Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tea Party Leadership

by Smitty

Warner Todd Huston at Big Government is worried about the leadership question, emphasis mine:
The nature of the Tea Party movement was unusual at the outset. Regardless of what the half-wits on the extreme left said about them — whackjobs like your Keith Olbermanns or Rachel Maddows — the Tea Party movement was not orchestrated behind the scenes by some grand, right-wing conspiracy. They happened spontaneously spearheaded by all sorts of different groups, hundreds of them in fact. And to use the hackneyed old expression, trying to organize them into a single, national power will be like herding cats.

And therein lies the soon to be revealed mistake. Unless we are able to foresee this limitation of the Tea Party movement and take concrete measures to prevent it we will see the passion and engagement of these millions of Americans frittered away until just cynicism is left.

Passion about politics is great and likely the fervor of Tea Party participants will help fuel a 2010 resurgence of Republicans in the midterm elections. But what after that? In fact, what during it?

Here’s the problem and, as I see it, it’s a problem that is actually sort of built right into the Tea Party movement from its inception. That would be its essentially leaderless nature. Certainly this leaderless nature has suited the tastes of those suspicious of government, tired of failed party machinations, and the preternaturally aloof folks that populated them. Perhaps the gatherings could have occurred no other way and are born of this peculiar instant of political sensibility. Nonetheless Tea Parties have been disparate, unfocused, leaderless, and might prove to be pointless in the end.

There was no unifying single goal of the Tea Partiers and no agency or party directing them. This means that the raw power behind them just might go untapped because there will be no way to translate the passion to power. Every transformative movement has been led by a single man and his small group of powerful adherents but the Tea Party movement has no such leader and might just find that its passion will dissipate until there is nothing left but disgruntled followers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the passion and was thrilled by the hundreds of Tea Parties with their millions of participants as it happened across this land in 2009. I was heartened that so many Americans were standing up to the anti-American left like that. But how do we channel that passion into something that can lead to positive change?

Without question powerful change needs a leader. Unfortunately, unless a leader steps forward that can gather all those many Tea Party strings into a single strong rope, it is likely that the whole thing will just pass away and be left a footnote in history. And what will this do to those yearning for change? What else could it do but cause them to become even more cynical going out than when they came in, leaving them thinking that nothing can be done and that we are doomed? This could lead to even worse societal strife down the road as frustrations build.
Considering history, I'd offer two things:
  1. Human nature is constant, favoring hierarchy.
  2. Technology is variable, with a positive slope, and has no affection for hierarchy.
Huston's argument favors (1), and I'll agree with him substantially. But pay attention to (2). Contrasting the Tea Party movement of today with that of the 1700s, bloggers are the pamphleteers. Sure, a George Washington wound up as the general in charge, courageously leading the army, serving as President, and scoring the accolades.

George Washington had decades of buildup, and the support of a variety of people. The Revolution was not about "George Washington", but the 2008 election was all about "Barack Obama".

Technology ought to be about de-emphasis of the individual in the government. Yes, somebody has to sign the legislation. Sure, there must be a name on the ballot. As with George Washington, let the person and the magic squiggle on the paper be more about the historical necessity than the personal ego.

Ways to bring about the destruction of the Tea Party spirit from within:
  • Put a libertarian extremist in charge. No matter how much you like small government ideas, anything workable has to solve the "Y'all can't get there from here" problem. Declaring entitlements un-Constitutional does nothing about the millions of people and the decades spent growing these fiscal dragons. Slay them, sure, but ensure a good plan for butchering the dragon carcass.
  • Put a Progressive in charge. Someone who will advocate that we swap out the current slate of degenerates for more of same. Continue to treat the Constitution as a historical relic, a navigation hazard around which to maneuver with fine verbal ballet.
  • Put an apparatchik in charge, who, despite making all of the proper anti-Washington noises, knows who the backers are and where the political correctness lines are drawn.
I'd contend that the final threat is the worst. The line between invariant principles and areas where reasonable people can disagree agreeably is the among the more challenging aspects of discussion.

Jumping in Pools says "The battering and blaming of the Republicans has to stop." Mr. Kat, when those GOP windbags threaten the invariant principles in, for example, the Constitution, then they are a tumor, albeit a benign one. The most you're buying from a RINO is time. The RINO's non-command of principles will feed the Progressive decline, albeit more slowly than a Democrat's. In a way, the Democrat is more admirable, because he's not blowing any sunshine up the public bottom about his task.

In summary, the Tea Party will shake itself out just fine. Keep the pamphleteering up on the blogs. Keep emailing the blog posts to those who don't read the blogs. The Tea Parties will produce a name for the ballot. However, by focusing on the invariant principles at stake, and letting the technology drive the communication, the name that lands on the ballot will understand that (s)he is blessed to serve an informed electorate, and steer the ship of state on a less perilous course.


  1. You also don't want a GOP in tea party clothing as a leader either. The whole Tea Party Express thing is a good example.

  2. RINOS? That is your response? Have you been following the votes in the House and Senate, Republicans have been united on almost all of the dangerous legislation. Look at the candidates we have, their Constitution loving Conservative touting individuals.

    We don't defeat Democrats through hurting Republicans!

  3. Looking for a "leader" is a mistake. The power in the Tea Parties is their individualist nature. You go to one and end up talking with people of different conservative stripes. This allows people to think more independently of the punditry and party machinery. People should vote based on who best represents them individually. Not on what some "leader" says.

    The left cries out for leaders. Conservatives are skeptical of leaders. Uniformity is for communists.

    And the Tea Parties do have one thing in common - government has gone too far and spent too much! There's no need to find a magical formula past that. As you say, "conservatism is the belief that liberalism is wrong."

    The best thing that could happen is for the presidential primaries to become major conservative battlefields in 2011. It's the only way to get the cream to rise to the top.

    You're right about technology too. Think about the growth of open source software, no top-down hierarchy ...

  4. It is a false assumption that the Tea Party movement is leaderless. I attended my local group last night and we have GREAT leadership. It is, however, true that the Tea Party movement does not have NATIONAL leaders. And to that I say "So what?" Those that have tried to hijack the mantle of "National Tea Party Leader" have had zero sway with our local group. We are interested in local races and are not waiting for our marching orders from some big named conservative. We are taking back our community one local office at a time. Personally, I hope the Tea Party movement remains without a National leader. There is no way anyone that does not live in deep South Texas can understand deep South Texas politics. And I don't need another organization taking my dues and giving them to candidates I don't approve of--let me and mine alone and tend to your own candidates in your own state. THAT is how the Tea Party is going to change the world.

  5. Excellant points, for a guy with such deficient taste in movies.

    I think the leader is right there, we just haven't noticed him enough yet. Sen. Jim DeMint. (And maybe Marco Rubio in a few years.) Granted, I don't know much about Sen. Demint, but from all that I have seen, he is our man.

  6. CL & Wendy spoke my mind. I would only add that having Sarah Palin in the mix, like she did in NY-23, can do nothing but help. If she keeps it to a Facebook endorsement of the true Conservative in a race, I am okay with that. One Facebook post from her is as powerful as all MSM news shows combined.

  7. I don’t share the concerns of W.T.H. regarding the “leaderless’ Tea Parties. I think Wendy and CL are correct about the nature and goals of the various independent movements. I think there is too much “intellectualizing” about this (nation of movements?) movement. I applaud the bottom up approach any attempt to co-opt or impose structure would harmful and doomed to failure. The “Tea Partiers” are average, previously un-political people and they are angry at both parties. The Republicans would be wise to earn their trust and not try to b*llsh#t them. That would be the “commonsense” approach something the “People” have a lot more of than the Pols.