two housewives, “founders of tea party movement”

I’d always wondered whether or not ordinary housewives could run the country. Looks like last night’s election proved that they can. Evidently we can do the extraordinary, when we decide to put our passion and energies behind a task. I’m sure all women will agree that’s a “no-brainer.” When wives and moms decide to do something, they do it, like Margaret Whitman, creator of the multi-billion dollar business, E-Bay.

Sarah Palin’s first brush with the media was as a beauty queen. Setting her sights on politics, she became mayor of little known Wasila, and then governor of Alaska, and then GOP candidate for VP. While she and McCain lost the presidential election, Palin landed back in front of the cameras. While she may not have been the media’s darling then, mainstream reporters seem to be back pedaling now. This morning on CNN, the political spin-meisters spoke of her as a force with which to be reckoned, especially in the 2012 election. OMG, I thought! Talk about going the “way the wind blows.”

I’m a liberal, too compassionate to turn my back on those needing a “hand-up.” My husband and I, both from large families, 12 and 9 siblings, respectively, are inclined to “give back,” and “pay it forward.” But I do understand the frustration of those on the unemployment lines, those who are barely making “ends meet,” those whose homes are “under water” because of foreclosures next door, those whose businesses are struggling, those who want a balanced budget, those who want less government, and those of us on Main Street who are fed up with the millionaires on Wall Street. Might I just add here, why are we still making millionaires of athletes, and celebrities, and doctors “playing” the Medicare system? I’d just as soon take all the money we’re pouring into these peoples’ pockets, and help the homeless, the abused, those unable to get health insurance.

While I may disagree with conservative efforts to take the country backwards, I have to applaud Amy Kremer and Jenny Beth Martin, Atlanta housewives who are the geniuses behind the Tea Party movement. According to the Wall Street Journal’s  “Birth of a Movement-Tea Party Arose from Conservatives Steeped in Crisis,” on 10/29, both women “were 30-something suburbanites…frustrated by recession, dismayed by the election of Barack Obama and waiting for the next chapter of their lives.” Quitting her career as a Delta flight attendant to raise her daughter, Kremer turned to blogging after becoming an empty-nester, “one on gardening, one on politics. ‘I had this empty space in my life’… Ms. Martin, a software manager by training and part-time blogger, was cleaning houses to help pay the bills after her husband’s temporary-staffing business collapsed. They were in danger of losing their home.” Martin was enraged after Senator Saxby Chambliss, in whose campaign she had been a volunteer, voted in favor of President Bush’s bail out of Wall Street banks. In her estimation, ” ‘Sometimes it stinks when your business goes bad. But it’s part of our system….The government doesn’t need to come in and hold a business up and keep it from failing.’ ”

In the span of a few weeks in February and March 2009, the two women met on a conference call and helped found the first major national organization in the tea-party movement. Within months, they became two of the central figures in the most dynamic force in U.S. politics this year.

Ms. Kremer, 39, currently chairs the political action committee known as the Tea Party Express. It has raised millions of dollars for upstart candidates and engineered the campaign that threatens Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Once shy about public speaking, today she crisscrosses the country addressing thousands at a time. ‘Are you ready to fire Harry Reid?’ Ms. Kremer bellowed to a crowd of 2,000 in Reno, Nev., this month.

Ms. Martin, 40, is national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group claiming affiliation with nearly 3,000 local groups around the U.S. Leaving her young son and daughter at home, she is on a 30-city tour, revving up activists for the victory she is counting on next Tuesday.

‘This was something I had to do,’ Ms. Martin says. ‘There were just so many of us who were fed up with the Republican Party.’

 Comprised mostly of middle-aged, middle-class citizens with little political experience, “a braid of many strands of discontent and passion, ranging from opposition to illegal immigration and a national sales tax to support for gun rights. A vocal faction questioning Mr. Obama’s legal eligibility to be president provided another source of grassroots fuel.” If John McCain’s campaign was a “babe” in the internet “woods,” the Tea Party political machine seems hell-bent on giving Obama’s proven internet savvy a “run for its money” in 2012.

Many conservatives felt Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign had never fully exploited the Internet to raise money and unite disparate activists. The Obama team had proven deft at harnessing technology.

And so the TEA PARTY MOVEMENT was born online, in the internet universe.

  • Michael Patrick Leahy, a Nashville technology consultant,  built a network of like-minded activists
  • Eric Odom, among the above, compiled a large list of activists “through a group working to lift the offshore-drilling ban”
  • Stacy Mott, started a blog for conservative women, “Smart Girl  Politics,” launching a website by the same name which drew in Kremer and Martin from Atlanta
  • Keli Carender, arranged the first protest, drawing 120 like-minded activists, after it was broadcast on a local talk-radio show and written up online by Fox news consultant Michelle Malkin
  •  On 2/19/09, in response to the $75 billion dollar bailout for homeowners unable to pay their mortgages, CNBC financial commentator Rick   Santanelli  started the “rant” when, broadcasting live from the Chicago Board of Trade, exclaimed ‘This is America! …How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?’ To the cheers of traders behind him, he continued ‘We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July’… “The rant went viral.”
  • After massive internet organizing among all of the above parties, 50 rallies occurred simultaneously nationwide. Within a year, 2,000 local tea party groups were formed around the country.
  • Wealthy interests threw their support behind the movement, like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, “groups born from a conservative think tank formed in the 1980s by members of the Koch family, who run oil-and-gas conglomerate Koch Industries Inc.”
  •  On 4/12/10, Kremer said she wasn’t boasting in claiming ‘I started this’ when she began a social-networking website called “Tea Party Patriots,” the name her husband recommended.
  • Enter the media. Fox TV’s Glenn Beck “launched his own initiative, the 9/12 project,” as well as touted the Tea Party’s 4/15 rallies, as did Sean  Hannity, and blogger Malkin.
  • Hundreds of thousands of “tea partiers” “gathered in city halls, at post offices, at town squares, parks, and along busy streets.
  • The “Tea Party Express” was formed when Sal Russo, Reagan’s adviser in the 60s and 70s, re-energized a 2008 political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better, as a “tea-party-themed group.” With Joe Wierzbicki, a colleague, they spread the word on a cross-country bus tour. In 2 years the newly christened group raised more than $7 million.
  • Tea Party Patriots, among them Kremer and Martin, maintained a nonpartisanship stance, preferring to stand for issues, and not endorsing specific candidates. On the other hand, Tea Party Express “wanted to raise money for candidates and engineer campaigns.”

The break between the two factions of the Tea Party movement, found its momentun when Obama pushed for massive, health-care reform.

  • FreedomWorks, in its “Healthcare Freedom Action Kit,” suggested ways to omit socialized medicine from the budget.
  • A Patriot coached members on how to “Rock-the-boat…’Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge’ the representative. ‘The goal is to rattle him.’
  • The Patriots, except for Kremer, declined to participate in the Express’  first bus tour, since the groups had different philosophies.
  • Taking part in the D.C. rally organized by Beck’s “9 1/2 Project,” which drew 75,000, Kremer returned home ” ‘a changed person…I didn’t need to stand in the shadows of Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (activist and Grass Valley, California Internet marketer and attorney)…I felt good about myself.’ “
  • Prominent Florida physician and tea-party activist David McKalip whipped up a storm when he Googled “a doctored image of Mr. Obama as a a tribal witch doctor with a bone through his nose…” In an email to the Wall Street Journal, he publicly apologized. Kremer defended him, to the dismay of other Patriots. ” ‘David, we all support you fully and are here for you…I can assure you of one thing and that is we will protect our own. We all have your back, my friend.’ “
  • In August 2009, the Tea Party incorporated with a 4 person board, Ms. Martin, Ms. Kremer, Mr. Meckler and Rob Neppell, a conservative blogger. “But relations quickly deteriorated…Ms. Kremer indicated she had hired her own lawyers and might try to claim ownership of the group’s intellectual property, according to an affidavit from Ms. Martin. A few weeks later, she was voted off the board.”
  • Kremer shifted to the Tea Party Express, urging it to back Scott Brown, for the Senate seat vacated by Edward Kennedy.
and as they say…”the rest is history”…hugmamma.
 
 
 
 
 

 

“service with a smile”

Having both worked in service-oriented jobs for many years, with my husband still in the business, we agree that customer service is a “dying art.” Shopping on the Internet has made it more convenient for consumers to surf the global market for all their needs. An appealing product, savvy marketing and a credit card completes the transaction. There’s no need to interface with a flesh-and-blood person. After all, Google can answer any of your questions. And if you’ve got a hankering for “warm and fuzzy,” click on “smiley face” or download your choice of YouTube videos, to get your endorphins moving.  

Businesses grew by leaps and bounds when consumers had quantities of disposable income. Customer service was unnecessary, so it became a thing of the past. A few retailers, like some purveyors of travel and TV’s QVC, continued their traditional practice of being solicitous towards customers. But some, like E-Bay, Amazon.com, Craig’s List, department stores, supermarkets, drugstores, fast-food chains, medical practitioners and airlines, may have opted to minimize service in favor of quick turnover, with a “get ’em in, get ’em out,” attitude.

With the downturn in the economy, companies are scrambling to win back customers who have fewer dollars to spend. Customer service may be on the rise again. I hope so. It doesn’t cost businesses more to have employees smile, offer a warm greeting, listen with patience, offer options for resolution, and express appreciation for ongoing patronage. However, a company may want to invest in customer service training. Even employees with impeccable manners and the greatest intentions, will meet their match in irate persons. I know, I’ve sat on both sides of the desk.

In my mid-20’s I worked as a customer service agent for the Hawaii Medical Service Association in Honolulu. It represents Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the islands. I had extensive training in the technical aspects of HMSA’s policies so that I could answer policyholder questions. I did so in person, and on the phone. I enjoyed helping people, especially when I could clarify or demystify the finer points of their coverage. Receiving their thanks, and seeing their smiles when they turned to leave, was extremely gratifying. Of course, there were some who were disgruntled with what I had to say. And there were a few who insisted upon speaking with my supervisor, hoping his response would be different. Sometimes a review was scheduled, but often his answer confirmed mine. One particular encounter left me “shaking” in my muumuu (long, Hawaiian dress).

A gentleman from the island of Molokai had called, unhappy with a bill payment. I think it was a hospital claim, probably of a sizeable amount. I explained how the insurance carrier had determined his coverage. Unhappy with the information, I can only imagine how the man’s eyes bulged, his belly heaved, and how difficult it might have been to breathe, as he screamed profanities through the telephone. The tirade continued when I handed the call over to my boss. We were mistaken to think we’d heard the last of the policyholder. Not long after, the huge Hawaiian man  arrived at our offices, having made the flight specifically to address us in person. I gladly introduced him to my supervisor, who withdrew to the privacy of his office, with the angry islander in tow. I think someone from upper management eventually joined the conversation, but I don’t remember the outcome. Needless to say, the experience left me wary.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been the irate customer. However I’ve certainly done my fair share of yelling, I’m sorry to say. But it’s always been when I felt inconsequential, the company having already snagged my business. There was the time we’d refinanced with a bank at a low-interest rate. Because the appraiser hadn’t submitted his report on time, our rate was due to be increased. Not until I spoke with the President’s secretary, shedding tears of frustration, did she resolve the matter in our favor. 

When my 19-year-old daughter’s VISA bill showed an annual $85 fee for fraud protection on a credit limit of $500, I went ballistic! If she didn’t pay the fee, she’d be slapped with a finance charge. And if that kept up, she’d reach her allowed max in no time.  It was ludicrous that a billion dollar corporation would take advantage of a teenager. Unfamiliar with marketing schemes, my daughter thought VISA’s $2 rebate check was a reward for opening a bank account. Cashing the check actually signed her up for credit card protection, as indicated on the back, in fine print. My nonstop tirade failed to move the customer rep until I asked how she’d feel if her teenager had been scammed. The rep agreed to remove the fee, without requesting repayment of the rebate.

Purchasing a used sofa back table in Atlanta for $300, I agreed to pay the dealer another $265 to ship it to my home in Washington state. He shipped with a small, regional carrier because of its comparatively low-cost. When the merchandise arrived in Tacoma, my husband was told that the price had escalated to $600. In speaking with the seller, I learned that the price change had occurred within the shipper’s bureaucracy. The clerk with whom the transaction originated, wrote up the piece as a “sofa bed,” not a “sofa back table.” Sight unseen, the receiving office modified the price accordingly. When we asked that they open the crate to verify that it was a table, not a sofa bed, we were aghast when the amount shot up to $800+. No reason was given, but I surmised the decision was made that the piece was an antique. If I refused to pay the exorbitant price to retrieve my belonging, it could be sold locally for a hefty sum. After phone calls to 3 different offices, I was directed to the company’s corporate offices in Alabama. I wrote a letter describing, in great detail, the events leading up to my outrage. I addressed it to the President of the freight company, copying the President of its parent company, and express mailed both. It was sent on a Saturday, and I followed up with a call on Tuesday. Long story short, the Tacoma branch delivered the table to my husband for the originally quoted price of $261. That didn’t include door-to-door transportation, but it did in my case.

Who wants the grief that accompanies confrontation? Not me, that’s for certain. I’d just as soon turn my back, leaving it to those with hardier constitutions. But as I’ve indicated in my earlier posting, “put a ‘face’ on the ‘unknown,’ ” sometimes I’m integrity gone amuck! As with most people, there’s a “line” which when crossed, Mr. Jekyl steps in for Dr. Hyde. At that point, I become “warrior mom,” battling until my opponent is “face down,” eating dust from under my high-heeled stiletto, specifically removed from moth balls for the occasion. 

In my travel experiences from one end of the country to the other, southerners and Hawaiians exude genuine warmth and hospitality. The tellers at my mother-in-law’s bank welcome her with sunny smiles, and assist patiently with any questions she may raise. I find Southern wait staff gracious in their greetings, and their drawls hold my attention as they enticingly describe the “specials of the day.” What both ethnicities share is a slower paced lifestyle. That seems to translate to great customer service. Of course, as with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. But I enjoy spending time in those locales, where “getting to know you” and “service with a smile” are more than fanciful sayings. They’re a way of life. 

for amazing customer service, huge hugs…hugmamma.