The New Leaders Project

From the diaries by Erick

At American Majority, we have believed since the Tea Party movement began that in order for it to remain a potent force for real and lasting change, it must grow from the ground up. The movement always has been, and always will be, about the local leaders and organizing as “close to the ground” as possible.

I, and many in the Tea Party movement, am not interested in change for one or two election cycles. I am hoping for generational change, but for that to happen, the work must begin as locally as possible. Let’s face it: the political movements that are long-term and sustainable over time go down to as local a level as possible and organize, not only organizing precincts, but running candidates for every level of office.

Less than two weeks ago, American Majority and local tea party leaders from around the country launched the New Leaders Project. The Project is aimed at getting 1,000 local tea party and 9.12 groups to identify 10 new leaders in their communities to run primarily for state and local office in 2011 and 2012. In the effort, there will be some identified that will run for federal office. Another key aspect of this project will be training campaign managers to run effective campaigns, and continuing to train activists on how to be effective grassroots workers in hardiwiring precincts, doing GOTV, and conducting voter registration drives.

Since the launch, nearly 150 groups in 36 states have signed the Pledge, because if we are serious about real change, 2010 was just the beginning. As I posted several weeks ago, this year’s elections were just the opening salvo in the long war that will determine who will control America’s future: the American people or a ruling class of elite incumbent politicians who have driven this nation down the road to statism for too long. The future of our Republic, our democratic process, the free enterprise system and the power of the individual are all dependent on activated citizens committed to accountability.

Despite the successes in 2010, over 80% of incumbents at the federal level won – and despite the seismic shifts in the state legislatures, over 1,000 state legislators were not even challenged in the 2010 general election. If the American people, of which the tea party movement are the first adopters, hope to truly win, that cannot happen again.

Still others see the movement being defined by candidates in the last election that were not perceived as credible. At American Majority, we have done our best to protect the integrity of the movement and improve its effectiveness through our training programs that have educated thousands of local tea party members helping them better promote the policies of limited government.

Building upon the first component of active citizenship – we now, as part of a strategy to sustain those groups for future elections – move toward identifying future leaders of America’s communities. We have sought together to take the movement from protesting to action – and now onto identifying credible, liberty-minded leadership. New leaders must be found – starting right now- who have the ability to effectively communicate the ideas of free enterprise, limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual freedom while at the same time running sound campaigns, because let’s face it: politics is policy. Those who win elections implement policy.

American Majority will train these new leaders on the nuts and bolts of running for office; since our launch in 2008, we have already identified and trained over 1,200 candidates for state and local office. These leaders will also be trained on how to articulate their message effectively and continue to raise awareness in their communities right through Election Day. As more and more leaders come into the process at the state and local level, not only will they impact those levels of government, they will also be creating a farm team for higher office. We will also be training people on how to run and manage campaigns so that these leaders will run the most effective campaigns possible.

Another aspect of this project is accountability. We seek more leaders that will realize they serve the American people first, not the political class or party leadership. We also believe that as all politics is local, all accountability is local as well. The New Leaders Project is about breaking the hold of incumbents who continue to vote for more spending, more programs and more government intervention in the free market.

The New Leaders Project is also about empowering the local tea party organizers: it’s important to remember that the movement would not exist, or be successful, without the local leaders. As I mentioned on Fox and Friends this morning, this movement, and its success, is about Chris Littleton and the Cincinnati Tea Party and the Ohio Liberty Council, Lesley Hollywood and the Northern Colorado Tea Party, Catherine Engelbrecht of the King Street Patriots, Ana Puig and Anastasia Przbylski of the Kitchen Table Patriots, David Crow of the Faulkner County Tea Party, Tim Dake of the Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty, and the Jason Hoyts and Colleen Conleys and hundreds of other like them.

So-called national groups could cease to exist tomorrow, and the movement would still continue. However, if the local leaders went away, the movement would end. American Majority has made it its goal to empower local leaders, to highlight them, to help in whatever way we can to make them more successful.

This project is also about breaking the cycle of incumbency at all levels, local, state and federal, and devolving political power out of DC and state capitols. It is also about much more: the conservative movement has become too DC-centric, despite stating beliefs in federalism. This project is as much about devolving power in the conservative movement back into the states by empowering local leaders.

There will be those in the political establishment, regardless of party, who hope that the Tea Party movement will fade away after 2010. But the Tea Party has proven it can be a sustainable political force – first by activating citizens – then creating privatized political infrastructure – and now identifying credible leadership for America’s communities and ushering in a new era of accountability.