Tea Going Forward
Noting the fates of previous grassroots movements, Patrick Ruffini suggests to Tea Partiers: “Hitch yourself to established power institutions at your own peril.” That doesn’t mean that they should ignore the Republican Party, refuse to participate in it, or fail to work with its established members. It does mean preserving an independent priority.
Indeed, Ruffini points in a direction that I’ve been advocating:
Ned Ryun, executive director of American Majority — one of the more promising new institutions that have risen up around the Tea Party movement — wants to ignore Washington and go local. “What the movement is really about, quite frankly, is the local leaders, and I’ve made a point with American Majority of going directly to them, and ignoring the so-called national leaders of the movement,” he told me. “I think the national leaders are beside the point; if they go away, the movement still exists. If the local leaders go away, the movement dies.”
Frankly, our entire civic culture has to be rebuilt, which is not a one-cycle project. Conservatives — including those who might shy from calling themselves such — shouldn’t cede the national stage, of course, but their most lasting effect will arise if they can change the makeup of the political class, starting at the local level. A new type of candidate must be encouraged to get on the escalator at the bottom, carrying Tea Party principles into politics throughout the entire body national.
Power and the massive audience for national issues have a tremendous allure, but they are the corrupting influence that must be avoided.