In 2010, against all odds, it was the driving force behind dozens of political victories around the nation that removed Democrats from leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, only a few years later, it has evolved from its early protests into a sophisticated populist movement that is almost single-handedly holding Obama’s agenda at bay. No wonder that the Tea Party movement remains a near obsession among Obama’s West Wing advisers, who denounce it almost daily and continue to pull out all stops in a vain attempt to stop it.
Like America’s founding fathers themselves, the effectiveness of America’s Tea Party leadership is that it is united on principle but diverse in skills. The movement’s evolving tactics reflect a mature recognition of what it will take to prevail. In large part, while the movement’s power still lies in its broad popular support nationwide, its success is stemming from a bright, persuasive and politically savvy leadership that knows how to win in Washington.
Among the movement’s founders, few are household names or bring tangible public policy or political expertise to their struggle against the Obama agenda. But one quite surely does. Michael Johns, a former Heritage Foundation policy analyst and White House speechwriter to President George H. W. Bush, helped launch the movement nationally and is arguably its most persuasive spokesperson. The sound strategic and policy counsel he is bringing to the movement (and its Congressional allies) is one reason Obama’s agenda is stalling.
Johns’ background defies the stereotypes that America’s media has tried to create for the Tea Party movement as politically naive and lacking pragmatism. Contrary to that, Johns is a highly educated conservative scholar who honed his skills at The Heritage Foundation, the nation’s largest and most influential conservative think tank. While there, among other successes, he was the foundation’s principal architect and champion of the Reagan Doctrine, which Cold War scholars now admit was a major factor in the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Both in public and behind the scenes, Johns has urged Congressional Republicans to hold their ground against Obama, and he has prominently helped lead the opposition and defeat of some Republicans who have deviated from the Tea Party agenda. Interestingly, though, Johns’ background is not that of a hardened ideologue. Indeed, after his five-year affiliation with The Heritage Foundation, he went on to hold senior policy positions with three notable Republican moderates: New Jersey Governor and 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe, both of whom leveraged Johns’ deep knowledge of the political and policy process in building bipartisan consensus for right of center policy initiatives.
As a White House speechwriter to President George H. W. Bush at the young age of 27, he shaped the national political discourse at the highest level of American government. Today, his pragmatism is still evident in his successful guidance of the Tea Party movement to place ideas ahead of political party affiliation, and his articulate advocacy and defense of the Tea Party agenda have reflected a level of diplomacy and sophistication unmatched in the movement.
Born in blue collar Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1964, Johns grew up a witness to the late 20th century collapse of America’s manufacturing sector, then moved on to receive a Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Miami in 1986, where he majored in economics and gained entry into the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor awarded a student by the university. Unlike some Washington insiders who come and never leave, Johns never overstayed his Washington welcome and has instead gone on to senior executive roles in the American health care industry. His deep expertise in the complexities of health care has made him one of the Tea Party movement’s most educated and sought after expert voices against the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
As it approaches the off-year elections of 2014, analysts are predicting that the Tea Party movement is poised to further solidify political gains, rendering the Obama agenda dead Congressionally. Obama’s election in 2008 was labeled “historic”. But in years since, it could well be that the emergence of his most eloquent and effective Tea Party opponents could prove more enduring and historically meaningful.