My Favorite St. Louis Tea Party Wasn't a Tea Party At All
My son, Jack, crashed into the house about midnight. (Not literally. He just made a lot of noise coming through the door.)
“You were on The Daily Show,” he shouted.
“You know how big a deal that is?”
“Well, I was on Glenn Beck and Neill Cavuto, Larry Kudlow . . .”
“Dad, no. You don’t get it. everybody watched Jon Stewart. Everybody I know called me.”
I’ll get back to that.
On Monday, I asked for your “high-water mark” among the hundreds of St. Louis Tea Party events since February 2009. I also promised to reveal my candidate.
By “high-water mark,” I mean the event that had the most positive impact on the movement. (I probably should have defined the term Monday. Sorry.) I chose that definition carefully. I think a movement’s high-water mark comes when it knows it can change culture.
Before my reveal, some bad news. We didn’t capitalize on that magical moment. We didn’t. We shifted too quickly to electoral politics when we were poised to drive a massive change in America’s culture. At the time, I thought the most important thing was the 2010 election. It wasn’t. The most important thing to America’s future–then and now–is culture.
See, culture is key. I’ve always known this, but I’ve also always fallen victim to shiny objects. Elections are shiny objects. So is Agenda 21, HSUS, Blueways, and Common Core. (Yeah, I’m against them. But if I were a progressive mastermind, I’d be feeding those distractions to my opponents to keep them away from the serious work I’m doing.)
This article reminded me of the importance of culture: “How To Invest In The Era Of Collective Solipsism” by Ben Hunt on BusinessInsider.com:
The modern dystopia of Dave Egger’s The Circle is similarly based on the voluntary nature of stable totalitarianism. It’s a fascist corporatist state with a giant smiley face, full of “likes” and “friends” and really good healthcare plans, but a fascist corporatist state nonetheless. What Eggers captures wonderfully is the insatiable hunger and constant aggrandizement of a collectivist philosophy – any collectivist philosophy, even one with cool technology and efficient services – that believes we know your self-interest better than you know your self-interest.
Eye opening, .
And we had a chance to disrupt that march to a modern, fascist dystopia–we effed it up. Or, I effed it up.
Maybe this will make more sense if I tell you my idea of STLTPC’s high-water mark.
It was Gina Loudon’s Whole Foods Market BUYcott. September 1, 2009.
The Tea Party movement was young. CNN and the hardest of the hard left were already calling us racist baby killers, but Americans in general either loved us or thought we were innocuous. Since February of that year, we’d been angry, don’t you know. Yelling and waving mean=spirited signs in the faces of otherwise happy shoppers. Or, considering it was 2009, the unemployed. As Obama put it, we were “waving our tea bags” hoping he’d fail.
Except for the racist infanticide, they were right. We spent most of 2009 being angry and agitated and inviting others to give up their relaxed comfort and climate-controlled reality TV for some political reality and middle-aged angst.
Then, we departed from the script that we’d given ourselves. John Mackey, president and founder of Whole Foods Markets, became an object of rage for the left. Unions wanted him drawn and quartered for speaking out against Obamacare in his famous Wall Street Journal op-ed. The left erupted upon realizing the founder and president of their favorite Fair Trade supermarket was worse than conservative. John Mackey was a . . . clutch the drapes . . . LIBERTARIAN!
So the unions called a Whole Foods boycott.
The knee-jerk tea party reaction was to protest the unions. That’s what we’d always done–get in the enemy’s face.
But Dr. Gina Loudon put on her psychologist hat and came up with a better solution. Instead of doing what the left expected, which would have been to play Goliath’s game, only weaker, Gina suggested we play a different game. We bring a slingshot.
The slingshot was a BUYcott.
Most tea partiers had never been to Whole Foods Market. We figured Whole Foods was for rich hippies who forgot (or ignored) that Reagan repealed the 60s. We didn’t know, then, that Whole Foods sells the stuff that our grandparents ate, back when “old age” was the leading cause of death.
So we showed up at the Town and Country Whole Foods on a hot day in September. And so did the press. Every local TV news station covered the story. Jon Stewart covered it on The Daily Show.
And that’s when Jack crashed into the house and shouted about seeing his dad on TV.
So, why was that BUYcott so special?
Because it got me on The Daily Show. Duh.
And it demonstrated that we could move the news cycle.
That guy who started the Whole Food boycott couldn’t have made it on TV without us. We were the story; he was the set-up.
Over 1,000 people shopped at Whole Foods for the first time in their lives that day. The spent over $50,000 (we scanned their receipts), making September 1, 2009, that store’s high-water market in revenue. The BUYcott was the first Tea Party event for about 60 percent of those 1,000 shoppers, based on random sampling of about 100 people.
The BUYcott broke the mold. We weren’t angry. There were no signs or flags. Everybody was happy. We learned about great foods. The people at the store loved us and made a lot of money. And a star of Disney on Ice took a cab to the Whole Foods after her performance to lend her support, because her family was tight with John Mackey.
At that moment, the St. Louis Tea Party had a choice: we could become a creative force for cultural change through positive activism, or we could apply our angry flash mob antics to the 2010 election.
We took the road more traveled. And, at least up to now, that’s made all the difference.
The difference is the pod culture, and our failure to arrest it. As Mr. Hunt says:
As much as it pains me to say this, Hume and Kant and Smith and the rest of the small-l liberal pantheon don’t have a whole lot to offer in our efforts to survive a pod people world. A voluntary acquiescence to the collectivist behavior demanded by the Common Knowledge game poses a huge problem for Hume and Kant and traditional liberalism. What if your independent use of reason and free will leads you to deny your independent use of reason and free will? What if the most effective way to act as if you believe that the Emperor is wearing beautiful clothes is to give yourself over to the crowd-generated reality and actually believe that the Emperor is wearing beautiful clothes?
Luckily, life is fluid. So is culture. And history. We don’t have to accept Hunt’s theory. I’m sure you don’t want Hunt to be right, even though there’s a lot of evidence to back him up.
So, I ask: in our quest to expose the Emperor’s nudity, do we yell at the crowd, “he’s bloody naked?” Or do we stitch together fine vestments worthy of a king?