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Two tea-party promoters, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks, offer a “manifesto” for the movement in today’s Wall Street Journal. The bit that’s getting all the attention doesn’t come until the end:
[L]et us be clear about one thing: The tea party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.
The American values of individual freedom, fiscal responsibility and limited government bind the ranks of our movement. That makes the tea party better than a political party. It is a growing community that can sustain itself after November, ensuring a better means of holding a new generation of elected officials accountable.
So, it’s a hostile takeover of a political party, but it’s also better than a political party? I think I know what they are getting at: that they are part of a movement that will try to infiltrate the GOP and change it from within, rather than compete with, or take orders from, it. But it’s a little obtuse, as is the notion of setting out a manifesto for a group that, as they write within said manifesto, is not a top-down organization:
The many branches of the tea party movement have created a virtual marketplace for new ideas, effective innovations and creative tactics. Best practices come from the ground up, around kitchen tables, from Facebook friends, at weekly book clubs, or on Twitter feeds. This is beautiful chaos — or, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek put it, “spontaneous order.”
Decentralization, not top-down hierarchy, is the best way to maximize the contributions of people and their personal knowledge. Let the leaders be the activists who have the best knowledge of local personalities and issues. In the real world, this is common sense. In Washington, D.C., this is considered radical.
As I’ve said before, the tea party’s best chances for “sustain[ing] itself after November” lie in changing the way Americans engage with politics and politicians — for changing the framework for debate, not working within the old one. And it needs to be done locally before it can expect to have more than a fleeting impact nationally.
I don’t think Armey and Kibbe are wrong about their description of the tea party to date. But if they are right about its intention to remake the GOP nationally, I think the movement will end up using its energies in ways that don’t fulfill its potential.
P.S. — As a challenge to those who will come on here and disparage tea partiers, try to say something more original and insightful than accusing all or most of them of racism.