The Challenges for the Tea-Party Movement

Those who had the opportunity to watch, or even better, attend one of the “tax day tea parties” being held acrossthe nation were witness to a rebirth of Conservative grassroots, a massive and critical victory for right-wing organization that now puts it closer to parring the forces of liberalism in the area of internet-based organization. Thousands of emails, telephone numbers, and addresses have obtained, many from those already active in politics, but many more from those waking up to th stench of Obama’s economic policies. Yet challenges remain for the movement, challenges – and the answers to them – that will dictate the future of the movement as either a one-time novelty or a ture political powerhouse.

The first challenge is to establish a clear and coherent message, as well as some leadership or organizational structure that can be used beyond the events of the past weeks to combat Democratic policies on taxes, spending, and other issues. Its easy to call the Tea-Party movement a success, but a success for what? For low taxes? For less spending? For those opposed to Government waste? For Ron Paul supporters? For Conservative Republicans? One of the largest problems with yesterday’s protests was the lack of clearly defined goals and positions, which left the meaning of the movement largely up to the interpretation of those either involved or watching. A quick review of video footage from yesterday’s protests will reveal a wide range of grievances and agendas, some complementary and respectable, others more extreme, and, in some cases, in clear contradiction to each other. Signs for Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, the Fair Tax, the Flat Tax, No Taxes, and other candidates and causes are the direct consequence of the failure to produce clearly defined goals. If the movement is to be a success it must develop a coherent message that moves it from the category of disgruntled citizens letting of steam to the category of organized political activism.

The second challenge for the movement is to avoid hijacking by various groups and causes, most notably the fringe libertarian elements who were clearly present at many rallies. While these groups may share some goals with the broader movement, they have the potential to turn off others, particularly if their views on other issues – which the Conservative grassroots will hopefully expand to address – conflict with the views of the larger Conservative bloc.

Finally, the movement must embrace the participation of, and association with, organized political groups – particularly parties (mostly the GOP), and candidates. Without actively working with, and helping to elect, those politicians likely to support their cause, the movement will attract little besides television cameras. Alone, those participating in the tea parties have little power to directly affect the policies the government enforces, and its unlikely the vast majority of Democrats will be swayed.

Yesterday’s protests were an excellent first step, and provided the Conservative grassroots with an ideal launching groud for further protests, and the opportunity to expand deeper into fiscal and financial issues, as wall as to branch out in support of other causes not directly tied to the economy. If that potential is achieved, the movement will thrive, if it is not, the movement will wither and die like so many grassroots efforts in the past.


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