Commentary by Chuck Muth: Reality check for fledging Tea Party movement
For the Nevada Appeal
As we enter the final stretch of Campaign 2010, it appears that at least some in the Tea Party movement are starting to come to grips with some political realities, such as….
To change public policy, you have to change public officials. You simply are not going to convince Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford that the answer to Nevada’s budget problems isn’t to raise taxes. You can’t change Sen. Horsford’s mind; you have to replace him.
Simply being right on the issues isn’t enough to win elections.
There are nut-and-bolts “things” campaigns and organizations must do to succeed at the ballot box. You see, it’s not the best candidate who usually wins a race; it’s the best campaign. Just look at how many mediocre elected officials we have in office today because they ran a better campaign than their decidedly better, at least on paper, opponent. Some Tea Party activists are beginning to realize that experienced conservative political operatives aren’t the enemy and can help channel their passion into effective political action.
Which brings me to another political reality: Majorities get to lead. And you win majorities through addition, not subtraction.
That means accepting the reality that moderate Republicans are sometimes the best you can get in a Democrat-majority district. Therefore, it’s politically unwise to go after every moderate Republican in primaries. You have to focus primary challenges in districts where the registration numbers mean a more conservative candidate has a reasonable chance to win in the general election.
Also, if Tea Partiers truly want to build a lasting movement, they need to build from the ground up. That means focusing on running for and winning local and state legislative seats and building a farm team for the future instead of trying to start at the top with zero campaign or political experience.
Finally, you can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent. Whether Tea Party activists like it or not, running an effective campaign or grassroots organization requires money. Those who do nothing but bellyache about the evil of money in politics and blow off the absolute necessity of serious fundraising do so at their own peril.
The 2010 elections will be a dress rehearsal for Tea Partiers. And while the movement is decidedly going through some growing pains this election cycle, it’s poised to have a far bigger impact in 2012 – just in time for the presidential election.
In political reality, timing is often everything.
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization.