There Is Some Unhappiness In The North Dakota Tea Party Caucus Ranks

The problem with grassroots movements is that the various members of the movement often have different motivations for being in the movement. Case in point, the North Dakota Tea Party Caucus.

The organizing committee for the group is fairly diverse. It runs the gamut from ordinary citizens to political candidates (like Paul Sorum, who is running for Governor in the next election, and Duane Sand, who is running for…something in the next election) to political professionals (Gary Emineth is the former head of the NDGOP and Bob Harms is the NDGOP’s Treasurer and a lobbyist for various interests).

As you might expect, some of these individuals have different outlooks on what the NDTPC should and should not be doing.

Right now the NDTPC is on a statewide tour, hoping to gin up support from the masses (you can find all the details on the SAB events calendar), but some are unhappy that certain members are using these events as defacto campaign stops. It’s been reported to me that Paul Sorum, specifically, has been announcing himself as a candidate at the events and soliciting the attendees for information for his campaign. The NDTPC members I’ve spoken to are unhappy that the events are being co-opted in this manner, and wonder if it’s appropriate to have a candidate for public office on their organizing committee.

On the flip side, others (including Sorum) are upset with Bob Harms being involved accusing him of using the group to further his lobbying efforts on various efforts (including opposition to the Measure 2 property tax elimination) and, as with Sorum, wonder if it’s appropriate to have a professional political operative on the organizing committee.

For what it’s worth, I’ve spoken directly with Harms about these concerns in the past and he’s assured me that it is not his intent to use the NDTPC as part of his lobbying efforts and to date I’ve not heard of any evidence that he has.

Frankly, all of these concerns are valid and they represent why I thought it was a mistake to try and organize the tea party movement in the first place. A leaderless, spontaneous, truly grassroots movement like the tea party is hardly going to be homogeneous ideologically. Nor are its members likely to agree on how to prioritize issues, or even how to go about pursuing the sort of activism that can make a difference in the political world.

By organizing a movement like the tea party you must define a platform of ideas, then work together to achieve it. That process will inevitably alienate some and make the movement smaller, and more splintered. Of course, that’s a necessary evil. The other side of the coin is that if the tea party isn’t organize, its influence will fade.

What the NDTPC is going through right now are growing pains. I think they’ll yet emerge as something of a political force in the state, but to paraphrase Franklin talking about the revolution, they must first learn if they can hang together. Otherwise, they may “hang” separately.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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