The goals driving the tea party movement will not be realized without a new generation of party leadership, something the GOP establishment understandably is loath to admit. Karl Rove's April 1 Wall Street Journal column, "Where the Tea Partiers Should Go From Here," had some good advice for Tea Partiers. It was, however, what you would expect from a Washington-establishment Republican leader. By that I mean that nothing Rove said would challenge the Republican Party's leaders, whether in Washington, D.C. or state capitols.
Tea Partiers know and remember that the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 not because of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama, but because Republican leaders at the national and state levels broke their promise to govern as conservatives.
It was the disastrous big-government, bribe-the-voters, run-up-the-deficit policies of George Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, etc., etc. that turned Americans against the Republican Party.
So what are Tea Partiers to do?
There is nothing wrong with following Rove's advice, such as:
1. Educate yourself and friends on key issues;
2. See where politicians stand on key issues (my comment: remember, though, that politicians will tell you what you want to hear);
3. Be sure to register and vote on November 2;
4. Get ten to twenty-five other people involved; and
5. Make sure that the ten to twenty-five are registered and vote.
Of course, none of these five recommendations threatens the ruling GOP establishment leaders or their continuing domination of the Republican Party. Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are about the business of changing America by restoring our constitutional republic. That requires changing both the Republican and Democratic parties that have contributed to, if not caused, our government's shift away from our founding principles.
Here are my five recommendations to Tea Partiers as to how to change both major political parties:
1. To paraphrase Bill Clinton advisor James Carville, "It's the primaries, Stupid." Tea Partiers should focus only on primaries now, and not focus on the upcoming November elections just yet. In the primaries, challenge every establishment, big-government incumbent. Conservatives winning in primaries will make the November elections a more significant chance for meaningful, long-term change. Over half of the filing deadlines have not yet passed.
2. Support candidates who will vote to fire their party leaders.
3. Withhold support from all Republican or Democratic national committees, and give your donations directly to principled conservative candidates.
4. In addition to running and supporting candidates for public office, run for every possible party office. The best way to get a political party to change is to take it over.
5. Rove said that Tea Partiers need to study key issues. Quite frankly, Tea Partiers already know the issues. Despite the fact that many are new to organized politics, they are savvy and wise about the direction the country needs to take. They do, however, need to read and study more than the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and other writings of the Founders, although those are, of course, the essential foundations. They should read and study the writings of great but more recent conservative thinker-activists such as Mark Levin, Bill Buckley, Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater (The Conscience of a Conservative), and others. Tea Partiers will then better know who they are politically, will better understand what they believe, and will possess even better clarity about why they believe it. By reading conservative thinker-activist writings from the past half-century, Tea Partiers will be better able to educate, enlist, convert, and successfully debate others.
As a postscript to these five recommendations, I would add that Tea Parties should support only candidates who will pledge to repeal many of the laws, regulations, programs, and policies of recent big-government politicians -- and by that I mean both Republicans and Democrats. Also, any candidate who does not identify upholding the Constitution as one of his or her top five priorities should be suspect.
As a multi-decade veteran of the conservative movement, I can say that two of its biggest mistakes have been to become too attached to big-government Republican Party leaders and to fail to make inroads into the Democratic Party. The Tea Party can change that.
Tea Partiers need to remember that you are the leaders you've been waiting for. We all need to get out of our comfort zones and provide leadership to take back America -- and that starts with changing the Republican and Democratic Party leaders.