Ron Paul Is Just the Latest to Claim He Started the Tea Party Movement

By: May 18, 2011

A little more than two years ago, I dialed in to a conference call.  It was another in a series of calls that a relatively few people joined to talk about how we could stop Congress from passing the Stimulus, and TARP, and the Auto Bailout, etc.  But this one was different.  I was galvanized by what someone said on a cable news channel the day before.  I did my best to tweet and retweet the clip and the conference call details so that as many people as possible could join in.  I had a feeling that this call was going to be special.  When I hung up a little more than an hour later, I knew my life was not going to be the same for a long time.

The ideas set into motion on that call changed the course of not just my own life, or the lives of the 96 other people who bravely stepped forward that week to help organize a series of rallies; but the shape of American politics.  (Maybe one day, if you’re interested, we can talk about it.)

As is often the case when an idea is successful, everyone wants to claim it was theirs.  This is certainly true of the Tea Party movement.  But before we get too far down the road, I’d like to offer a few corrections to help set the historical record straight:

1. The populist, grassroots movement whose core principals include Constitutionally Limited Government, Fiscal Responsibility, and Free Markets, that is generally referred to as “the Tea Party movement” was  born out of the nationwide rallies that were inspired by Rick Santelli’s rant in February, 2009; and organized and launched within a week by 97 Americans across the country who agreed to a general set of operating strategies, many of which are still in practice today.

2. The Tea Party movement  is a decentralized movement – an alliance of peers – run most often on the spare change found between the sofa cushions and a lot – A LOT – of volunteerism.

3. There is NOT a national leader, co-ordinator, or spokesperson for the movement.  I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

4. Ron Paul is NOT the ‘godfather’ of the movement.  Many Tea Party people are small-“l” libertarians, and like very much what Paul has to say on some things; but that’s it.

5. Big-“L” Libertarians tried for YEARS to spur a widespread acceptance of Libertarianism through initiatives named after the Boston Tea Party.  For whatever reason, it didn’t resonate with everyday Americans.

6. The Tea Party movement is NOT a third party.  In those rare instances where you see a political party called “Tea,” it is often the cynical creation of a political opportunist, and generally not supported by the local Tea Party groups.

7. The heart and soul of the Tea Party does not live in the offices of any national organization.  It lives in the hearts and minds of the millions of hardworking men and women across the country who see that the path to lasting prosperity and freedom in America begins at our own kitchen tables.

With its growth and vibrancy over the last two years, I expect a certain amount of situations where people and organizations try to harness, frame, re-frame, lay claim, lead, and otherwise ‘own’ the Tea Party Movement.  This list is long and growing.

The American Family Council was the first to try – although their cute little “TEA” acronym, “Taxed Enough Already,” stuck.  Next was Newt Gingrich.  A few of the original organizers periodically try, building an impressive record of bullying and lawsuits along the way.  Matt Kibbe, Dick Armey and their pals at FreedomWorks tried, too – going so far as to write a book about it. #fail

Those on the left, in the media, and especially the establishment right have desperately sought to define, identify, and quantify the Tea Party movement.  When they can’t find the leader, they pick one for us.  We know their names: Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and the aforementioned Ron Paul.  When they can’t find a spokesperson, they’ll take who they can get — which mostly amounts to generally well-meaning people that are not so much “Tea Party organizers” as a guy with an email list. Along the way, a few cunning entrepreneurs and opportunists have made a good living trading on the name and good will of the growing movement.

It’s no wonder.  While the Democrat and Republican Parties are losing heaps of membership and contributors, the Tea Party movement is growing by leaps and bounds.  All of the excitement and energy in American politics today resides in this well-known, people-driven movement; yet there is a distinct mystery about the movement — an ‘otherness’ that makes the Tea Party seem like something from another dimension.  Who is the leader?  How do they know what to do?  Who is paying them?  Are they a political party?

These are all questions worthy of a Voices of the Tea Party e-book. Mark Kevin Lloyd, who’s already written an e-book for the series, wrote a parable that describes the nature of our movement better than anything I have seen to date.

Consider a tall-ship sailing the high seas.  Picture the vessel as it pitches and rolls over the angry swells, its billowing sails straining against the lines.  The experts spend their time describing for the rest of us the curve of the hull, the planks of the deck, the stout masts, and the elegant rigging of the ship.

Is the she sea-worthy?  What about the crew?  Where is the captain?  How will they survive with no pilot at the helm?

They predict the inevitable destruction of this grand craft.  Surely the inexperienced crew will sail it into dangerous waters and crash it on the rocks.  So they begin the tragic tales that are to be told of how the ship and its crew were lost at sea, and the tales will become legend.  That may well be the case.  But it will not matter.

You see, the ship and the crew are not the Tea Party. The Tea Party is the wind.”
Mark is right.  The Tea Party is the wind.  It lives in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans; and it is they who will lead it, by leading themselves.

Christina Botteri is a co-founder of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, and is the social media strategist behind the successful launch of the Tea Party movement in February, March, and April of 2009. She can be reached on Twitter at ChristinaKb .

23 Responses to Ron Paul Is Just the Latest to Claim He Started the Tea Party Movement

  1. jk says:

    Ron Paul started the kind of movement the tea party continued. New people became involved later, many independent of influence by Ron’s supporters or campaign. But take a glance through this to see why people say Ron Paul’s campaign started the tea party — it isn’t JUST a one day fundraiser or people dressing up in three corner hats… It is fidelity to the Constitution, and messages he has been saying for decades. His campaign was a vehicle for people to express that message. Check it out:

  2. TheUnknownCat says:

    This article appears to be another case of someone trying to clam to be the tea Party -and yet another attempt to throw rocks at Ron Paul. There’s a lot of people that have known that The Constitution has been under attack for years, Ron Paul has been in a good position to make it public, and has been doing so for twenty-plus years. Welcome to the party, “TEA Party.”

  3. Tpain says:

    Lyman’s fundraiser highlights an “inflation tax.” The donation website,, links to a YouTube video in which Paul, during a TV appearance, explains the toll on citizens as the cost of living rises and the dollar declines in value.

  4. I agree. The tea party is the wind that fills the sails of everyone seeking a return to smaller, accountable government.

  5. Joshua Pratt says:

    “Ron Paul started the Tea Party like Al Gore invented the Internet”

  6. Excellent mini history of the tea party movement. I love the parable. It is important to set and keep the record straight so that as more concerned Americans step forward to “do something,” they will not be dissuaded by any labeling of the tea party movement.

  7. George Washington says:

    If I may please;
    American speaking to American, please I beg, look into Mr. Ron Paul’s issues and why he takes, as he always has, the positions he does.
    Mr. Ron Paul’s 2012 platform creates jobs!
    Strengthened dollar means increase in literal productivity do to the attractiveness of having “trust redeemable at any bank in the USA.” An increase in purchasing power due to a re-regulation of gold to back our paper dollar, would cancel inflation almost immediately.
    Lower fuel prices, lower food prices, lower retail prices + strengthen dollar = more spending power per dollar!
    That “more spending power” goes right back into the economy!
    Imagine how the above could help Your Family in the next 4 years?
    Imagine how the above could help Your Country in the next 4 years?
    Regan said, “what to ask is am I better off now than 4 years ago. Is food cheaper now than 4 years ago? Are taxes lower now than 4 years ago?”
    With Mr. Ron Paul’s 2012 platform, You, it and they will be.
    Please please please, give a serious look into what Mr. Paul’s platform represents.
    Long ago JFK called for the Nation to come together to touch the moon. 50 years ago exactly, we struggle to maintain even something as simple as a budget. Time for a non-bipartisan change please.
    Constitutionally, legislatively, and morally, Ron Paul has no equal. His 22 year voting record speaks for itself.
    Please help give America back Her Constitution.
    Ron Paul for President in 2012.
    Thank You

  8. George Washington says:

    Please Sir;

    Please cite where and when Mr. Ron Paul declared what You have claimed.

    I am entirely unaware of any material evidencing Your issue.

    Thank You for Your time

    Ron Paul 2012 for Republican Nom and President

  9. Nathan Pohlman says:

    Why is it these so called Tea Party group leaders have taken to disassociate themselves from Ron Paul so fervently? Maybe you don’t like that he is old or doesn’t have the charisma of a Reagan, or some of his libertarian leanings… Ron Paul is TEA Party through and through when it comes to economics and taxes. The media likes to attack Ron Paul just like they do the Tea Party because of the threat of changing business as usual in DC. Please look beyond the baseless attacks and sound bites and look at Ron Paul’s record. You don’t have to vote for him but his record should be Tea Party approved and his position on being 100% pro-life doesn’t hurt him either.

  10. Pingback: Ron Paul Is Just the Latest to Claim He Started the Tea Party Movement | Broadside Books | The Conservative Cowgirl

  11. Its Just Me says:

    I think the author of this article is referring to the “FOX news” TEA Party, you know, the one Sean Hannity is loyal to. The TEA Party that has Michelle Bachmann proudly announcing she is the leader of.

  12. David Houston says:

    Ron Paul may not have coined the name “Tea Party”, but he was fighting for most of the same values that Tea Partiers embrace, long before their was a Tea Party.

  13. Wayne says:

    To all you Ron Paul acolytes of religion called Ron Paul. Regardless of his outstanding dedication to the preservation of the Constitution of the United States there will not be a safe and secure United States if he is able to implement his wishes regarding Iran. I know you guys and gals are blind to the truth just as many Obamaites are and this is likely a waste of time but I must try just the same. Ron Paul’s position concerning Iran is foolish and dangerous not only to the U.S. but the world in general. The extremist leadership of Iran has sworn time and again to destroy the United States and annihilate Israel yet Ron Paul says it’s ok for them to have nuclear weapons. This is extremist isolationism on his part and cannot ever be permitted to be policy by the U.S. There can be no doubt that if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear capabilities that it will at a minimum sell or give away those nukes to terrorist who would do harm to America’s citizenry and it’s allies with those nuclear weapons. Anyone, whether Ron Paul or any other, who thinks it’s ok to let the number 1 state sponsor of terrorism around the globe have and control nuclear devices is in the least ignorant of the intentions of Iran and at worst a fool. If this is not a deal breaker for you regarding Ron Paul then you should examine yourself to see if you have a cult mentality because only a cultist would drag his family, along with himself, to blindly follow another man into oblivion.

  14. Joey Gallagher says:

    Ron Paul has had the courage to stand up for Tea Party believes even when the Republicans were in power. Dr. Paul has never voted to raise taxes or voted for an unbalanced budget in his 24 year service as a Congressman. He may not be the leader of the Tea Party- because no one is- but no one can deny that Ron Paul has been the Modern Patriot this country needs.

  15. BeveM says:

    If it wasn’t for Ron Paul, I and hundreds of thousands of others never would have attended that first tea party event. It was he, shouting in the darkness for decades about fiscal responsibility and smaller government whose message reached out and grabbed us. Rick Santelli may have had the idea to capitalize on Ron Paul’s ideas, but Ron Paul was decades ahead of him. To deny this is simply lies from a coalition trying to steer the Tea Party into establishment republicanism. A thing it is surely not!

  16. John Webb says:

    How about we care less about what we call the movement or who started it… and care more about what we stand for… smaller, less intrusive government that doesn’t harbor a welfare state. Ask England how warm, fuzzy, take care of everyone with a free ride policy has worked out.

  17. Some guy says:

    I guess most of you didn’t actually read the article. This was not an attack on Ron Paul. This was basically saying the Tea Party Movement was not founded by one person, has no leaders, and is not organized by one person. They did, however, say that the Tea Party agrees with Mr. Paul on a lot of issues, but not all. I’m not sure what your idea of attack is, but that does not sound like one to me. So please, before you start raging about the title of an article, read it through. There are many good points made in this article. Again I would like to reiterate that the Tea Party Movement has no leaders so anybody claiming to be is false.

  18. Dale Winler says:

    Ron Paul was doing the heavy lifting for principles near and dear to the latter day `Tea Party’ long before they even got rolling. So diss him while patting yourself on the back all you like. Long time students of politics understand the score.

  19. Ty Boofer says:

    Ron Paul planted the seeds and those who rode his coat tail decided to jump ship and use the face because at that time so many thought of Ron as Radical. No, Ron Paul is not the Tea Party. Ron Paul is Ron Paul, always has been and always will be.

  20. Jake says:

    Ron never said he started it…you liars. He said his grassroots supporters kinda just started it as a grassroots moneybomb effort in 2007. Then special interests and establishment jumped in to co-opt the movement. Much like this page and the establishment Tea Party Express organization that is as phony as a three dollar bill. And Ron is the MOST conservative of all the candidates. IF you define conservative in terms of the size and scope and spending of government….Ron easily destroys all others as being the most conservative candidate. I am amazed that many still dont even know the definition of conservative or what it even means…you are all like oh we need to spend all this money we dont have on wars and TSA molestation and fighting those darn drug dealers who deal raw milk…and keep growing the size of the Dept of Edu. that we once stood for abolishing……..

  21. mellard says:

    For those of you that think this was started 2 or so years ago.. Here’s your proof that the Tea Party WAS in fact a Ron Paul grass roots supporters group that re-formed in 2007 in Austin Texas. I rode my motorcycle down there and WAS part of it… Watch the video here – I cant change the news stories about it:

    To the author of this article – You need to get your facts together before posting junk stories like this.

  22. Ryan says:,_and_now_it_could_take_him_down

    Say what you want but the modern Tea Party Movement was born in 2007 when Ron Paul’s grass roots supporters held an online “money bomb” to support his campaign on the day of the Boston Tea Party.

    Ron Paul never said he started or lead the Tea Party.


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