The Republican tantrum after Christine O’Donnell’s victory over nine term favorite Michael Castle in the Delaware primary helps clarify some important realities of the 2010 political landscape. Republican candidates surviving for the general election should be taking note.
- No, Tea Party activists are not a wing of the Republican Party. They are independents that may be just as angry at Republican failures in principled leadership as they are with liberal ideologues.
- Yes, the several decentralized Tea Parties are a viable and sustainable influence – more of a “we the people” campaign than Astroturf. The more the establishment ridicules or ignores them, the more powerful they will probably get.
- And yes, Generals and master strategists of the Republican Party have been just as naïve about Tea Party activism as the Democrats. They need to get over it, and quickly.
"Generals are notorious for their tendency to fight the last war… Sadly enough, fighting the last war, is often a losing proposition. Conditions change. Objectives change. Strategies change. And you must change. If you don’t, you lose." - Drs. Terry Madonna and Michael Young, Franklin & Marshall College, 2002 - (full article here)
In many ways, we can forgive stalwarts like Karl Rove and Charles Krouthammer for reacting poorly when their conventional wisdom was overwhelmed by the new dynamic. They are, after all, among the best of the field from the last war. Tea Party activists are decentralized and not constrained by conventional rules. They exist because conventional rules have failed them and so the play by their own. They demand to be heard, not talked down to, and have different objectives that are less about sustaining a hierarchical Party establishment for a country run by the beltway, and much more about their elected honoring principles representing them, their States, and the Constitution.
The conditions of American politics have changed. There remains a stubbornly high unemployment rate in spite of trillions in borrowed new spending, financial bailouts, and lost dreams. President Obama’s administration promised hope and change but delivered increased division through far left ideology, out of control spending, tax increases, and an abandonment of the center. Buyer’s remorse has taken hold and is growing. Republicans are not untainted but continuing to blame others is old news.
Political objectives have tightened up. It’s the economy, jobs and protecting constitutional values. It is not about transforming America with unsustainable and divisive social programs.
Strategy has changed. It is not all about compromise and being managed by backroom deals and promises of the political class. Passing bills that haven’t been read is wildly unpopular. It is no longer about hope of change; it is about actual change through the common sense of principled leadership. It is clear that Tea Party voters will sacrifice experience because experience without honoring principles is what failed them.
If Republicans want to lead the political agenda in 2011, they are going to have to do a lot more than just watch the Tea Party annoy progressives. There are no guarantees and I don’t think Tea Party activists really care whether or not you are a Republican or a Democrat. What they care about is whether or not you are paying attention to “we the people” and their priorities. Right now, it seems true that Republicans are the most likely alignment but Michael Castle will tell you there isn’t a rule that guarantees success.
If winning in November is important, the Roves and Krauthammer’s of this world should consider becoming more trusted advisors that help the inexperienced win instead of naysayers predicting doom. It might be wiser to get on the bus than get run over by it.November is coming. Know your candidates and vote.