A Strategy for 2010
Harnessing the power of grassroots activism
In response to the formation of a Tea Party Party in Florida, I wrote last week that I didn't think it was a good idea for the Tea Party movement to become a political party.
The strength of the Tea Party movement is in holding all parties accountable, especially for fiscal responsibility. We should seek out, encourage, support and endorse candidates who hold our values regardless of party.
I think it's time to begin building a strategy for what the Tea Parties can and should do to bring this nation back to a path of fiscal responsibility and limited, constitutional government. Here's a list of activities for a start:
- Activist recruitment/training
- Education on issues
- Promoting Tea Party values
- Voter registration
- Communication with parties & candidates
- Promoting specific candidates
The first three are already being done throughout the country. There are something over 800 local Tea Party organizations. That is an unprecedented rise in grass-roots activism. We've organized rallies, marches and demonstrations. We've flooded our elected representatives with email, faxes and phone calls. We've caused many of them to cancel town hall meetings and turn off their answering machines--not a good thing to be sure, but a predictable response from those who weren't in office to represent us in the first place.
To have a lasting impact on policy at all levels of government we must elect people who share our values. We need to start doing the last three things on the list. In fact, we already have. In conceding the NY-23 election recount yesterday, Doug Hoffman had this to say:
In three months, we almost toppled an entrenched political system and successfully defied the conventional thinking of the elite political punditry. Citizen government is making a comeback in America.
That almost-upset was made possible by grass-roots activism, including Tea Party activists. The lesson that the pundits and the media would like us to learn is that a third party can't win--so stick to the established parties. The lesson that we should learn is that grass-roots activism made a huge difference and with more time we will get the right candidates elected. I have no doubt that Doug Hoffman will take NY-23 in 2010.
It could be said that voter registration, candidate recruitment and issues advocacy are traditional functions of political parties so why not call a spade a spade and make the Tea Party movement into a political party? The difference between a party and a movement is subtle but significant.
As a movement, Tea Partiers are free to advocate for any worthy candidate regardless of party. The Democratic Party, being top-down driven, is stuck with the candidates that the unions and the party elite select. (Ironically, this is a throwback to the days before Progressive-era reforms like the caucus.) The GOP supports whoever the local party selects--whether it be a liberal like Scorzafavva, a moderate or a conservative. But as a movement, Tea Partiers can support any candidate they choose, including third party candidates where these are viable.
Ironically again, this parallels the Progressive movement. It didn't start out as a political party and when it finally became one, even with then former President Teddy Roosevelt at it's head, it lost. But it did succeed long-term in infecting both major parties with progressive ideas.
That's what we need to do today: re-infect both parties with the founding principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, free markets and free people.