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Creating a Tea Party Inspired Movement in the Black Community

A thought experiment for black political thinkers and political activists,

Political Season

on 17 December 2014

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Transcript of Creating a Tea Party Inspired Movement in the Black Community

Creating A Tea Party Inspired Movement
In the Black Community
An ideological regime change initiative WITHIN the Black community
in pursuit of our permanent interests.
We've got to move from our current ideological dead end to disruption of the ideological status qou, followed by education and activism to re-establish a shared multi-generational understanding of our permanent interests and the capacity to effectively pursue them.
What We Must Create
A radically decentralized political and social movement focused on the pursuit of our permanent interests which can end run the entrenched, captive office holders and national organizations to
re-orient the political culture of the black community
Why Should We Do This?
Why This Structure?
First, radical decentralization sidesteps the dangers of over centralized authority; external co-option, internal corruption, and gradual calcification, all three of which prevail with most of the mainstream black organizations. Decentralization is inherently resistant to all three of these strategies.

Second, the system is self-propelling and self-guiding. If a good or popular idea surfaces in one part of the network, activists talk it up and other groups copy it. Bad and unpopular ideas fizzle out and the movement lives on even as people come and go.

Third, the network is unbelievably cheap. Everyone is a volunteer. Local groups bring their own resources. Coordinators provide support and communication, but the heavy lifting is done by the grassroots.
We've Done It Before
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of the 1960s attempted a movement using this same type of organizational structure. In 1964, SNCC switched from small groups of activists acting independently to a more centralized structure, after which SNCC eventually dissolved from internal dissension and a healthy dose of FBI/Government surveillance and repression. SNCC's more decentralized beginning didn't have the benefit of the tools we enjoy today, namely the internet and other forms of instantaneous, cheap, person to person communication to fuel the movement. We do.
Headless organizations are better at opposing things than agreeing on the right affirmative alternative.
It's difficult if not impossible to negotiate compromise because there is no leader.
Inspiration for this ideological regime change initiative in the black community came from two places. First, serious shout out to blogger Constructive Feedback. The phrase "ideological regime change" is one I first heard from him and I think it aptly describes the challenge before us. Secondly, inspiration comes from an analysis of the organizational structure of the Tea Party movement, published in the National Journal by Jonathan Rauch, titled "How the Tea Party Organizes Without Leaders". It's a deep dive on the structure of the Tea Party movement, highlighting the Tea Party's self description of itself as not a spider, but a starfish structure movement (cut off a piece, it grows back, and a piece can generate a new starfish vs. a spider which if you knock it in the head, you kill the whole organism). Tea Party members take their inspiration on this from the book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, a business book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, published in 2006.
What Are Our Permanent Interests?
1. Education that enables
(education levels us up, not out
2. Meaningful economic competency (
we are competent capitalists
3. Effective political literacy (
permanent interests drive policy results)
4. Enforced socio/cultural accountability (
viable family structure, safe communities
Who Is Available to Populate & Lead This Movement?
Working class/Middle class African Americans?
Rationale: This group has tangible political/financial interests at risk in real time, an active frustration with the status qou that has nowhere to go and the requisite time and financial resources to engage.

African American college students?
Rationale: Potentially the shock troops of the movement? Willing and able to engage in protest actions first group cannot/will not? More flexible, more activist?
What's a Better Name Than "Tea Party" for This Movement?
"Tea Party" as a moniker for this movement doesn't really resonate in the black community. What else could we call it?
Coffee Hour?
Black Tea (submitted by twitter user @marshallfsmith)
Okay, What Do We Actually Do? What is our Action Step? What does starting this movement from square one look like?
Update 9/28/13 - I think the initial action step after basic organizational startup is a focus on local problems with an emphasis on finding effective, sustainable solutions to them.. You start with issues like illegal dumping, too few streetlights and you keep going at tangible issues. As a practical matter, the more of this you do and the more ambitious the agenda gets, you will quickly find yourself immersed in policy issues.

What have you got?

I'm struggling to lay these permanent interests out
in a way that satisfies.
A Political Season Thought Experiment Work in Progress by Aaron Laramore
Who is Not
The underclass/the very poor
Rationale: They are not equipped for the fight - lack of education, resources and preoccupation with surviving in the current economy render them missing in action, though potentially ideologically available?
"Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests. - Congressman William Clay
2002 March
(cc) image by jantik on Flickr
When you reach that point, the action step must be action that intelligently and effectively challenges the policy status qou currently supported by mainstream black organizations and black politicians imbedded in the democratic party struture. As I noted earlier, the star fish organizational structure is geared more to opposing bad outcomes than affirmatively supporting good ones, so perhaps we start with identifying funky outcomes of the current status qou and come up with actions that challenge them? One of those areas might be disrupting the traditional policy formulation process of the democratic party to move it more towards supporting our permanent interests. The Tea Party has effectively moved GOP politics (you can qeustion the utility of where they've moved it, but you can't question their effectiveness in moving it).
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