Brendan Steinhauser on how the left borrowed his Tea Party playbook

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Good morning Austin:

Eight years ago Sunday, CNBC’s Rick Santelli went on a rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that is credited with launching the Tea Party Movement.

SANTELLI: We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July.

The very next day, Brendan Steinhauser, then a 27-year-old organizer with the organization FreedomWorks, headed by former Texas congressman and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, wrote a post on his blog that, while less well-known than Santelli’s rant, had a far more profound and long-lasting effect on building the Tea Party Movement

How to Organize Your Own “Tea Party” Protest
The Conservative Revolution ^ | 2-21-2009 | Brendan Steinhauser
Posted on 2/20/2009, 10:44:43 PM by bstein80

The internet is abuzz with chatter about organizing protests around the country to put an end to this madness on Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. But I’ve talked to many people out there who have never organized a protest, and so they don’t have a clue where to begin.

Here are 10 simple steps that you can follow to organize a protest in your own community. If you want more help, just send me an email at bsteinhauser@freedomworks.org and I’ll work with you one on one to help make your protest a success.

1. Pick a location, date and time in your town. I’d suggest main street at an intersection with lots of traffic.

2. Tell your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you know about the protest. Build an rsvp email list so that you can provide quick updates if something changes. You should also create a facebook group so that the group can communicate with one another.

3. Make 5-10 signs with legible slogans that send a clear message to the public and the media. Write in BIG LETTERS.

4. Call your local talk radio hosts and ask them to announce the location, date and time on the air for a few days leading up to the protest. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper announcing the protest. Email the bloggers in your area and ask them to post a notice about the protest.

5. Write a press release and email, mail and fax copies to the local tv stations, radio stations and newspapers. Call the reporters that cover local events or politics and leave messages on their voice mail.

6. On the day of your protest, show up with your group, be loud, visible, happy and engage the public. Wave your signs, make lots of noise and move around to get attention. If reporters interview you, give them some good sound bytes for their stories. Stay on message and keep your answers short and coherent.

7. Bring sign-in sheets to capture the names, emails and phone numbers of everyone who attends the protest and/or says that they support what you are doing. You will then have a big list of people that can plan the next, much bigger and louder, event. Also bring handouts with one page of quick facts about why you are protesting in the first place.

8. Add your pictures, video and an after-action report to your facebook group, and send this stuff to the bloggers and reporters that you originally contacted. Ask them to post the photos, story and video.

9. Thank everyone who attended via email and phone, and set up a meeting to plan your next event. Now you have a list of people in your community that can help make the next protest huge. Encourage everyone to commit to bring at least one friend to the next protest.

10. Organize a carpool and go find a friend in your neighboring town or county and help them organize a protest there. You and your people are now veterans and should be able to keep the momentum going around your area.

Email me if you have any questions or want some ideas for signs. bsteinhauser@freedomworks.org

Good luck!

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds. — Samuel Adams

From Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

In looking back, Armey gave particular credit to a young aide name Brendan Steinhauser, the group’s director of federal and state campaigns, who created a Web site immediately after Santelli’s rant that provided all kinds of practical  advice to supporters.  It counseled them on how to plan rallies  and what issues to protest, with Obama’s stimulus spending high on the target list. He also suggested slogans and signs and sponsored a daily conference call with over 50 Tea Party activists around the country to coordinate their efforts. Soon Freedomworks was providing a professional support team of nine for the operation. Armey recalled that Steinhauser “spent hours and hours on the phone with people who’d found the FreedomWorks Web site. The other guys at FreedomWorks were laughing at him” in the beginning, he said. But Armey described how Steinhauser organized the inchoate anger into a mass political movement. “He told them what to do. He gave them training. If it hadn’t been for FreedomWorks, the Tea Party movement would have never taken off,” Armey said later.

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From Meet the Press Sunday:

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, Senator, we’ve seen a lot of anti-Trump activism over the last three weeks. Once again, every Saturday of his presidency so far we’ve seen some protests. There’s a lot of energy in the progressive movement. But there’s a lot of debate about what Democrats should do about it. First of all, do you believe this is a Tea Party for the left? And, if so, what lessons did you learn in ’09 that you think can be learned by the Democrats now?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

No, it’s not a Tea Party because the Tea Party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers family. This is a spontaneous and grassroots uprising of the American people. And let me just mention to you, Chuck, you may be the first to hear this, on February 25th, two weeks from yesterday there is, in fact, going to be rallies all over this country.

Later on the same show, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, responded to Sanders.

FMR. GOV. PAT MCCRORY:

Follow the money. Follow the money. You know, Senator Sanders mentioned the money going to the Tea Party. The money is going to the Bernie Sanders wing. Do you think all these protests are not being paid?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN:

But the thing is–

CHUCK TODD:

Can I just say– By the way, everybody always thinks–

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But paid protests–

FMR. GOV. PAT MCCRORY:

It takes money to coordinate these protests.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN:

No it doesn’t. It takes the internet. It takes the internet to coordinate. But, you know what, this is political–

FMR. GOV. PAT MCCRORY:

No, it takes money.

Sanders’ refusal to accept that the Tea Party was, in its origins, a genuinely grassroots movement, and McCrory’s equal and opposite refusal to accept that the outpouring of grassroots opposition to Trump is genuine, are both wrong.

The best evidence is the Indivisible Guide, the handbook for grassroots action on the left that, since its creation late last year, has become the practical Bible for the Trump resistance, and makes plain from the outset that it is borrowing the Tea Party playbook.

(Here is a story and a First Reading I wrote on the Indivisible Guide’s Austin roots, and a story from Sunday’s Statesman on how local folks are making use of it.)

From the introduction to the guide:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won. 

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize us and our neighbors. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.

 

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Steinhauser is getting his props for his role in creating the template now being used by his ideological opposites

From a Feb 5 story by Kate Zernike, New York Times –  Trump Protesters Borrow From Tea Party to Put Pressure on Lawmakers.

“We borrowed the organizing and taking to the streets from the left. They’re borrowing the showing up outside offices and doing legislative contact from us,” said Brendan Steinhauser, who helped organize and train Tea Partyers as a staff member of FreedomWorks, a libertarian group in Washington.

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“For the right, Barack Obama represented an existential threat to the American way of life. And for the left, Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the American way of life,” Mr. Steinhauser said. “And I take the current protesters at their word that they’re that afraid and concerned about the changes Trump is going to make very quickly.”

Two days later, Steinhauser was on Meet the Press Daily with Katy Tur.

TUR:  So, what can each side learn from the other?  So, what can the left right now learn from how the Tea Party deployed their tactics pretty successfully in the 2010 midterms? 

STEINHAUSER:  Sure.  Well, one of the things that I`ve been thinking about is how the left is going to have a challenge and it needs to make sure that it expels any radicals from its midst.  You know, whether they aresocialist or anarchist or communist.  People that are destroying public property, that are destroying Starbucks, or, you know, destroying an ATM machine at Bank of America, they really need to self-police to make sure that they don`t say that that`s OK.

Because, you know, we`ve dealt with crazy folks, too, that try to infiltrate our movement or the Lyndon LaRouche crowd who would come into our protests, and we would self-police and say, you`re not a part of this.  You`re not allowed to be here.  So, that`s important for a mass movement to maintain public support.

I also think they need to go ahead and ask Lena Dunham to exit stage left.  She`s been a disaster as a messenger for them.  She offends middle America, talking about not having had the opportunity to have an abortion.  Things like that alienate people.

For the Democrats to be successful, for the left to be successful in this movement, they really do have to go back to winning back the voters that actually voted for Barack Obama, in places like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania, and then decided to vote for Donald Trump.  They need to appeal to middle America, to white working class voters, in particular.  The folks that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.  And that`s really the challenge that they face. 

Well, so long to Lena Dunham and the Starbucks-smashing anarchists, but the socialists aren’t going anywhere. After all, a socialist gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the Democratic Party nominating contest last year, and, who knows, might have been elected president in a one-on-one with Donald Trump.

The next day, Steinhauser did an interview  with Rachel Martin on NPR’s Morning Edition.

MARTIN: So it’s not enough to just make signs, march in the streets.

STEINHAUSER: That’s right. In fact, I remember one of the big rallies we had in Washington at the Capitol. There were thousands of people there. And I was on the microphone, and I said, now, everyone, head over to these buildings on the left and on the right of the Capitol dome and go see your senators. Go see your representatives, and tell them to vote no on Obamacare.

And so really encouraging folks to go from the protesting into the offices to sit down with legislators and their staff really is that next step that actually has the biggest impact on public policy.

MARTIN: Do you think Democrats are as powerless now as Republicans were in 2008, when the Tea Party started to get a little bit of traction?

STEINHAUSER: I do. You look at the election of 2008, and Republicans and conservatives were very much out of power. They were watching this new president come in and propose a trillion dollars in new spending. And so there really wasn’t a good alternative to going out and protesting. And so that was the way that we were able to galvanize the opposition. And it took about a year and a half to really turn that mass movement into a political force into the elections of 2010, where Republicans and conservatives were very successful.

Steinhauser is now 35. He is a political consultant in Austin, whose clients include U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin. He managed Sen. John Cornyn’s 2014 re-election campaign. He lost a bid to chair the Travis County Republican Party last fall because he would not endorse Donald Trump for president and he remains very concerned about Trump’s “strong man” approach and desire to consolidate power as antithetical to his own brand of libertarian conservatism.

He thinks that the new resistance to Trump could, on particular civil liberties and other constitutional issues, find allies on the right, and, with the right approach, influence Sens. Ted Cruz, Cornyn and others. He also think that the Trump presidency could, or should, lead the left to a new appreciation for the Tenth Amendment and efforts to decentralize power from Washington to the states.

From some recent conversations with Steinhauser.

BS: I’ll be honest with you. I really do want a healthy opposition. I just wish it wasn’t just on the left.

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The old-fashioned forms of communication are actually back in vogue because the other forms are so impersonal. So sitting down and talking with a staff member, getting them on the phone and talking through it, being polite, being concise. That gets recorded, that weighs on them.

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You have to give your people little wins. You can’t constantly lose. I looked at their call to action page in Austin. Today is Betsy DeVos, Tomorrow is Jeff Sessions. But you’re going to lose, lose, lose.

You’ve really got to spend your time training, teaching, going back to philosophy, issue education, then do, `how to lobby your congressman, `how to write a letter to the editor, “how to write and Op-ed.’

I did literally over 1000 trainings around the country in my time a FreedomWorks and did the same training over and over and over again and I never had someone come up to me and say, `Brendan, I already kind of knew that, I didn’t learn anything new,” and it was basic stuff.

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How to actually  host a protest in your community, step 1 through to step 10. How to deal with local media.. Sit down and talk. Don’t be afraid of them.

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Make sure you sign up everybody when they come to a press conference so you  have phone numbers, email addresses and zip codes. Just kind of simple stuff, basic building blocks of how to build a movement, how to use  rallies to not only to get earned media, but recruit people, drive a message.

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So they really just need to  sit down and do basic grassroots communication to your elected officials. That’s really worthwhile.

 

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And then you also kind of spread out the fight, so you’re not constantly fighting, you’re building social cohesion, fun stuff. So go see a movie together, go have meals together. You can’t underestimate that, the band of brothers aspect.

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Steinhauser said the staffs with the senators and members of Congress know what’s happening now is for real.

They see he volume of calls and they know it’s not  just paid people or Astro Turf.

This is organic. That picture (of the Women’s March) at the Capitol in Austin. Democrats aren’t that well organized, and Progress Texas isn’t that well organized. That’s real.

Thousands, some officials putting the number between 40-50,000, attended the Women's March on Austin Saturday afternoon January 21, 2017, joining other movements across the country to stands up for women's rights. The masses marched from the Texas Capitol through the streets of downtown and returning to the Capitol grounds for speeches and entertainment. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

(Thousands, some officials putting the number between 40-50,000, attended the Women’s March on Austin Saturday afternoon January 21, 2017, joining other movements across the country to stands up for women’s rights. The masses marched from the Texas Capitol through the streets of downtown and returning to the Capitol grounds for speeches and entertainment.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

 

Republicans should not make the same mistake Democrats did. Nancy Pelosi did say that we were are a bunch of racist, AstroTurfing tea-baggers and it pissed people off. And they  were motivated.

It’s kind of like the deplorables comment. It motivated people.

From Steinhauser’s interview with Katy Tur:

In fact, Nancy Pelosi famously referred to us as Astro Turf.  And when we showed up with 500,000 Tea Party protesters on September 12, 2009, I said into the crowd, ou know, we`ve replaced the grass on the west lawn of the Capitol with AstroTurf.  And that got a big cheer because people understood that we were being denigrated, we were being insulted, and I really think that, you know, that you have to – you have to encourage participation, even if you disagree with those that are going out and protesting.

They had every right to do that. Democrats and liberals are out of power, so that`s what we should expect them to do, and it`s up to conservatives to make the case why we`re right and they`re wrong

 

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