The "tea party" as a third party?
Last weekend, I joined about 100 other people in a "tea party" protest of Baron Hill's fundraiser with Barack Obama's chief of staff. There is palpable frustration with Obama's policies, and nationally more people are identifying as conservatives in opinion polls. After a truly pathetic showing in 2008 led by a pathetic candidate at the top of the ticket, Republicans are looking to have a very good year in 2010. The national tide might even allow the beleaguered Republican Party in Monroe County to put up a good showing in local elections.
It's no secret that conservatives are frustrated with the Republican Party. We're frustrated that the President Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress passed a law regulating the content of political speech, significantly increased the federal government's role in primary and secondary education, created a brand new federal entitlement program and attempted to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. We're beginning to get encouraged by the Republican Party's opposition to Obama's socialist agenda, but the frustration remains. Is it time for a third party?
The problem with a third party is that the best you can realistically hope for is for the third party to get enough votes to be a spoiler. By splitting conservative votes between the GOP and a third party, you allow the Democrats to win elections with a plurality when they would otherwise lose. Do we really want to give the Democrats permanent majority status? Like it or not, the American political system is set up as a two party system. While the Republicans replaced the Whigs in the 1800's, the odds of that happening again are low.
I've voted for third party candidates in the past. For example, I voted for Bob Barr for President in 2008 and I voted for Jim Billingsley for state representative in 2002. But those were very specific situations where the Republican nominee was unacceptable because of anti-conservative positions and I could not in good conscience violate my conservative principles and support the Republican candidate. The problem with organizing conservative activists in a third party is that we will ensure the defeat of the good Republicans who are actually out there fighting for conservative principles, individual liberty and limited government.
What the "tea party patriots" need to do is take over the Republican Party. This means recruiting and supporting true conservatives in Republican primaries and then working to make sure those conservatives win. This means replacing existing Republicans in name only (RINO) with conservatives by challenging them in the primary, as conservatives did 12 years ago when we defeated Jerry Bales. Now is not the time to split the conservative votes between the Republican Party and a third party. Now is the time to use the momentum of the tea parties to bring the GOP back to the conservative roots that George W. Bush abandoned.