Is the Tea Party a “Party”?

In response to the Sunday morning talk shows, CNN posted a story analyzing the value or threat of the Tea Party to the status quo.  What struck me about this piece is that it touches on the catch-22 of alternative parties or alternative political views.

The Tea Party movement through multiple, small organizations loosely organized in a nationwide network is attempting to supplant the political party.  The Republican and Democratic parties’ value is in the fund-raising mechanisms, volunteers and ability to produce reliable voters.

If organizations like the Tea Party Express can supplant that value by producing the same results as their larger counterparts only cheaper, then a third party or alternative candidate could challenge the party machinery.

My goal has always been to try to accomplish this same result for candidates who consider themselves independent, moderate or centrist.   Empowering a social liberally but fiscally responsible candidate to forgo the difficulty in “choosing sides” for an election but still allowing them access to an organization of resources or volunteers is key to moderates becoming a relevant political force.

As it turns out, the Tea Party is accomplishing this much better than I thought they could.

Then comes the catch-22.

These candidates are only successful to a point and it might not be enough to get them elected only enough to disrupt the races and guarantee victory to Democrats.  If Tea Party candidates are knocking off moderate or mainstream Republicans in primaries or simply scaring them out of a race to begin with, but aren’t organized or popular enough to win the general election, Democrats will win more elections in a mid-term cycle that was supposed to shift power.

By being really good, but not the best, at what they are trying to do, tea partiers might ensure the exact opposite of what they were going for- a solid Democratic majority to pass President Obama’s expansive agenda.   Since I don’t have the same political loyalties as many people, I’m all for this.  Mix it up.  Test the waters.  See what happens.

Since President Obama’s agenda doesn’t scare me as much as it seems to scare some people, I’m willing to risk both empowering Obama and rolling the dice on the Tea Party’s strategy.

If the Tea Party succeeds, it could pave the way (or at least embolden) moderates like myself to organize and make a push to be a political force in this country.  If the Tea Party fails and hands the country to Obama and the Dems, I’m not worried about Obama’s agenda because ultimately I look at him as a problem-solver.  We may disagree in certain areas but his approach to decision-making is sound even if the resulting policies are slightly more expansive and expensive than I’d like.

So, I guess I’m just finding the silver lining in either outcome.

On the other hand, this country has to deal with our shifting political landscape and come to terms with how we’re going to move forward in a climate that had polarized and bitter political players.  While some of the fringe elements to the Tea Party movement are frightening, the fact is that this force is out there and, as a country, we need to decide how to deal with an increasingly legitimate political force.  If you believe in the freedom of ideas and choices in this country, you must recognize the freedom of the Tea Partiers to be a public voice in our government process.

Once we acknowledge they are allowed at the table, we can begin the process of pointing out flaws not in their party membership but in their philosophy and proposed solutions.

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