Yesterday I attended a training seminar hosted by Chuck Efstration, Chairman of the Gwinnett GOP and his team. They assembled a group of campaign and communication experts who presented an extremely informative seminar covering off on topics ranging from effective canvassing and how to write a press release to using social media effectively for your candidate.
Chuck and his team really did an outstanding job organizing, moderating, and conducting the event. Speaking as someone who got up and walked out of at least one panel session at CPAC due to boredom, the Gwinnett GOP “Grassroots Training Academy” was engaging and packed with actionable bits of advice and strategies the attendees could implement right away to the benefit of their candidates and causes.
The cost for the seminar was $15 (this included coffee, Dunkin Donuts, and Chik Fil A catered lunch) and drew visits from Senator Johnny Isakson and US Congressional Candidate Liz Carter.* Several candidates for state and local offices attended, but the training was focused on coaching the grassroots: concerned citizens who have found themselves involved in politics and/or political campaigns, many for the first time. I met a lot of informed, energetic and motivated folks.
Since joining the Liz Carter for Congress Campaign, I’ve attended several GOP events. What I am beginning to see and what the Gwinnett event illustrated very clearly, was that the Grand Ole Party is looking to help empower and train us grassroots folks. Not coopt the movement, not receive endorsements or speaking engagements, but actually assist the grassroots in achieving their goals.
One of the speakers, Mark Rountree, CEO of Landmark Communications likened the grassroots volunteers and efforts to a “ground war: a means of attack Republicans have been lacking traditionally.” What Rountree meant is that there are more Dems involved in politics at every level including the grassroots/volunteer base. Republicans (or as I prefer to be called: Conservatives) tend to want to work, take care of their families and be left alone –not exactly a perfect profile for someone willing to stand on the street with a protest sign in one hand and a bullhorn in the other.
Jared Thomas, a former Campaign Manager for Congressman Tom Price and CEO of Concentric Direct, addressed the group and did something I didn’t expect: he asked us what we felt the GOP needed to do to join forces with this new, willing army of Tea Partiers. Then he did something else I hadn’t anticipated, he listened.
Perhaps this doesn’t strike you as significant, it should. Contrary to what the MSM would like you to believe, the Tea Party contingent does not hold the current administration as the sole focus of its frustration – it has been very aggravated by many Republican leaderss and the RNC. This is evidenced by yesterday’s article in Politico that Tea Partiers rank John McCain at the top of their list of least favorite Republicans.
The Tea Party is suspect of the GOP – they have seen attempts by the GOP/RNC and individual candidates to use the movement to their own advantage. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful, leaving many Republicans mystified as to why they were unwelcome. So what Thomas asked, what this day of grassroots training hosted by the GOP demonstrated to me, is an important departure from: “How do we get the Tea Party to work for us?” to “How can we help the Tea Party be more effective?” Finally.
I am encouraged by what I see happening at the local level at the Gwinnett GOP, but it’s going to take time and more of this attitude of giving rather than leveraging for the GOP to earn the trust of the Tea Party. The sting of NY-23 is still fresh. Crist and McCain are still receiving support and endorsements from Republican leaders and politicians. RINO/Cap and Traitor Mark Kirk was the NRSC’s pick in Illinois over the Tea Party favorite Patrick Hughes. All these examples prove that the GOP and the Tea Party still aren’t singing from the same sheet of music, but if this new trend continues, they may soon be sitting in the same pew.
The sooner the Republican Party shows us more Michele Bachmanns, Jim DeMints and Paul Ryans, when we see them embracing the Marco Rubios and Adam Andrzejewskis, the sooner they will prove to the Tea Party at Large that they are American Conservatives and Constitutionalists first, and Republicans a distant second. Then we can and will work together to trounce our common enemy and take our country back.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I am retained by Liz Carter for Congress as acting Chief of Staff.