Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Athens-Clarke County Tea Party Convention - Lessons in Legitimacy

When I was asked about giving support to Athens Clark County Tea Party Chairman Keyantwon Stephens’ plan to organize a “Tea Party Convention,” Stephens had already burned through all of his credibility with me. (For background on the problems with the event go here:

I won’t go into all of the reasons that I doubted Stephens knew what he was doing, but his young age wasn’t ever a factor. In fact, he has shown despite his age an incredible ability to confidently attract attention and win support.

The problem with Stephens, who’s run for Congress, proposed running for governor, and most recently announced his desire to head Georgia’s Democratic Party, is that his ‘dream big’ mentality lacks any grounding in reality. The ‘Convention,’ which in the end had many prominent local and national political speakers, was a manifestation of  Stephens’ ability to convince himself and others that he can do great and meaningful things.  Never mind that there was no real plan to pay for it or support it in any real way.  Stephens has been, for a while now, writing metaphorical checks that, sadly, finally caught up with both his reputation and his real-life bank account.

I think the visceral reaction against Stephens from within the libertarian-minded circles stems from the fear that Stephens, who has sometimes worn the 'Liberty' mantle, has exposed the underlying inexperience of many in the movement that want more leadership roles and responsibility in formal politics. I'm disappointed at those who say Stephens purposefully misled people, though. I am fairly certain he didn’t.

Everyone who meets Stephens, including myself, wants to see him succeed. He is charming and soft-spoken, and yes, young and idealistic.  It was utterly disappointing for me when I finally realized and accepted Stephens has no awareness that his attempt at this high level of community organizing is something most would consider quite difficult. His lack of awareness hurt him and his ambitious event. It may ultimately hurt the efforts of others, as well.