I read several articles and listened to a radio rant yesterday about the future of the Tea Parties. How much of each piece was passion and how much was "audience carving" by radio hosts and pundits that are running a distinct 4th or 5th place, I'm not sure. The thing boils down to two basic arguments.
1. We have a two party system - pick one! A third party is a waste of your vote.
2. Both parties are corrupt and have failed us. It may be time for something new. A third party can win!
So, let me muddy up the waters a bit with a third suggestion for what to do about the very powerful conservative forces that have martialed behind the Tea Party banner. Admittedly this is a hybrid approach and would call for leadership that isn't in this thing to accumulate power. My strategy would call for the Tea Party to lend its power to others without holding direct power itself. The leadership for this new "Party" would not take down the two party system, but would radically transform it without participating in the actual governance of the country. Here's how it would work.
The Tea Party Movement should formally organize itself right down to the local level. It should elect local chairmen or women. It should hold state and national conventions. It should raise money to support itself. The one thing it should not do is run candidates for office.
So what would the Tea Party do? Simple. It would formalize the power of the independent voter. It would pull together conservative Democrats and Republicans and independent voters into one body. It would seek out Republican or Democrat or, I suppose, even Libertarian candidates where that makes sense. It would actively endorse those candidates whose integrity, ability and political philosophy matches what we value and could bring a solid body of voters down on the side of good candidates.
So how does that help?
1. It formalizes the conservative block under a single banner and gives Tea Party members the power to influence elections in a very real way. The Tea Party vote would be courted by politicians who want to win the election.
2. It allows Tea Party members to stay with the party they already belong to and to work within that party for reform and yet maintain their connection to a solid body of conservative American allies outside the party that cannot be bullied by Democrat or Republican party leaders.
3. It lets us influence the entire field of candidates without the need to "throw away" votes on candidates that can't win. The Independence Party in New York does something similar. I think we need a national version of that.
4. By not running candidates ourselves, we help avoid the "absolute power corrupts absolutely" problem. The mission of the Tea Party then becomes, not securing and holding power, but holding politicians accountable, no matter what party they belong to. You want a Tea Party endorsement and contributions? Do the right thing.
5. It formalizes strategic planning for conservatives. It gives us a mechanism for applying "behavioral conditioning" to politicians. Naughty men and women in Congress are remembered at election time. Tea Party endorsements allow real conservatives who have Tea Party support to take a run at their party primary with a real chance of winning. I see Tea Party endorsement as a balancing force standing in opposition to the party leadership's manipulative ability - both parties!
Though Teddy Roosevelt had an unfortunate flirtation with Progressivism, he did have one thing right. "Speak softly and carry a big stick!" We need a big, big political stick. A formal Tea Party that doesn't run candidates could do that. The party leaders will weep and wail and gnash teeth, but they will pay attention.
The question is, can we find enough citizen leaders to pull the party together who have no ambitions to hold power, take bribes and graft or wear the trappings of power. The Tea Party could act as "sergeant-at-arms" for the American political system. If our politicians are naughty, we rap their knuckles and fire them.
I think it could work.
I'm just sayin'
Tom King - Flint, TX