Monday, April 19, 2010

Whither the Tea Party Movement?

Since the April 15th Tea Party protests, I’ve been thinking about the future direction and strategy of the Tea Party movement.

And I think it is time for a shift in strategy.

To date, Tea Partiers have put a lot of energy into public protests. And those have been successful, serving the following purposes:

1. The protests let those unhappy with the radical direction of Obama and his allies know they are not alone and not powerless. This is significant. I was among those who felt overwhelmed by the onslaught of Obama in 2009. Remember when it seemed he had a new Leftist initiative every day last Spring? My hope for this country was not very strong at that time. And I was not alone in that regard. The quick rise of Tea Party protests revived hope.

2. The protests made it easier and more acceptable to oppose Obama and his agenda. It is human nature that it is easier to take a stand when one sees thousands of others taking the same stand.

3. The protests provided a vent for popular anger with Obama and his allies. As I’ve posted, when a government shows such disregard for consent of the governed as the Democrats have, the anger that disregard provokes raises the danger of violence. The Tea Party protests did the country a service by providing an important vent to popular anger.

4. The protests helped slow the progress of Obama’s agenda. They were a very visible part of strong public opinion against Obama’s Leftist agenda. That public opinion increased resistance in Congress to Obama’s designs. Yes, Obama and Congress did a lot of damage. It would have been worse without the Tea Party movement.

Others can surely find additional benefits of the Tea Party protests. And many thanks to those who organized and led those protests!

But now I think it is time for those in the Tea Party movement to shift their energies from protests to the nuts and bolts of working the electoral process for the following reasons:

1. Many sympathetic to libertarian/conservative ideas think that elections really don’t matter. So they cast their vote foolishly in ways which do not help or even hurt conservative candidates (by, for example, voting for a third party candidate when a conservative Republican candidate has a chance of winning) or they do not vote at all. These need to be educated and exhorted to vote and vote wisely. Protesting in the streets may instead feed the attitude that the more prosaic task of casting a wise vote doesn’t matter.

2. Human energy and enthusiasm is limited. Therefore, turnout for tea party protests are likely to decrease, which would not help the cause. Personally, I attended two tea party protests last year. But I am not eager to attend another. Holding protests with lower turnout would send the wrong message.

3. Because energy and enthusiasm is limited, we must make sure to channel limited energy into the elections, through voter registration, getting out the vote, working for good candidates, etc. Our anger/enthusiam won’t do much good if we don’t turn out the vote to unelect those who attack our freedom and to elect those who will defend it.

4. Although the Tea Party movement has done an admirable job of protesting peacefully and of not letting their protests be hijacked by loons and Leftists, continued protests are very risky in this environment. Combine a news media and a regime eager to discredit the Tea Party movement with the fact that protests (no matter what the cause) almost always attract a few who are misguided or just don’t restrain themselves well, and you get an environment where further protests can easily backfire.

In short, I see the benefits of continued protests as diminishing while the risks increase. And that at a time when the nearing November elections, as well as the primaries beforehand, demand that we pour time and energy (as well as money) into getting the right people elected. That should now become the focus of the Tea Party movement.

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