One of the things we are told repeatedly is that the Tea Party movement is “Astroturf,” rather than a true grass-roots phenomenon. Obviously, a lot of this is wishful thinking that comes from the mainstream media. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t occasionally true.
For instance, George Allen has been attempting to take on the cast of a Tea Partier in a number of ways as he makes a play for his former Senate seat in Virginia. This is an apparent bid to de-fang Jamie Radtke’s insurgent primary campaign, since Radtke’s legitimate ties to the Partiers are obviously very strong.
This culminated in the appearance of an odd-duck group, Tea Party Patriots for George Allen, in February of this year. The group seems to have spontaneously self-generated . . . from within Virginia’s establishment GOP party structure.
This mysterious Tea-like group has been in place for months, but despite granting a few media appearances it has no FaceBook presence. And no web site. This, of course, is a very odd thing within a movement that lives and dies by web access and free conference calls: an archaeologist might suspect that a group that forgoes modern tools is a bit more closely tied to the old power structure than it’s letting on.
Can we really say this? Can we really declare who is and isn’t a genuine Tea Party group? After all, getting the Tea People to agree to something is like herding cats.
Well, to some degree we can. Certainly any group that is connected to an establishment politician–or to one of the existing mainstream parties–should be regarded with suspicion, since the whole idea of the Tea Party was to break out of party politics, to throw off the straitjacket of the establishment. They are in politics–not of politics.
As John Jaggers, Director of Operations for the Northern Virginia Tea Party put it, “to the degree that George Allen voted for policies leading to the fiscal crisis, [he] will be challenged aggressively by all conservative constituencies, including the Tea Party.”
Tea Partiers need to have diplomatic relations with the Republicans, the Libertarians, and the Democrats (probably in that order). And we anticipate that most ‘Partier candidates will end up with an “R” next to their names. But we expect the horse to drive the cart, rather than vice versa.
Why does this matter so much? Well, in installment #2, we’re going to discuss George Allen’s record, and why there hasn’t been a stampede to welcome him into the Partier fold. We’re going to delve into the divisions between him and the fiscally conservative limited-government principles that drive the majority of Tea Partiers. And we’re going to ask the reader to go into this with his or her eyes wide open. We’re not campaigning for Radtke, but we want to make sure that the right questions are asked.
The primary winner in the Virginia Senate race has a good chance of being a “pickup” for the GOP, so anyone promoting conservative principles will want to be especially careful about exercising sound judgement, rather than rubber-stamping a mainstreamer.
Is George Allen a “TINO”? A “Tea partier In Name Only”? Yes. Yes, he is. And this year, above all others, that fact matters. It matters a lot.