By Allen Wilson
While David Cameron’s Conservative party won the most seats in Great Britain’s general election they failed to gain enough to form a government. Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrat’s failed to achieve the impact at the polls they had been hoping for but in the end achieved something even grander, a voice in the government through forming a coalition with the Conservatives.
What happens on this little lump of coal off the coast of Europe has a parallel with recent events in America.
A quick recap of the primaries leading up to the mid term election shows that although they didn’t win everything, the tea party movement gained both respectability for turning out the vote and animosity for the gains they made. Perhaps two of the most significant examples are Angle in Nevada and O’Donnell in Delaware, but there are other examples in the congressional district races. The reaction of the GOP was predictable and a disappointing omen of things to come.
By failing to embrace the voice of the people, the GOP has tipped its hand with an undeniable and unmistakable “tell”. Like a child that did not get their own way, the establishment Republican Party has said by its actions, “Only we know what is right for the Right and these other people don’t deserve our attention or our ear.” What they fail to see with their myopic vision is that this is the very attitude that cost them the nomination in the first place. This doesn’t bode well for a new Republican majority.
Like Britain’s Liberal Democrats (a centrist party) the tea party movement represents a differing point of view from professional politicians. Though their message may not be the same as the LibDems, their influence on government certainly will be. Not all the tea party leaning candidates will be elected in November, but some will. Moreover, it is possible that those that do take office will not join with the pseudo tea party caucus formed by the establishment, but will find each other and form their own coalition. With the balance in the House and Senate likely to be roughly even, this coalition will wield a bigger stick than either party will likely admit.
If the shelf life of these tea party candidates does not expire before their term does, if they can hold on to the principles that put them in office, and if they can learn to wield their power in the way we hope they will be able to, then the mighty ship of state will slowly begin its lumbering turn.
A less iffy question but still one that bears our attention is what will happen within the tea party movement itself? It seems like a groundhog scenario to me. If they see some progress one of two things may happen. They may feel empowered and see that their efforts are rewarded and thus drive on towards 2012. Or, they may accept that progress as a mission accomplished and fall back into apathy.
Similarly, if no progress is made there are two possible outcomes. They may become discouraged and feel that the problem is so great than no amount of effort will suffice. Or, they will dig in their heels and fight on without losing sight of their goal. There is the third possibility. The one that Angle referred to as a warning not a prediction, that there are other remedies.
I tend to believe that if just one tea party candidate makes it in November it will be a victory. I also believe that the days of public apathy are gone. Any hope that either party has of the tea party losing its determination and relaxing its vigilance is an empty hope. Movements, unlike political parties, are the result of a common system of beliefs. Parties can be terminated by cutting off their head. Movements are more like crab grass. You never get all the stems and you never get all the roots and it just keeps growing back. Maybe that’s why they call it “grass roots”.
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