Veteran conservative activist Richard Viguerie thinks the “Tea Party” movement may actually have a chance to roll back government to its constitutional limits, something even Ronald Reagan was unable to do. For it to do so, however, and avoid the fate of other transient political movements, he recommends this game plan:
Most important, tea partiers must remain distinct from both political parties. The GOP would like nothing better than to co-opt the movement and control the independent conservatives who are its members. But we must keep in mind that perhaps the single biggest mistake of the conservative movement was becoming an appendage of the Republican Party.
In his 1976 presidential primary campaign, Reagan said we needed new leaders unfettered by old ties and old relationships. The tea party does not have the old ties and old relationships with Republican politicians that Reagan was talking about and that caused so many conservative leaders to lose their way. Remember that most conservative leaders and organizations in Washington were silent when George W. Bush and congressional Republicans were expanding government at a record-breaking pace. Even today, too many conservatives are willing to overlook the fact that the GOP's leaders in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner, were willing accomplices of Bush's spending policies and that Mitt Romney was for Obamacare before Obama was.
Go on a policy offensive.
We must take on policy initiatives that will fundamentally change America but that, because of crony politics, neither political party will touch. Tea partiers already know that promoting complete adherence to the Constitution, and particularly to the 10th Amendment — which reserves the powers not explicitly granted to the federal government for the states and the people — is the way to change policy. Using this approach, we need to move major proposals to the center of debate and action, among them audits of the Federal Reserve, a restructured tax code and an end to corrupt gerrymandering. We must also pursue constitutional amendments mandating term limits, a balanced budget with tax limitations and an end to automatic citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.
Pressure institutions to change.
We must expand our cause beyond anger at politicians. Wall Street banks once operated with the knowledge that individual integrity is essential to the functioning of a free market, but now we haveGoldman Sachs executives cheering the housing market collapse. So, rather than focus solely on government, we also need to train a spotlight on the failed leaders of other major American institutions from Hollywood to Wall Street, including big business, banks, mainstream media, labor unions and organized religion (notably my own Catholic Church).
Tea partiers must make ourselves a constant presence and conscience in the lives of those we elect. Once politicians get into office, they are surrounded by lobbyists and special interests that want more, not less, from government. We must push back by making our influence felt at a steady procession of meetings, breakfasts and dinners, and we must speak up via letters, phone calls, e-mails and town hall meetings. Too often after we send people to Washington, we hear from them only through their fundraising appeals. We need face-to-face contact to remind them that we’re here to support them when they do right, and that we’ll vote them out when they do wrong.
Avoid the third-party trap.
Just as the tea party movement must not be co-opted by either of the major parties, nor can it yield to the temptation to start a third party. In 2008, Republicans lost three Senate races because of conservative third-party candidates. Those losses have made it more difficult to oppose and defeat liberal judicial nominations, Obamacare, cap-and-trade legislation and other policies that, even in a best-case scenario, will take conservatives years to undo.
As a practical matter, the two major parties have rigged the rules against third parties, all but ensuring defeat. If conservatives fall into the third-party trap, they will split the right-of-center vote, thereby guaranteeing the left’s control of America for at least another generation. The opportunity of a lifetime will have been wasted.
This doesn’t mean we should automatically support whatever candidates Republicans put up. The tea party electoral strategy should be simple and consistent: We must run principled conservatives in the primaries and then throw our support behind the most conservative major-party candidates in the general election.
Let me add some more advice: Drop the violent and seditious rhetoric. I know what Thomas Jefferson said. Thomas Jefferson, despite his many good ideas, was a Jacobin, an advocate of a French-style revolution. He is not on your side.
Try not to scare people. Americans really do tend to be conservative, which means they have little sympathy with radicals of any stripe, including radical conservatives.
Any other advice that could channel this populist uprising in a positive direction?