the event and paying to ship people in from across the state.

Which is fine. But they are coopting the "tea party" brand, which was marketed as a grassroots thing.


What is your definition of "grass roots"? The Reform Party? A group of unorganized and ineffective people with a common interest? If the "tea party brand" was being "marketed" as something, who was marketing it? If a bunch of people show up who aren't affiliated with any of those groups, then what?

Ed Cone

Grassroots means the opposite of "organized by well-funded interest groups."

As I wrote in the newspaper, the GSO Tea Party, despite the obvious astroturfing around the national movement, had a legitimate grassroots feel.

This Raleigh Tea Party is clearly -- explicitly, in fact -- the work of well-funded, well-organized agenda-driven groups. It's a top-down effort.

Again, that's fine, but they've coopted a brand that sought to establish itself as a non-partisan, from-the-ground-up citizen's movement.

Steve Harrison

This is a blog reposting of a Playboy article, but it makes for interesting reading, nonetheless.


What party are the non-grassroots sponsors?

Ed Cone

I don't think these groups are formally affiliated with political parties (tax law may play a role), but certainly they tend to lean conservative/libertarian/GOP.

Which has no bearing on the astroturfing of the Tea Party brand, which the information on the event website demonstrates conclusively.


What do any of these distinctions matter?

Ed Cone

"Grassroots" is often used to confer a degree of legitimacy -- such movements are meant to be understood as organic and heart-felt, not the product of big money, vested interests, and business (or politics) as usual. Politicians and the media are supposed to take note of the vox populi.

Certainly that was the case with this spring's Tea Party movement. Organizers took great pains to portray themselves as regular folks, acting on their own and not in the service of a partisan agenda.

Being "grassroots" does not make a movement right, or wrong, any more than being organized and well-funded does.

But when organized, well-funded organizations try to portray their activities as organic and from the ground up (a practice common enough to have a pejorative nickname, "astroturfing"), people should understand who's doing what.


Wouldn't these protests have had more impact before the election?

It's amazing the outrage at potential future increases, at the federal level for only the top two brackets, but there was not similar outrage as a catastrophic asset bubble was inflating and our economy subsequently careened into the gutter.

I am much more concerned about the stabilization of the economy than whether I pay an extra 3 or 5k in taxes. To preempt - raising the top two tax brackets, to Clintonian levels, will NOT destabilize the economy.

Tony Wilkins

I can't locate who assigned the label "grass rootsy" to the event.
Anything associated with the right= flag, foul, sarcasm, suspected motives, regurgitate, and fecally cover.
This would be a great background theme song as you enter:
Thanks for allowing me to visit EC. I hope everyone has a fun, safe weekend.


Wiki has a fairly comprehensive definition. The link also makes mention of the astroturfing with a link to it's own page.

Ed Cone


The grassroots label was carefully cultivated by the tax-day tea party movement.

This event is marketed as a tea party -- a bit of brand extension that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

That's the disconnect, as stated numerous times in the thread.


"The grassroots label was carefully cultivated by the tax-day tea party movement."

That means it was organized by someone- just like all movements.

You (Ed) are the one who labeled it "partisan" which in common parlance, means loyalty to a party. There is a difference between a party and an ideology. What it seems to come down to is that the motives must be suspect because some conservative groups joined and promoted the cause.

I'll have to write that standard down for future reference. Anyway, the last thing the tea party movement needs is to be co-opted by the Republican Party. If anything, the movement should influence the party and not the other way around. What I see right now is a combination of various groups with a similar ideology- not a partisan affair. That's fine by me.

Steve Harrison

"I can't locate who assigned the label "grass rootsy" to the event."

If you look at AFP's front page, you'll find this article about the upcoming Tea Party:

"Grassroots activists will speak about the hardship these new taxes will put on their family budgets. AFP Onslow County chapter coordinator, Bobby Snow, will speak about how a new tax on auto repair labor will be a hardship on him and his customers.

"People even now cannot afford to buy news cars. They can barley afford to repair them and keep them running,” said Snow. “This new service tax will mean some people will have to choose fixing their car and paying the new taxes rather than feeding their families.”

Barley? :)

Then two articles lower on the page, there's:

"The North Carolina chapter of the grassroots free-market group Americans for Prosperity (AFP-NC) today applauded North Carolina State Representative Mark Hilton (96th District) for signing the group’s “No Climate Tax Pledge.”

Just for shits and giggles, I did a search of the AFP website for any mention of the word "Grassroots", and it yielded 102 pages of links. Each state chapter has its own "Grassroots organizers", which are all guided from above by a National Director of State Operations, who used to (?) work for Koch.

This is too much fun...


I don’t see the importance of all this “branding”. If the same people come to the same place, to express the same sentiments regardless, where's the beef? Is there some assumption here that these people are being lured in by the temptation of air-conditioned buses and free funnel cakes?

This may be of some significance to certain bloggers, pundits, etc but on the ground, at the event itself, as far as what actually occurs and whatever significance comes from it, I suspect this is all rather trivial political masturbation.


"Is there some assumption here that these people are being lured in by the temptation of air-conditioned buses and free funnel cakes? "


You suspect them of employing techniques employed by other "grassroots" organizations?

Like ACORN, shall we say?

Heaven forbid!

Ed Cone

Sam, you seem to be confusing the meaning of "grassroots" with "totally spontaneous."

Obviously any event or movement requires some planning. The distinction here is between organic, bottom-up organization, and top-down organization.

That is a real distinction, and one that carries a certain amount of power in the political and media spheres.

Obviously, any successful grassroots movement can become institutionalized at some point, as existing groups sign on and the movement itself turns into an organization. MoveOn would seem to be a decent recent example of this.

I think you are exactly right about the potential power of a tea party movement that is distinct from the GOP -- that is, in fact, the whole point of making it a grassroots effort and eschewing party affiliations, as the GSO organizers worked to do.

The heavy involvement of groups that are de facto organs of Republican politics, such as the ones sponsoring the Raleigh event, is exactly the danger the tea party movement faces. If it's just another Koch/Pope event, it loses some of is broader appeal.


I suspect that you would define almost every conservative group a "de facto organ of Republican politics". The list of those involved in this affair seems lengthy. Are they all just Republican fronts? If so, what Right leaning group would not fall into that category?

I have a different position from yours, and that is that the GOP does not control these groups. Rather, they are more likely to dictate the direction of the GOP. Many of the actors involved have been quite disappointed by the GOP lately so I find it hard to imagine that this is GOP driven. Further, does the fact that some Right leaning groups got involved automatically mean that Democrats need not apply? I don't think so. I think they want as many people involved as possible to influence both parties.

Ed Cone

You are free to disagree with my analysis of these non-profit groups, Sam. I think many people familiar with NC politics would identify the Pope groups as partisan, and AFP as well.

I don't think the GOP "controls" those groups, and I agree that many conservatives are disappointed with the GOP, and that the party is subject to influences from groups that are not formally aligned with it.

In summary: the upcoming Raleigh event is clearly not deserving of the grassroots label, which fact is not in and of itself a criticism of the event, beyond any implications to the contrary by the organizers; and in my view, the non-grassrootsy groups putting it on bring a highly partisan point of view to it.


The "tax day teaparty groups" didn't exist.

THose were a creation of Fox News. Pure and simple.

Ed Cone

Certainly Fox News (and other established groups) played a role on Tax Day, and there was an astroturf element to the Tax Day protests.

But I attended the Greensboro event, and came away believing that there was a substantial grassroots component to that event.

Fred Gregory

Genuine grassroots..Heh !


Bailouts: Focus on Economics, Not Politics

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