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Daniel Petry: America’s Revolutionary Zeal Alive and Well

The lesson out of Massachusetts is that the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with

Whether it was the Boston Tea Party of Dec. 16, 1773, or the Boston Tea Party of Jan. 19, 2010, we find that American Revolutionary zeal is alive and well in our nation.

Daniel Petry
Daniel Petry

On Jan. 10, a call went out to the Santa Barbara Tea Party and hundreds of national Tea Party organizations. Scott Brown needed their assistance to render the coup de grâce to the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s candidate for senator.

In less than 24 hours, more than $1.3 million cascaded into Brown’s campaign. The infrastructure and logistics of local Tea Party organizations were brought to bear on a political campaign that had profound national implications. The result: victory.

Since newly elected Sen. Brown is a U.S. military officer with more than 20 years service, I have a strong suspicion that he has more than a passing understanding of Sun Tzu’s theories on conflict. To whit: “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

Watching his campaign roll forward, I began to realize that his Democratic rival was a “dead woman walking” — her party just didn’t realize it until it was too late to truly affect the outcome. Their reaction was as panicked as George Custer must have felt when he realized he was attacking not some small band of starving Indians, but was being overrun by thousands of really ticked off warriors.

The Democratic Party was defeated through the cumulative effect of “a thousand cuts” and the obvious strategic error of thinking that Tea Party participants were just irritatingly vocal and unorganized fringe members of a nascent third party. They were wrong, and they lost.

The major mistake nearly every single pundit, Democratic or Republican politician, lobbyist or inside-the-Beltway policy wonk has made is failing to realize the massive logistical effect the Tea Party movement had on this race. They failed to understand — and, quite amazingly, still do — that Brown’s campaign was not only a rejection of Statist politics, but a renunciation of the current power paradigm of both the Republican and Democratic parties. They failed to heed this in Virginia, and lost. They failed to heed this in New Jersey, and lost. Now they failed to heed this in the bluest of states, and lost.

Every campaign has a tipping point. The leaders who recognize it and take advantage of it, win. Those that don’t, lose. It’s that simple. Brown knew his campaign had reached a tipping point, and when he needed that last logistical push, the Tea Party provided it.

While Brown was using the Massachusetts Republican Party’s organizational structure to provide a framework of support, he added the weight of Tea Party mobilization and fundraising capabilities. The combination succeeded as planned. Add in the Democratic Party’s cumbersome and ineffectual reactions, and Martha Coakley was doomed and a president’s agenda lost.

Brown’s hearts and minds tactics were a perfect demonstration of one path to victory. Whether you’re an entrenched Democrat or Republican, take heed, for there are hundreds of Browns out there who are not self-interested sunshine patriots.

The lesson that needs to be learned is that the Tea Party is not a third party, but the strategic foundation of a loosely organized nonpartisan movement that will use either national party’s infrastructure to get its chosen representatives elected. Ignore them, and you will lose. Respect them enough to make changes, and you have a chance.

— Santa Barbara resident Daniel Petry is the CEO and founding partner of Petry Direct Inc., a 20-year-old management firm that specializes in content production and marketing management. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, class of 1976, and received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Colorado.

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