Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tea Party Takeover

As the discussion regarding the importance of the Tea Party movement continues, the focus has now shifted to the "What's next?" phase.  My fellow Butler County Republican, Michael Shawn McCabe, has a worthwhile and thought-provoking piece up over at his blog that you all should check out.  Shawn asks if the Tea Party is the final nail in the Republican Party coffin, but what I find interesting is that the URL of the post asks if the Tea Party is bad for Republicans.  Previously on WMD, we examined the poll numbers and concluded that the Tea Party movement outperformed the Republican Party in all demographics save the over 65 age group and while more recent polls have shown the GOP regaining some ground, these results shouldn't be tossed aside.

The issue at the heart of Shawn's piece deals with the Precinct Project.  The Tea Party folks have taken it upon themselves to try and get as many people as they can on to the ballot for "precinct captain" positions.  Supposedly, there are 50 of these folks running right here in Butler County.  I applaud them and and encourage this participation. Quite frankly, I would appreciate the help.  If the Republican Party establishment is unwilling or unable to respond to the will of the people and make effective change, then what is required is a change of personnel.  That has been the message that I have been delivering here on WMD for years, but the Tea Party activists have taken it to heart.

Others are referring to this plan as a "coup" or an "attack" but these people fail to realize that this is what the party has been asking for all along.  How many times have we heard about the apathy among the electorate?  How many times have we heard our leaders talk about getting people involved?  I suspect that many in the party's Old Guard expect that new blood will fall in line or will be "reckoned with" accordingly, but that's not how the world of politics we are now experiencing in the age of social networking and new media.

If this party is to survive, we have to get younger and we have to respond to the needs of the 30 to 40 year old dempgraphic.  Right now, we are pandering to 40 to 65 "Boomers" who have consumed FAR more than they have produced and are now realizing that the only way they are going to make it is if they rip off their kids and their grandchildren.  Of course, this isn't a straight up heist, but how else are we to describe putting the debt on future generations so we can erect "STIMULUS WORK HERE" signs all over the country?  How many bailouts can our children and grandchildren afford?

These are the central questions facing the Republican Party as we interact with the Tea Party movement.  The GOP used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, of smaller government, and greater freedom but as many a politician in this state is saying, we have lost our way.  The Tea Party represents the rank and file of what our party was before we let the elite assume control. 

I asked Shawn if he thought the Tea Party running for central committee seats to be a net positive or a negative?  Here is his response:
It could net positive because of the similarity in message to Republican values. However, it seems that they've been so good at creating their own brand and separate fundraising that I'm doubtful their leadership will just absorb into our Party in any positive way. And, because it's doubtful we'll have a three party system; I see them as the Ross Perot effect.

Locally it will simply creates another faction. It will create essentially another 'auxiliary' organization (that's a whole different topic) further antagonizing the split-factionized Party we have now and killing hopes of collective fundraising and momentum.

I believe we, as a Party, shouldn't have ran to speak at their events and claim brotherhood, but rather figure out how to encourage their support of the existing Party organization and efforts. Most of the Tea Party members are high-educated, motivated, hard working people that would have been wonderful to get involved in the Republican message. Some are just angry.
We have a candidate for governor who claims he was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party and I know there have been a LOT of politicians seeking the Tea Party out in order to see what it is all about.  The Hamilton County GOP is actively seeking Tea Party folks to run for Central Committee to help strengthen their ranks.   
Let me say this, I don't believe the Tea Party is going to willingly be "absorbed" by anybody or anything.  If they are coming, they want to see real change in the way things are being done.  They aren't running for seats because they like what they have seen so far and want to join in the fun.  They are angry...as we all should be because our party has let us down.  And they are a force for change.  The Republican Party should brace itself because something is going to happen.  Even if the Tea Party folks fail to make significant gains, the attempt -- particularly with this scale of effort -- ought to be recognized for what it is: a message.  That message is resounding with the American people across the country, across the state, and even right here in Butler County.
The days of politics as usual are numbered...