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Lessons of Leadership, Non-Leadership and Alliance in Political Movements

By: Antony Stark

The Tea Party Movement is now part of history… and while its legacy lives on in the Freedom Caucus in the Congress, in conservative TV networks such as OAN and Newsmax, in politicians such as Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul who have become open enemies of the RINO leadership in the Republican Party and, of course, with the continued presence of President Donald Trump and the MAGA Movement, it may prove worthwhile to examine the lessons it can teach a new generation of activists found among right-leaning Gen-Zs and Millennials.

During the time the Tea Party Movement (TPM) was in action, there was a great fear of it being co-opted by a single “leader” who could be used as a symbol for the movement’s totality.  Given the nature of the enemy found on the Left, both in the Democrat Party as well as in their virtual public relations firm in the Liberal News Media, Tea Party members were loath to fix all their hopes on one person.  They were rightfully fearful that such a focus would allow their enemies to easily smear the whole movement with the moral failures or crimes or corruption of a single individual. Many in the movement were familiar with the book, “The Starfish and the Spider – the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” and utilized the decentralization of power strategy it recommended.

To be frank, criticism of this “non-leadership” or rather “associative leadership” approach is very valid.

But to understand the mindset that produced it… as well as how to learn how not to make the mistakes inherent in its approach, requires an understanding of how much the TPM despised the failure of the RINOs, especially in the wake of the McCain presidential run in 2008.

At one of the first large rallies in Washington DC, McCain, the former standard-bearer of only a few months before, was roundly booed every time his name was mentioned; further, except for Mike Pence (a relatively unknown congressman at the time) and Sen. Jim DeMint, not one, single elected Republican congressional member from either chamber had the political courage to publicly address a crowd of over 100,000 conservative voters, with whose views they supposedly were aligned.  Such was their fear of hurting their relationships with the RINO leadership and/or their intimate connections to it.

Second, as the TPM rapidly grew, the execrable Republican National Committee, then led by Michael Steele (a corrupt hack and “Never Trumper” now seen regularly trashing conservatives with other RINO turncoats on the unwatchable MSLSD program “Morning Joe”) moved in to try to co-opt it… including selling pins and coffee cups depicting GOP elephants holding tea cups in their trunks on their website.

Worse, there was the fear that one or another Tea Party group would “seize control” of a Movement that did NOT desire such control and saw such attempts as actions taken by self-serving individuals looking to make a buck off it by turning it into a business… as some of them certainly tried to do and others clearly did.

In fact, some of these hucksters still exist today in one form or another, accomplishing nothing except constantly fundraising on conservative issues in order to be able to… continue to fundraise.

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But the Tea Party was not synthetic; it was organic and its power vis-a-vis the GOP leadership was centered in its ability to not be controlled by them or by self-promoters looking to exploit its popularity for profit.  While this is still an important aspect of the conservative struggle with the RINO “moderates,” at the time it was seen by Establishment Republican “leadership” circles as both dangerous and revolutionary.

In fact, the deep animus towards the MAGA Movement by today’s so-called “Never Trumpers” had its origin in their elitist disdain for the support the grassroots, man-in-the-street had for the Tea Party that eventually gravitated toward Trump when he came on the scene several years later.

Add to all this the fact that the TPM was committed to de-centralization because it was against the failed, centralized “leadership” of the GOP and their inevitably RINO candidates.  One can see why they shied away from focusing on a leader; they were very wary that the Enemedia would focus on one leader, smear whatever foible they found in him or her and use it to tear down the whole Movement as they later proved very capable of doing when they went after Trump as he emerged as the de-facto leader of those on the Right – both in his own Base as well as Constitutional Conservatives in the former TPM – who flocked to him.

However, whatever the reasons, the critique regarding its non-leadership strategy is compelling; that is, the main failure of the TPM was its inability to crack the leadership cadre of the GOP and replace it with its own, with the same effectiveness that the socialist Base penetrated the policy and direction of the Democrat Party.

For all its electoral success, the TPM was never able to affect such a “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party and dominate its corporate “leadership” wing from the Base with the same celerity the much smaller, but more radically determined and potentially violent, Leftwing Base of the Democrat Party was able to intimidate the corporate wing of its own party run by Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and their cronies in Congress. 

Acceptance of radical policies such as the Green New Deal, Critical Race Theory, Packing the Supreme Court, and Defunding the Police all moved into the “mainstream” of Democrat Party ideology.  Most recently, the radical Left in the Socialist Squad led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez forced the Biden Administration to order the CDC to extend the Federal Eviction Moratorium despite the White House previously indicating that President Biden did not have the authority to extend the ban, given a June Supreme Court ruling that said only Congress can enact such a ban.

Evidence of this failure on the TPM’s part could be seen much earlier during CPAC in 2012 and there were heated debates between attendees who aligned with the TPM vs. supporters of Mitt Romney, all of whom swore he was “really” a conservative; in fact, I and several others rather loudly and pointedly walked out on his 25-minute speech in which he used the word “conservative” ~21 times – or almost once a minute – in reference to himself… in a ludicrous act of political cross-dressing.

TPM power was such that many primary candidates went after their votes in 2012… in fact, too many.

Pro-TPM candidates who reached the head of the primary race pack came and went as the Enemedia… and the RINOs… focused their negative criticism on each of them in turn.

Every verbal misstep was exaggerated, every minor error was deemed disqualifying and any lie, no matter how ridiculous regarding the candidate, was portrayed as credible.

This, in conjunction with the RINO “leadership’s” strong, united support for Romney to the detriment of the fragmented conservative candidates was a perfect example of the pitfalls of the de-centralized approach as national security conservatives supported one candidate, social conservatives supported another and fiscal conservatives supported someone else.

In fact, this pitfall indicates a substantial truth regarding the “non-leadership” critique: viz. that lack of a clear leader able to unite the disparate factions may have been an important down-side to the anti-centralization drift of the TPM in that it prevented the Movement from coalescing around a single candidate until 2016. By that time the TPM was spent as an organizing force and existed only as a block of conservative voters.

That block initially went largely for Ted Cruz, as I and my co-author Bob MacGuffie did… but while campaigning for Cruz in New Hampshire we found that, despite all the histrionics they aimed at each other, Trump was the second choice of Cruz supporters and Cruz was the second choice of Trump supporters.

When Trump won the nomination, almost all Cruz supporters went over to him.

It is now clear that there was a downside negative to the decentralized nature of the TPM, though I think it is debatable that it was a total net negative.

That is, it did set the conservatives as clearly apart from the RINOs as they had been since 1964 and it put far more conservative pressure on the Establishment GOP leadership than it ever had to face since that time.

In 2009 I wrote an early article, shown below, on the TPM (published under a pseudonym, as I was working for one of the three mainstream broadcasting networks at the time, and they are NOT known for their open mind toward noisy conservatives who work for them) that was published by American Thinker. It had, I think, some influence on the Movement and generally encapsulated our feelings at the time.

In reviewing it, it seems to me to basically lay out the positives of the non-leadership approach; but with hindsight, I feel that it must be amended.

The article deals with the concept of politics as being akin to “Complexity Theory,” which “…deals with understanding the processes which are involved in the workings of highly complicated, interrelated systems in various areas: ecology, sociology, economics, computers and many other disciplines.”

Such highly complicated processes do not lend themselves to being “led,” but rather do the “leading” themselves.  They tend to “self-organize,” are not subject to tight control and remain largely invisible until they are put into motion.

As I wrote:

“Uncontrollability is the essence of complexity.  When unexpected sub-surface interconnections shift, all its pent-up energy shakes the surface of the political sand pile.  Attempts to deny or control this are doomed.  An organic political movement can’t be channeled or “led” any more than an unsuspected landslide can be channeled or “led”.”

As indicated in the article, the success of the TPM almost exactly fit this mold, much to the horror of the Democrats and the chagrin of the RINO Republican “leadership.”

While I think the above remains the case, the fact is that lack of a central focus for the action… i.e., that which is put into motion… is detrimental to riding that motion to the desired destination or goal.

Allowing itself to remain fragmented and decentralized, no matter how ideologically satisfying and, given the nature of the opposition, practical, this approach appeared at the time, it became highly problematic to achieving the TPM’s political goals.

It now seems clear that the way to avoid the detriments of de-centralized leadership and still maintain ideological integrity lies in “Alliance.”

That is, primarily, in an Alliance between the Constitutional Conservatives and the MAGA Movement Trumpers, who share the unbreakable bond of opposition to both the RINO Republican turncoats as well as the hate-America crowd in the New Socialist Democrat Anti-semite Partei (aka, the N.S.D.A.P.)

It must continue to add to this Alliance by bringing in parents opposed to their children’s minds being raped by Critical Race Theory in schools, manufacturing workers and small business owners being sacrificed on an altar of unfair Trade Treaties, radical, business-killing environmental regulations and neo-Fascistic “Health Emergency” laws used as an excuse to shut down the economy and stifle liberty.  It must extend the gains Donald Trump made among Black and Hispanic voting groups and welcome them as allies.

Finally, it must clearly place principle in line with practicality and recognize that such an Alliance must coalesce around a single leadership focus. 

To do this it must reject any who pretend to be “leaders” who at the same time undercut the goals of the Alliance.  This would especially include the RINO Establishment, which should have been purged from the party long ago and sent over to the other party, who’s interests it has well served for so many years.

The leadership of the Alliance must be strong enough to face not only the calumnies and political attacks of the Left, but be cognizant that an onslaught by the Enemedia is inevitable and unavoidable; it should not seek to mitigate such affronts by either the Left or the Enemedia but instead vehemently counter-attack against them both.

The Alliance needs to understand, as the Left already understands regarding itself, that there are no enemies on the Right. It cannot tolerate the principles of the Alliance being sold out by the likes of Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney, Joe Scarborough, the Never Trumpers or all the rest of the flaccid RINOs who lie languid and self-satisfied in the RNC, happily servicing their campaign donors while cutting mutually profitable deals with their Big Government counterparts in the N.S.D.A.P.

Whether it be Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis or whoever it is that, by their record of accomplishment, their absolute commitment to Alliance principles, their success and fortitude in taking the fight to the increasingly neo-Marxist Left and their open defiance of RINO subterfuge, there must be a central leadership focus, or the battle will be lost before it can truly begin.

Antony Stark and Bob MacGuffie are authors of the new book “The Seventh Crisis – Why Millennials Must Re-Establish Ordered Liberty,” which seeks to offer the Millennial and Gen-Z generations a way out of the dangerous crisis it currently faces.


Original Article

October 6, 2009

The Shifting Political Sand Pile

By Antony Stark

Why did the Tea Party / Town Hall protests surprise so many in the political establishment?  Why did they make Democrats recoil in horror and send Republicans running for cover when confronted by them?  Why did the White House claim to be unaware of the protests and the media feel compelled to ignore and diminish them even when they mobilized hundreds of thousands in demonstrations around the country?

Why did the NY Times find “unnamed ‘Republican officials’… fret over a backlash” to the Tea Parties and downplay their significance?  Why are Republicans “wary of the anger directed at all politicians”?  After all, the politicians that this strong, passionate grass-roots movement are mostly angry with are Democrats.

The answer may be found in something called “Complexity Theory”.

Complexity Theory deals with understanding the processes which are involved in the workings of highly complicated, interrelated systems in various areas: ecology, sociology, economics, computers and many other disciplines.

To better understand the relation of Complexity Theory to politics, let’s examine a deceptively simple system: a pile of sand.

Imagine grains of sand, all exactly the same size and weight and all being dropped at the same rate onto a flat metal dish one grain at a time. At first there appears to be no organized symmetry to the placement of the grains which spread all over the dish.  Eventually however, the grains “self-organize”; that is, they tend to pile up in the center of the plate.  As more of the grains are dropped, the pile eventually grows into a small cone in the center of the dish.  Of course, the surface of the cone is the most easily visible part of it, but it represents a minority of the entire pile which exists inside the cone.

With each new grain of sand placed on the surface of the pile the stresses on the internal grains, pushed and pressured against each other by the increasing number of new grains dropped on the surface, grows.  One internal grain pushes on another nearby; that grain, under its own pressures, presses against one in close proximity to it that exerts pressure on a series of grains in some direction.  This incredibly complicated and virtually unpredictable interconnecting pressure and counter-pressure ultimately releases itself someplace on the surface, causing a mass movement of grains in a “landslide”.  The location of the “landslide” on the surface of the cone can’t be predicted nor “controlled” no matter how much one tries to tinker with the weight of the grains or the location where or the rate at which they are dropped.  The internal sand grain stresses are as completely invisible to those grains on the surface as subterranean fault lines are invisible to surface dwelling people that are affected by them during an earthquake.

Surface dwellers continue on as usual, ignorant of the pressures on the grains which will eventually cause their placid world to wildly shift.  Some of those surface grains will be buried in the “landslide” released by energy resulting from internal pressures.  Should the pressure on the internal grains be very powerful and widespread, the entire shape of the sand pile cone may drastically destabilize and appear greatly changed.

Applying this model is useful in explaining the current political reality.

Since Barack Obama announced his presidential campaign, a series of events have dropped like grains on top of the sand pile of American politics

These events and issue “sand grains” include Obama’s personal story, his radical associations, TARP 1, wide-scale Republican defeats, the Mortgage Crisis, the Recession, AIG, the Auto Industry and Bank bailouts, the multi-trillion dollar stimulus, the pork-laden omnibus spending bill, the apology tour, the worsening war in Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, the unread 1000 page bills, the numerous unconfirmed “Czars”, media complicity in the Obama personality cult, the rancorous Health Care debate, ACORN and more…

With each new grain dropped the underlying stresses grew more intense until certain interior political grains, which constitute the overwhelming majority, began to move, unseen and undetected by those enjoying a false stability on the surface.

Pressures caused them to press against each other because of the weight of the issue and event “grains” being dropped above.  The pressure grew until the unseen series of interactions between interior conservative and progressive grains caused an unexpected reaction on the surface.

For example, “Right Principles”, was a conservative grassroots “sand-grain” created in reaction to events taking place on the surface.  It posted an innocuous memo on an obscure website regarding how to get noticed by disdainful politicians in Town Hall meetings, which was randomly picked from the millions of internet interconnections and distorted by a Leftwing interior grain ( on the other side of the sand pile that propagated the memo virally.

This shift was neither deliberate nor controlled. But once set in motion, it made its way to the surface and caused a tremor.  Seeking to exploit the Think Progress distortion the Democrat National Committee, which currently dominates the surface crust, decided to “take control of the story” and change the narrative from one of genuine protest into one of manufactured conspiracy theory.

They sought to control events and use it for their own ends via the de-legitimization of all conservative “grains”, most of which were totally unaware of Right Principles itself before the memo was popularized by the DNC.

Instead of control they fueled a grassroots revolution.

Stresses between the subsurface grains destabilized the conditions on the usually tranquil surface causing an uncontrollable landslide which is now threatening to engulf Obama’s health care plan, his popularity and a slew of swing district Blue Dogs in its wake.

Although initially stunned, the surface dwellers reacted as usual: they attempted to control the landslide with kneejerk, bare-knuckled tactics.  But tactics that were very successful in a 20th Century media environment of newspapers, “Fairness Doctrines” and network television are not adapted to the far more open, interconnected and decentralized nature of a 21st Century encompassing multiple cable TV stations, Talk Radio and limitless internet sources.

The Big Lie technique worked with one family radio in the 1930s or 3 TV stations in the 1970s or a few cable channels in the 1980s.  But now everyone with a laptop in the basement is a reporter, every Mom is a celebrity on Facebook and everybody with a website is an activist.

In this environment the DNC’s lie was completely exposed in 3 days and galvanized the conservatives.

The more those on the surface, especially Statists who are defined by their desire to control, tried to manipulate the uncontrollable (by attempting to disparage and de-legitimize conservative protest) the more intense the protests grew.

The Republicans face a similar situation, but also have an opportunity… if they are smart enough to seize it.

While they gloat over the Democrats’ problems they are fearful for their own electoral safety since they dread that what is occurring on the Democrat side of the surface will happen to them.  Their own outdated attempts to control or co-opt it may prove equally inadequate; surface landslides may also engulf them.

But they cannot control the landside and attempting to do so will destroy them in the process.  It cannot be comforting for Republicans to look out at 100,000 plus people on the Washington mall, who should all be part of their natural constituency, booing any mention of their last presidential candidate and cheering speeches that proclaim their movement is not “Republican”.  This begs the question: “Why isn’t it?”

Republicans must understand that interior constituencies are creating new surface configurations; to survive in those configurations requires abandoning their delusional fiction of a Big Tent and understand that establishment Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) may find themselves becoming extinct in this new environment.

After all, can anything be more existentially futile than trying to ride an extinct animal to victory?

Uncontrollability is the essence of complexity.  When unexpected sub-surface interconnections shift, all its pent-up energy shakes the surface of the political sand pile.  Attempts to deny or control this are doomed.  An organic political movement can’t be channeled or “led” anymore than an unsuspected landslide can be channeled or “led”.

It isn’t “led”; it leads.

This de-centralized, interconnected, uncontrollable movement is 21st Century politics.  It has made the top-down mentality increasingly irrelevant or obsolete. To survive and prosper, one must understand that the only certainty is that the very nature of modern society precludes political certainty.

To succeed one must understand decentralized, organic power is NOT subject to the sclerotic thinking associated with the centralized control mentality of the 20th Century.

This obsolescent mentality plagues the political outlook of both dinosaur parties, who arrogantly think their ability to control events is permanent.  It blinds them to the tectonic political plates shifting below which can, quite suddenly, alter the entire shape of politics in this country.