The suggestion that the Tea Party folks will “be a force” when they: A) get organized nationally, or B) get clearly defined leadership, misses two critical points. They’ve done just fine without a national organization and they are already a force.
It will be tempting for some in the movement to seek the anal compulsive comfort of a top down organizational chart; it is unnecessary, ultimately dangerous and stands the potential for the movement to lie down in the same corrupting rut as the existing national parties occupy. Standing on principal, does not require a national organization, nor does it require identifiable leadership.
The Tea Party folks have already achieved a significant degree of credibility, polls show that north of 51% think that they are serious people honestly concerned about the direction of the country; only 20% considered them a fringe group. Standing up to both media dismissal and castigation those are impressive numbers. They, (we) did not require a national organization or clearly defined leadership to accomplish that point of credibility. We simply required principals and motivating events, a patriotic silent majority committed to American values and to being silent no more.
The only thing necessary to accomplish Tea Party credibility was an honest commitment to principal and a willingness to stand up for those principals. It is true that participants focused on a variety of specific issues; however, fidelity to founding Constitutional principals is the tie that bound them together regardless of issue. Tea Party adherents must never lose sight of the ultimate power of ideas; they have proven the power of ideas to themselves and to others. Tea Party folks know in their hearts and minds that there have been no more powerful set of political ideas than those present in our founding.
It’s a good thing that professional politicians still don’t quite know what to make of the Tea Parties. It’s a good thing that they tread carefully in their characterizations, but they have a problem. They are trying to define the movement within the context of their own political experience but the context of their experience up till now will not serve to deliver them to the required epiphany. Senator Bunning’s flogging over the demand that a way be found to pay for extended unemployment benefits may be proof enough that even supposed conservative Republicans still don’t get it!
Beware the advice from those that fear you, and those who don’t understand you because they can’t! Beware the temptation to focus on anything other than principal. Be mindful of the possibility that a typical national organizational structure may accomplish no more than to allow those who fear it or wish to control it to actually get a handle on it, to negotiate with it, to direct it and to manage it! Principal, energy and a voice is all you need.