Tea Party Boot Camp

Occupy Providence is getting the ink, but the Rhode Island Tea Party keeps plugging along. The latest: the group is sponsoring a boot camp for potential candidates next month that will bring in trainers from the non-profit American Majority.

The group, based in Purcellville, Virginia, is the brainchild of twin brothers Ned and Drew Ryun, sons of former Congressman Jim Ryun, a Kansas Republican. In 2005, the pair drafted a plan to create a “systematic, year-in year-out, 365-days-a-year approach to identifying and training people to be a national farm team of conservative leaders.”

The group, as the statement would suggest, is focused on electing local officials who can become something more in time. “Today’s county commissioner, tomorrow’s congressman," Ned Ryun said last year, in an interview with the Daily Caller. "You’ve got to feed the system.”

That local focus is vitally important for conservatives in a place like Rhode Island, which has built a woefully thin GOP bench over the years. And while no training, however clever, will overthrow Democratic rule in Rhode Island's General Assembly anytime soon, it just takes a few talented up-and-comers to take advantage of targets of opportunity in, say, the governor's office or the state's Congressional delegation.

A failure to do so explains how the GOP wound up with an unknown like John Robitaille as its gubernatorial nominee last year. And he came close to winning. Imagine how a more established figure - say a Republican Secretary of State or Treasurer who had worked her way up through the ranks - might have fared.

Electoral politics is not the only theater of war, of course. And American Majority also offers training in Internet activism. Taki Oldham, for his film (Astro)Turf Wars, secretly recorded an American Majority training session and found the trainer, Austin James, offering up this advice:

“Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in 'Liberal Books.' I go through and I say 'one star, one star, one star.' The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in 'Movies on Healthcare,' I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”

Of course, if the comments on the Providence Journal's web site are any indication, the right isn't having too much trouble, here, getting its partisans behind their keyboards.

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