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Is the Tea Party waiting to burst out of the GOP's chest?

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Tea Party candidates emerged victorious in many of their primary races. Come General Election, Republican ballots will reflect the Tea Party tilt. I'm not sure if there are any Democratic Tea Party candidates. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure if Tea Party candidates are Republican candidates, or if the Tea and Republican Parties can exist under the same roof.

The beauty of the Tea Party is that any and all can claim membership. Like a snake's skin, people can cast off essentially meaningless party affiliations and become TP'ers. Breaking the shackles of conformity to a two-party system is most definitely needed in an era of very limited choice; yet the Tea Partiers seem intent on changing the GOP from within, a radical transformative process that appears to be working as TPers win nominations.

Being new, the Tea Party is subject to interpretation by the descriptor. We can't say Tea Party candidates all behave the same, which raises the issue of how firmly Party members should conform. TPers do seem to want to return to some utopian ideals not that different from religious colonies in America early in our history. To return to a purer and more fundamental existence, which is not an unappealing offering in times of great fear and uncertainty in a backdrop of great, rapid change.

Early Protestant missionaries built on the idea of a "city upon a hill," a place where people could live free of government intolerance and practice religion in any form they see fit, away from all the tired old rivalries of Old Europe and the persistent oppression. America was founded on this premise, the premise of freedom.

For now the Tea Party offers an open tent -- a populist style of tolerance typically ascribed to the Democratic Party. As the Party's non-existent platform takes shape, the tent will shrink as the party platform hardens.

Compromise is vital in politics. We all agree to disagree for the benefit of shared political goals. A willingness to bend is required for compromise. TPer candidates may be overcommitted to key ideals necessary for compromise. They may also see where they stand on issues as immutable, closed to discussion. This is a mistake, as the firmness of one's position needs to be tempered by the practical limitations imposed by politics. Getting it done isn't as simple as "git-r-done," although the latter does seem simpler and easier to achieve.

Real government requires compromise, attention to detail, and nuanced reflection. The whole point of the Tea Party is that they're un-sanitized. They're a messy, pickup-driving, trash-talking, sitcom-watching bunch with no goal higher than letting you be you within that big sticky mess -- the cotton ball of candy they call a party but is really nothing more than a collective of tax-hating, Constitution- and Gun-loving reactionaries.

If government is no longer on the people's side, principles which the Tea Party purport to represent do offer a welcome change. For example, if our fiscal imbalances are leading to the destruction of our nation, then the TP principle to cut spending is undeniably vital. Yet, how could that be accomplished?

On spending, at some point there needs to be a hard either/or choice between military priorities and domestic ones. Faced with a nasty recession, tax revenues will be quite limited. Of course we all hope TPers can impose some fiscal restraint, but I don't see how they can be re-elected as Tea Partiers -- and the party retain any credibility -- unless its candidates in office vote no to military spending, which must challenge the cherished faith in the US military held so religiously by most Right wingers.

Calling the kettle black

The Tea Party can't change the Establishment from within as it is likely to be corrupted by it.

All politicians have a tendency to end up being compromised in Washington. Washington, D.C. has a myriad of delights from which to draw any number of scandals. Insert new politician, drunk with power, Tea Partier or not, into that environment and you'll make the humble proud and the pure unpure. It's the New Rome and all delight in her pleasures.

By succeeding, the Tea Party un-succeeds. By triumphing over Establishment candidates, they become the Establishment. In time, absolute power will corrupt absolutely whatever the candidate claimed as a candidate. As a matter of fact, the more audacious and anti-establishmentarian the message, the MORE likely and total the compromise, as the Obama case showed.

On one hand, the TP victories have brought new candidates -- outsiders. They intend to bring change and oppose the Establishment. In a campaign, messaging takes precedence, though, and if the American people want to believe in hope and change, they deserve to be lied to; for example, Barack Obama's "Vote for me and get change." The real message might go: "Vote for me on the promise of hope!" Translation: if I do all the things I say I'll do, there will be change. But first you must vote for me.


In the media spotlight, the presentation of a balanced image is critical, polish is a plus, and professionalism is key. Tea Partiers seem to be lacking experience in these areas. However, they do have the benefit of being outsiders in a period of great anti-incumbency sentiments.

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The author lives in Colorado, photographing the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Politically, John's an X generation independent with a blend of traditional American and progressive values. He is fiscally conservative and believes in (more...)

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