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What Do We Do With the Tea Party?

Updated on May 26, 2014
The original Tea Party participants sought to influence politicians, not to become politicians.
The original Tea Party participants sought to influence politicians, not to become politicians.

The Next Step for the Tea Party?

A recent poll came out that says a Tea Party candidate would draw more votes than either a Republican or Democrat.  That sparked a spate of anti-third party rhetoric by badly frightened political pundits and party bosses. 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. Sometimes I think the radio conservatives sniping at each other is less about principle than it is about ratings. Of all of them only Rush and Glenn seem not to do that. Even Hannity won't talk about Glenn Beck's work - probably because Glenn is poised to unseat him as #2 behind Rush. Rush isn't worried and mentions Beck and his work regularly, but then Rush seems to me more about principle than about ratings. Beck too. What we need now are leaders in the Tea Party movement who have the same attitude.  
At any rate, there is an argument coming to a boil in the conservative movement as to whether we should take the Tea Party to a formal third party.  Levin and Savage accuse Beck of trying to start a third party with himself at the head. I've never heard that from Beck, who seems mostly to hope to survive the debate alive more than anything else (and I don't blame him for being worried on that score). 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.

I believe that the Tea Party Movement should formally organize itself right down to the local level. It should elect local leaders. It should hold state and national conventions. It should raise money to support itself. The thing it should not do is run candidates for office.  I think we should model ourselves on the original Tea Party. Tea Party participants in Boston sought to influence politicians, not to be politicians themselves. 

So how would the Tea Party do that?  Here's my suggeston. I say we formalize the power of the independent voter by incorporating.  A formal Tea Party 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 and endorse them.  It would actively endorse only those candidates whose integrity, ability and political philosophy matches our own. A formal Tea Party 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


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    • profile image

      Tom King 5 years ago

      I understand why third parties happen, but they only serve a good purpose if they unseat one of the two big parties like the Republicans did to the Whig party in the first half of the 1800s. if Romney turns out to be another McCain, the stage will be set for the end of the Republican party I think and its replacement by something more conservative.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I like the ideas you propose to mitigate any damage a splinter group can do. Third parties have been around for ages - I wrote a hub about the third-party movement, and the list of special-interest parties is huge. I wonder what the future holds!

      Voted up and interesting.

    • twayneking profile image

      twayneking 6 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      That's why I we should go the NRA/AARP route and play Kingmaker. Organize around a set of core principles. It's a lot easier to have influence that way. You can leave aside peripheral issues. The NRA doesn't get involved in social security issues and the AARP doesn't address gun rights. The Tea Party would focus on economic issues and liberating American business from the shackles of government interference.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 6 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      The Tea Party arose because the Republican establishment or elite is too focused on privileges for big business, to the detriment of small businesses and private individuals. The Tea Party arose because social conservatives were being shut out but still solicited for donations. The Tea Party arose because too many long time office holders voted with the Democrats too often, from expanding entitlements to open borders to more regulation. And the taxpayers, more often conservative, were expected to foot the bill today and tomorrow.

      As the joke goes, TEA party is short for "taxed enough already".