A Leaderless Movement

The tea party has been referred to as a “leaderless movement.”  What does a leaderless movement really mean?  It means that nobody in particular speaks authoritatively for the movement.  No one person controls or directs the movement.  Further, nobody gets the final say on who is a “real” tea party member or not (beyond denouncing tactics like racism and/or other extremely disruptive acts, along with the perpetrators of such).  Individuals within the movement may agree with each other on certain issues and may greatly disagree on others.  Disagreement actually helps sharpen and move ideas forward.

Even the focus of a leaderless movement cannot be directed.  Some may want to talk about theory which is important while others may want to talk about current events that are happening.  (Within theory or current events, there may be aspects that some people feel are important which others feel are irrelevant.)  Neither method is wrong and both are necessary in order for people to learn for the future.  But nobody can dictate to someone else as to where they should focus; suggestions can be made which can either be adhered to or ignored.  Those who outright desire power or who want to dictate the direction of the movement really are no different than the forces of centralization they claim to oppose, in my opinion.

Leaders emerge if people choose to follow them.  It is not that they try to show off or make a grab for power.  It is that they stick to convictions unless there is a good reason, are consistent, maintain civility and professionalism at all times, discuss issues directly and when possible privately with others if they have a problem, keep petty/personal squabbles out of public view, and set a good example overall.  This does not bar an individual from disagreeing with someone else or questioning them even in public, but the idea is to do so respectfully and without resorting to personal insults or other childish tactics.

Let’s look at the “tea party movement” in New York State’s Capital Region.  There are groups such as 912, Campaign for Liberty, Upstate Conservative Coalition, Primary Challenge, and others.  They stand for different things but loosely are considered part of the “tea party movement.”  Many are in favor of getting back to the Constitution, but they may not always agree on exactly how or at what level.  Each group has an individual leader or a leadership team, but those leaders do not have power outside their own group.  They may have a reputation as a leader of their group and thus in the minds of others, their opinions might have more weight, but it’s ultimately up to the listener/reader to decide.  The members of their groups are all volunteers and are free to come and go as they please.  In this time-starved world, people are only going to continue attending meetings if they actually feel it’s worth their time and trouble.

Let’s consider tea party bloggers.  Each blogger represents nothing but their own view.  They are not spokespersons or “leaders” of the full tea party movement.  Even if a leader of a particular group happened to be a blogger, they would be no more of a leader than anyone else in terms of the full tea party movement.  Ultimately, the weight of an opinion on a blog, whether from a blogger or someone writing comments, is up to the reader to assign.  People can take it 100% seriously or dismiss it outright.  But that is a decision to be made by the reader.

In fact, I personally would prefer people take everything with a healthy degree of skepticism.  In my opinion, they should be looking at blog entries or comments from others as mere pointers.  (And the same goes for those who listen to talk radio, watch any kind of news program, etc.)  They should be willing to put the effort into doing their own exhaustive research to ensure they have the correct information and make decisions accordingly.  Each person is responsible for properly informing themselves.

When it comes to informing ourselves and making decisions accordingly, one very important area at the moment is the upcoming election.  People need to research the candidates, figure out where they stand, examine their record if they are an incumbent, and learn all they can.  That goes for the top of the ticket such as those running for governor or senator all the way down to the family court judges and everything in between such as congressional races and state legislative races.

Vetting candidates is important.  And, sometimes the best people to vet a candidate are those who might generally support the opponent’s views.  Should those kinds of people attend an open forum and ask the candidate (whom they might not support) some questions, it helps supporters and opponents to “scratch the surface” and see deeper into where the candidate stands.  We can all learn from that.

On any issue, whether it is legislation, pure theory, political candidates, the Constitution, etc., I hope people will choose to do their own research and post their opinions — in a civil manner, of course.