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Tea Party Endorsements

June 8, 2010

There has been quite a discussion on the web lately about whether or not Tea Party organizations should make endorsements. Here’s my take: they should. Here’s why.

It is important to understand that the Tea Party movement is just that: a movement, not a political party. Much as the left and the left-leaning media would like to paint tea parties as a political party, we’re not. We are much bigger than that: we are a movement sweeping America. The left is scared witless and well they should be.

The Tea Party movement–or the Liberty movement as I call it–is more like an interest group or a civic group. We’re like Elks or Moose, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Rotary Club, the VFW, the NRA and in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the tea party shares members with many of those organizations. Each of those civic organizations has an issue-oriented reason for being, something they stand for. They advocate for those issues.

The Tea Party movement differs only in what brings us together. We stand for American values: for life, liberty and property; for limited constitutional government, for fiscal responsibility and free market capitalism. It is the broadest possible statement of what it means to be an American.

This is a grass-roots movement. There is no leader and each organization may or may not affiliate with a state-wide, regional or national organization, such as the Tea Party Patriots. Some are formally organized as 501 (c)3 corporations, some as 501 (c)4, some not formally structured at all. Each organization is free to do pretty much what it thinks best.

Should they endorse? Some organizations exist solely for the purpose of education–the 9-12 groups are a lot like that. They and others feel that they are called to educate and that endorsement is not appropriate. To them I say: We are on the ropes. We have almost lost the fight. Education is a fine and necessary long-term purpose, but if we lose either of the next two elections there is no long term.

Others want to highlight the candidates and even provide a forum for debate, but not to endorse them. To them I say: debate is fine and necessary but the time for debate is closing and the time for action is upon us.  Here’s why not endorsing doesn’t work.

In the Florida FL-19 special election in April the South Florida Tea Party favored candidate Ed Lynch but was careful not to specifically endorse him. They even went so far as to organize a phone bank but not for a specific candidate. Activist Karin Hoffman of DC Works for Us tells the result:

The Precincts that DC Works For Us was responsible for had an 84% return for the candidate. The same region only had 3 precincts go for McCain….had the [other] grassroots taken ownership of the whole District with this strategy, we would have another conservative in Congress.

As any marketing professional will tell you, it is not enough to put your product on display and hope people will flock in to buy it. You must advertise. We must commit. It is time to get off the bench, grab the bat and step up to the plate.

Support the candidates who support our values.

  1. June 9, 2010 3:17 pm

    While I agree we are on the ropes, the endorsement of a 9-12 group means little. What matters is what the individual members do to engage in the “fight”. We are very much into educating ourselves and others on the values and principles that founded this nation and how those values and principles will form the basis for restoring it. Our groups are made up of a variety of individuals from all walks of life and political parties. While we are all different, we have the same goal of returning common sense and American values to the process.

    9-12 Colorado and its partnered group “As- A- Mom” consists of over 10,000 members. One doesn’t have to look much further than the intense pressure from ordinary citizens placed upon the state legislature this session or to see how many new delegates were at the state assembly to see that the individuals of the movement are engaged. Many of the volunteers for the “liberty” candidates will come from 9-12 and groups like it. Most of the groups are not endorsing as a group because they consist of, as stated, individuals from all walks of life and political parties.

    For a 9-12 group to endorse, or a Tea Party group for that matter, ties that group to a candidate and a Party and implies all members agree when that will never happen. It is better to energize the individuals in those groups to get actively involved for whoever they support than to alienate any of its membership into inaction.

    You are right is saying, “The time for action is upon us”. A look at any of the liberty groups will clearly show that they have been taking action for more than a year. They are engaged in a fight they know they can not afford lose. However, the “fight” is on many levels and politics is but one. It takes every person with true American values and principles to win and the level of commitment and the impact these Patriots are having should not be underestimated.

    If 9-12 endorsed today, it would change nothing. It’s the individual member doing what Americans have always done in times of crisis in stepping up and doing what needs to be done that matters. South Florida Tea Party had it right in “favoring” based on values, but not endorsing a specific candidate as the truth will drive people to those candidates that are true conservatives.

    We have been on the ropes, but we are fighting back hard. I’ll put my faith in the actions of the real foot soldiers of the movement over the “endorsement” of a group leadership that may not speak for the whole of it’s members.

  2. June 9, 2010 7:27 pm

    I agree with most of what you’ve said, Don. And “endorsements” do come at different levels. When an interest group endorses a candidate, it says that the candidate embraces the values of that interest group. In that sense, Tea Party endorsements are useful both to members of the group and to others outside who are looking to see what the candidate stands for but don’t want to rely solely on what the candidate says.

    Thus, the NRA endorsed Harry Reid for his stand on gun rights. One should understand that as a very narrow endorsement on a single issue.

    We may be entering a period in politics much like the first years of the Republic, where the candidate is the focus, not the party. So when you say that an endorsement of a candidate ties the liberty group to a party as well, that may be less true going forward. Some local elections are non-partisan; California is moving to a primary system where the two top candidates, regardless of party, stand for the general election.

    Remember, too, that in politics you can’t enact a program or a platform unless you get elected.

  3. Alexandra permalink
    June 9, 2010 8:03 pm

    I agree with donincolorado. It would be impossible for the Tea Party to endorse a candidate when (at least in the case of the south Denver branch) they are divided pretty evenly as to which candidate to support. I think the rules governing funding also can make that tricky.

    • June 9, 2010 9:34 pm

      Maybe in that case the organization doesn’t pick sides but, like a tea party group in Houston, encourages their members to go out and campaign for the candidate of their choice.

      The important thing is not to be standing on the sidelines.

      Thanks for commenting!


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