By Nick Wilson
One of the greatest fears of the Tea Party movement was that opportunists would hijack the massive wave of energy generated to pursue their own ambitions. While the Tea Party was being built from the ground up, it was organized by average citizens who were well-intentioned, but not always politically savvy. I shared in the fears that our movement would be co-opted by the powers that be in the GOP, I felt that I had surrounded myself with people who were committed to reform, individuals that could not possibly be wolves in sheep’s clothing. I am saddened to report that I was wrong.
When I met Mike Munzing, he was a tower of sunshine, to quote OC Weekly. He was a force of nature, demanding attention from any room he was in, and you couldn’t help but like him. Beyond that, he presented himself as one of us, a Tea Party activist that would not be glamorized by the likes of Scott Baugh or any of the stale Republicans on the Central Committee. He was, like me, an ideologue, and an intellectual, steeped in talk radio and conservative thought. For these reasons, I made sure to help him at every turn, hoping that one day he would arise to be the leader the Tea Party desperately needed to coalesce around.
He campaigned tirelessly, helping our SOC912 develop an image complete with stickers and t-shirts. He was so effective that he was able to gain the attention of Mary Young, clearly one of the oldest of the old in the OCGOP. Mary berated Mike, clearly fearful that he threatened the hold that she and her ilk had on the Republicans of Orange County. I can recall at least one story Mike told me where Mary cursed at him in an email that would make a truck driver blush, betraying her image as a friendly matron. Clearly this man had positioned himself an opponent of the establishment.
But then he won. Mike was successful in being elected in the 743rd AD to our Orange County Republican Central Committee. In 2010, the year of the Tea Party, I was sure that we cold make a real difference in cleaning up the mess still left over from the days of Mike Corona. The vote to elect a Chairman was our big opportunity to shock the system, and remove the head of the beast. Instead of being the champion we needed, Mike voted to keep the current Chairman, effectively voting for no change. I was crushed, as was the spirit of many in the Tea Party. But Mike assured me that he was still true, and that he would affect change in the future, just in an incremental way instead of the crushing blow the Tea Party was dreaming of.
This change never happened. The Central Committee went on doing what it did best, taking orders from the Chair like a third world dictatorship. It was clear from his budding relationship with Baugh and the elite that Mike was not the savior we had hoped. Instead of being the firebrand that would shake things up, Mike became the photographer to the stars. He could be seen at any establishment event clicking pictures and high-fiving with the very individuals that we at the Tea Party hoped would be sent packing.
This week, the infamous Chairman of the OCGOP made a motion to remove the highest-ranking Tea Party member of the board, Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly. Despite the loss of backbone suffered by some, Deb had been elected as Vice Chair, bringing some semblance of balance to the OCGOP. She fought with tenacity against the power grabs and sneaky tactics of the days of old, becoming the true champion of the Tea Party in the OCGOP. Sadly, the establishment has won again, and Deb Pauly, the loudest voice for reform in the party, was deposed and now her voice is a bit quieter. To make the whole picture come full circle, Mary Young was back to her vile tactics that night at the OCGOP. Dr. John Drew, one of the few who knew President Obama in his youth, wrote about Young’s near assault on Deb Pauly in his blog. Ironically, Dr. Drew was Mike Munzing’s alternate on the Central Committee, and clearly the last vestige of his connection to the Tea Party. For his free speech against a woman who had so recently been antagonistic to his “friend” Mike Munzing, Mike fired Dr. Drew as his alternate.
I write this not as an attack on Mike Munzing, although he surely deserves it. For me, this is my chance to clear my own conscience. I would be willing to bet that Mike would have won his seat in the Central Committee without me, but could have been more skeptical, and less helpful. If I had, I would not have this heavy regret weighing on my shoulders. So to my dear friends in the Tea Party in Orange County, I apologize for my role in unleashing this monster on the party we had hoped to save.