At a King Street Patriots meeting Monday night, the group proved, at least for one week, that it's doing what Democrats and liberals couldn't after riding a wave of emotion to Election Day victories in 2008: still showing up.
The group's founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, delivered a "State of the Street" speech, outlining plans to expand the group to a statewide and national level.
"The nation is ready for something like this," said the group's founder, Catherine Engelbrecht. "We're here for the long term."
During this year's election cycle, the King Street Patriots became an easy target, identified as a bunch of Tea Party crazies who descended upon the polls to intimidate voters in minority precincts.
After an election night party last week, we've been wondering if any of that is true, and really, it's probably not. The group, mostly made up of middle-aged white people, became extremely well-versed in state election laws (moreso than many election judges, the group says) and set out during early voting and on Election Day to make sure those rules were followed.
And they're hardly fanatics. During her speech, Engelbrecht urged the people in the room -- so packed it was basically standing room only -- to ignore the verbal and electronic (blogs and e-mail) attacks on the group that have become fairly common.
"We don't have to fight fire with the same vitriolic fire," Engelbrecht said. "Just keep walking. Our cause is just, we know who we are, we know what we have to do."
That doesn't mean the King Street Patriots don't want, or even need, some kind of enemy, because the group seems to operate best with the feeling of a scrappy underdog, even if that characterization isn't completely accurate.
For instance, after members of the New Black Panther Party confronted the King Street Patriots at the polls on Election Day, members of the group recorded "incident reports" and turned them over to the District Attorney.
And even though the group has declared victory in this election, Engelbrecht is already framing a battle with the Democrats in 2012. Since Bill White narrowly carried Harris County in the governor's race, Democrats will control the early voting polls during the next election.
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According to Engelbrecht, the group received calls from people in 40 different states, begging for guidance on how to start similar poll-watching efforts, and the King Street Patriots plan to ride that momentum and expand. A "statewide summit" is planned for December 11, and a national "True the Vote" meeting, set for Houston, is in the works.
The King Street Patriots are also planning to press state lawmakers during the next legislative session for election-code reform and a better system of voter identification. We imagine there will be plenty more.
If liberals want this movement to go away, we suggest trying something different than just laughing at the crazy white suburbanites in their Tea Party costumes and thinking everything will be okay. That stance is tired and lazy.
And the nauseating rhetoric we hear from people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell doesn't really exist, at least at the top, in the King Street Patriots. Englelbrecht appears to be a smart and charismatic leader who has organized a structured and motivated group.