By Dr. Milton R. Wolf – The Washington Times
So long as the Washington establishment continues to underestimate – and even misunderstand – the Tea Party, insiders will continue to be pummeled by the grass-roots giant that no longer sleeps. Democrats dismissed the Tea Party in 2010 and took a historic shellacking. Republicans would be wise to learn from their mistake.
First, let’s remind ourselves, the Tea Party is not a formal political party or even an advocacy group, but rather a state of mind. If you believe in constitutional fidelity, limited government and the free market, then you don’t need your name on some official roster or even to have attended a rally to be part of the Tea Party movement. You simply need to use your vote and your effort to demand that our leaders embrace these principles as well.
The Tea Party plays chess, not checkers. The nascent movement demonstrated remarkable maturity in 2010, for example, by resisting the temptation to form a third party. Memories still loom large of the 2000 presidential race when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader took just enough votes from Democrat Al Gore in Florida to tip the balance and award the White House to Republican George W. Bush. So the Tea Party wisely exercises a disciplined loyalty, if not to the Republican Party, then at least to the William F. Buckley Jr. rule of supporting the most conservative candidate who can be elected.
In truth, the Tea Party has been far more loyal to the GOP than the GOP has been to the Tea Party. While the establishment abandoned and even openly sabotaged Tea Party Senate candidates such as Nevada’s Sharron Angle, the Tea Party still delivered a historic victory to Republicans that captured the House. In return, the GOP establishment reneged on its campaign pledge to cut $100 billion in spending, capitulated on yet another debt-ceiling increase and then promptly blamed the Tea Party for obstructionism.
Undeterred, the happy warriors of the Tea Party are playing the long game. The conservative movement, after all, is just that – a movement. Although a few shortsighted members pose purity tests that not even Ronald Reagan could pass, the reality is that re-embracing America’s founding principles will not be achieved in one knockout election by some mythically perfect candidate. So the Buckley Rule of campaigns prevails and the Milton Friedman rule of political profit offers the best hope for a conservative victory.
“It’s nice to elect the right people,” said Friedman, the late, free-market economist, “but that isn’t the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.”