by Warner Todd Huston | January 7, 2010 2:00 pm
In what I suppose is round three, I’d like to take a moment to reply to the criticism of my Tea Party article which was titled “Tea Parties: The Biggest Mistake We Could Make in 2010.” That criticism is penned by my fellow BG contributor, Steve McQueen whose piece titled “For Tea Parties, Bigger Is Not Better” I think missed my point. Worse I feel his piece helps the left to further splinter the right in a small way.
Certainly we on the right need an open and vigorous debate about what the Tea Parties are and how to make the best use of them, but we should have this discussion in the spirit of cooperative debate instead of the sort of isolated attacks employed by McQueen. What I mean is that if Mr. McQueen had some issues with my piece and questions about my meaning, the proper strategy would have been to email me and ask. We could then have had a debate, and perhaps joined together in a piece for BigGovernment.com that would clarify both our positions in the best effort toward harnessing the Tea Party energy to the best effect. Instead he rushed to print without a single attempt to contact me. This, I believe, only helps the left in that it gives the appearance of internal strife instead of a united front. After all, I would guess that Mr. McQueen and I are both after the same end goal of success of conservative principles in government and society alike.
In my piece I spoke of mistakes and this I think is another one of them. Too many of us Internet pundits are talking past each other and are too quick to look for that next “thing” that will get us noticed. Too often we are “Frumming” each other, in other words always attacking each other. Instead of seeking to find common ground so that we can build up our side we are sniping at each other.
Still, I think McQueen makes a few perfectly agreeable points despite that he so badly misconstrued my actual reason for writing my original piece. But like many out there that only read my provocative headline and didn’t bother to actually read the rest of the piece, McQueen assumed I was attacking the Tea Party movement itself. In fact, there is not one stitch of criticism of the actual Tea Parties in my piece. I have no complaints about them except in as much as questioning how we harness their energy going forward.
McQueen begins with the ridiculous claim that I want the Tea Party movement “managed from the top down.” I do not. In fact, nowhere in my piece did I say anything about taking over the Tea Parties themselves nor did I say that my druthers were to have some one person step forward to physically run them all.
Now, this may be because I did not fully express my point, granted. What I was trying to say is that unless someone comes forward to utilize the power of the Tea Party movement then we might find that it will dissipate and wither away. We need some leadership in order to direct this energy into concrete action. I do not think, however, that this future national leader has to take over the Tea Parties themselves necessarily. I was really only talking about directing the energy of the Tea Parties. I think I was not clear enough about that, so I am glad Mr. McQueen gave me a chance to address this point.
Another thing McQueen brought up flummoxed me. Somehow, McQueen got the idea that I was talking about the Tea Partiers forming a third party. Once again nowhere in my piece is there talk of such a thing. I made no allusions to any third party effort nor meant to do so. I am not a fan of third party ideas.
Next McQueen says that the Tea Parties might “individually harness the power of the vote and collectively work together toward common goals.” How McQueen expects this to happen with no hierarchy of any kind at all is perplexing to me. The energy of the Tea Parties is momentous and vast, but if no one at all steps forward to give the bulk of these people a goal to shoot for I believe the energy will be wasted (hence the point of my original piece).
It is well and good to say that everyone needs to become an informed voter, that they must learn about our system, our history, and our principles and then vote folks into office that will uphold those things. But we’ve been saying that for decades and with the educrats of our public schools working against common American principles and history, with these schools doing such a successful job tearing down this country, we need more than bromides about self-government to drive political success in this day and age. I have always advocated that we on the right need to mount an effort to retake our schools from the Eruo-trash loving left but that is a long term project and we need something in the mean time to further electoral success.
Further, if the people running for office don’t get the Tea Party message that all these unfocused voters are trying to send, then what? We might find we will be offered no choice at the ballot box and many of these self-taught patriots will end up just staying home… as has happened over and over again in the last 30 years. Better that we have some leaders that accept the Tea Partier’s ideals, run on them, win office, and then show the recalcitrant government establishment that they’d better join them or perish from office. Success and organization breeds repetition.
I was also a bit amused that Mr. McQueen cited Samuel Adams as some sort of authority on sustained change. If one reviews Sam Adams’ career one finds a great firebrand, a fine revolutionary, and an indispensable fomenter for change, certainly. He was one of those that our Revolution could not have begun without. But, what happened to this firebrand after the war was won and we had to get down to the brass tacks of governing? He quit the national scene and expressed his dislike of the Constitution (though he did finally begrudgingly vote for it). In the end he left the final task of governing to his Cousin John Adams and men like George Washington, James Madison, and the other men indispensable to our formation as a nation. He was there at the birth but quickly became an absentee father once the Constitution took hold. Yet leaders DID follow in his wake nonetheless.
Let’s put it in another way, one closer to today. Did Ronald Reagan create the conservative movement that propelled him to the presidency? Certainly not. But what he did do was weld that movement into a directed force. He took the intellectual underpinnings of Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley, et al, and used it as a basis to inform the enthusiasm of the newly formed Christian activists. Then he melded all of that with the existing Goldwater organizations to form a powerful political movement. He led the movement even if he didn’t create it.
McQueen next waxed poetic about the movement itself and what it all means.
The Tea Party is governance by the people in its purest form and many opportunities will be presented between now and election day allowing Tea Parties to unite for a common goal without a CEO, Czar, or a General to call the shots. The Tea Party movement is a true reflection of American culture driven by values that have been taught for generations.
I can’t help but feel that this seems far more akin to a direct democracy than it does the representative republic we actually built after the Revolution. Guess what a representative republic requires? Yep, leaders!
McQueen ends with the correct assertion that he and I agree that the power of the Tea Party is tremendous. But his stiff-necked assumption that leaders are unnecessary is short sighted. Still he isn’t alone. While about 80% of the email and website comments I’ve gotten on my original piece was entirely positive about the message I relayed, there was that percentage that stubbornly, angrily, and in my opinion foolishly, shouted “we don’t need no leaders.”
In the end, I agree with Mr. McQueen’s contention that we don’t need a single leader to actually, physically take over the Tea Party movement. I don’t want that and don’t even think it’s necessary and if people thought that is what I meant, then I can only say that I was not clear enough in my first piece on that point. But we cannot stumble forward assuming that we don’t need any leaders and that some how Tea Party goers will develop a hive mind and all stay involved, vote the best way, and foster change without any direction at all. It is a simple matter of human nature that people need a rallying point to stay excited. If we pretend that everyone will stay involved without someone raising our banner, we will quickly find out how wrong we are.
Now, we’ve talked about the problems. Are there any solutions or bight spots? Certainly there are. Many states have built small, nascent, but energetic organizations that are right now directing candidate forums and passing email chain letters about their local political scene. This grassroots effort is important and noteworthy. I hope it is sustainable. There are also a few larger groups trying to harness the power of the Tea Party not the least of which is Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, and the various larger groups that they have been fostering. There is also the promising Freedom Force and its companion group National Precinct Alliance. There are others, too. We have all sorts of irons in the fire and it is still all about the promise of success. But time will tell, for sure.
But that was just the point. Time will tell. And that is why my original piece was a long-term prediction — or warning — and not a reading of the current climate.
Of course, it will take ALL of us to stay involved, leaders or no. It really is up to us to keep this freedom fire burning and we can make it succeed. But it won’t happen if we are involved in a circular firing squad when our enemies are lurking within rifle shot.
(I have extended a message to Mr. McQueen and would welcome intercourse on this subject should he feel disposed to join the discussion further.)
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