Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Non-Movement Movement

Rauch has a really interesting article up about the Tea Party.  He is essentially arguing that it is a movement without leaders:

The tea party began as a network, not an organization, and that is what it mostly remains. Disillusioned with President Bush’s Republicans and disheartened by President Obama’s election, in late 2008 several dozen conservatives began chattering on social-networking sites such as Top Conservatives on Twitter and Smart Girl Politics. Using those resources and frequent conference calls (the movement probably could not have arisen before the advent of free conference calling), they began to talk about doing something. What they didn’t realize was that they were already doing something. In the very act of networking, they were printing the circuitry for a national jolt of electricity.

The spark came on February 19, 2009, when a CNBC journalist named Rick Santelli aired a diatribe against the bank bailout. “That,” Meckler says, “was our source code.” The next day, the networkers held a conference call and decided to stage protests in a few cities just a week later. No one was more astonished than the organizers when the network produced rallies in about 50 cities, organized virtually overnight by amateurs. Realizing that they had opened a vein, they launched a second round of rallies that April, this time turning out perhaps 600,000 people at more than 600 events.

Experienced political operatives were blown away. “It was inconceivable in the past” to stage so many rallies so quickly, in so many places, without big budgets for organizers and entertainment, says Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a longtime political organizer. Without a hook such as a musical show, he says, “I can’t think of anything on the right or the left that mimics those numbers on a local level.”

By the summer of 2009, tea parties were springing up all over. Multitudes of activists, operatives, and groups were claiming the tea party mantle, many of them at odds with or suspicious of each other. Believing that coordination was needed, an ad hoc committee emerged from among the core group and, by August of last year, had opened a bank account under the spontaneously chosen name of the Tea Party Patriots.

This is one of the unique things about the Tea Party.  As much as the Left tries to pretend that it is comprised of “astroturf” organizations, as much as they try to pretend that idiots like Dale Robertson are the real “leaders” of the movement, the movement really has no leadership as such.  In fact, I would hesitate to even say it has a coherent agenda.  While opposition to government spending and bailouts are the key issues, the main agenda is involvement.  The main issue is getting people involved in the political process who haven’t been before.  Notice the number of Tea Party candidates who are not lawyers.  Notice the booming attendance at town hall meetings, including by many people who are well-informed and motivated.  What I think is happening—what I hope is happening—is that Americans have realized that we have been asleep at the switch too long.  We have listened too often to the placating tones of our politicians and the soothing mantra of our pundits.  And while we have been asleep, the country has moved to the brink of a cliff.

The Tea Party’s big triumph this week was getting Christine O’Donnell the Delaware senate nomination.  O’Donnell is hardly a typical Tea Party candidate—her most clearly articulated views are on cultural issues like outlawing all abortions and curing gays.  In the comments below, I made it clear that I’m not happy with the choice (see more here). But having slept on it and thought some more, I think her selection is of a piece with what the Tea Party has been doing—ousting as many establishment Republicans as Democrats.  I’m not opposed to that, per se.  I just wish they’d found a less fundamentalist and more electable alternative (see also Angle, Sharron).

A number of people—including America’s foremost gynecologist Andrew Sullivan—are saying that recent Tea Party victories mean that Sarah Palin is the de facto leader of the movement and the GOP.  But that view is mistaken, in my opinion.  The Tea Party will be more than happy to chuck Palin into the bin if she proves useless (as I’m convinced she will).  The Tea Partiers I know are more excited about guys like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie—who are establishing clear records of controlling the growth of government.  In the end, anyone supported by the Tea Party is going to be on a very short leash.  If they think they can ride this wave into office and act like idiots again, they are sorely mistaken.

I’m not completely happy with some of the view percolating in the Tea Party movement—on terrorism and immigration, in particular.  But, as I said when this movement first began, it’s still early.  Many of the Tea Party’s ideas are in flux.  The disorganized nature of the Tea Party means that ideas still have a chance to simmer and evolve and be debated.  The real test of their mettle will be after this election, when we see if the Tea Party will accept the drastic spending cuts and possible tax increases needed to erase our debt.  Maybe the Tea Party will fizzle or turn down an intellectual cul-de-sac.  But for now, it’s got the political establishment nervous.  This is not a bad thing.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/16/10 at 07:33 AM in Elections   Election 2010  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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