How To Harness the Tea Parties for Republican Wins in November

Republicans are confident of a nice little November.  That’s not enough for me, and it shouldn’t be enough for you. I want a total victory, one that may take decades. I won’t be satisfied until the Democratic Party is pushed off the national scene, its very name a byword, the Marxist ideals at its heart totally discredited.

The Tea Party movement will lead us there.

But to achieve this victory we need to admit why we’ve been losing.

First, some backdrop.

When the Tea Party movement began, Republicans in Washington and state capitols were warned to stay clear of them. But the ideas espoused at every Tea Party event are so simple and so, well, Republican, that even the explicitly non-partisan nature of the Tea Parties themselves wasn’t enough to keep good people apart.  We realized that despite the media spin and despite not being registered Republicans, these were our voters, our people, our friends.

Once the movement took hold, and it became clear that it was part of a constitutional awakening in American politics, Republican power brokers should have sought to use the grassroots energy to mutual advantage.  That they did not has revealed a sickness at the heart of the Republican Party, an institutional rot that must be cleansed.

I’m here to tell you to get your mind right.

Because the question is not just how Republicans can use the Tea Parties, but how the Republican Party can restore itself.

For years the GOP has been content to bump along from election to election, biennially finding and using a cadre of tireless young operatives and wizened old numbers men to eek out a targeted victory here and there. When we won, we said the pendulum was swinging our way.

Despite the advantage of superior policy positions and being the natural home to a strong plurality of American voters, the GOP reeled under the relentless onslaught of the Democratic Party, labor unions, ACORN-like groups, and the media. When we lost, we would say the pendulum had simply swung their way.

They kept coming, using a variety of groups to solicit funds from entities who benefit from government largess, use those funds to elect Democrats, who then wait for the elected Democrats to bestow money on the entities who fund Democrat grassroots activists. And the cycle continued.

Republicans, meanwhile, stumbled along from election to election, seldom even maintaining a fully active party structure.

The Republican Party Structure

Our party is an organization made up of state parties and other groups. The state parties in turn each comprise their county party committees. Each county is broken up into precincts and sub-precincts, each staffed by a precinct committee.  The number and staffing of the precincts varies. Some precincts have just one committeeman, while densely populated precincts may have many sub-precincts, each of which has many committeemen.

The committees vote on Party business, elect a county chairman, and so forth.

The precinct committees should form the basis of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts.

Instead we have relied on phone banking and advertising, and have left the real work of GOTV to the individual candidates.  Unable to rely on an effective political party, every campaign has had to build a GOTV effort.

That’s fine for primary battles, although the party machinery and voter rolls should still be tested and used in the primary, because if there is to be a failure it should happen in the primary.  But for a general election, GOTV should be well-funded, even lavishly funded, and staffed by party regulars and volunteers working in coordinated fashion using techniques honed, practiced, and passed down from one election year to the next.

That means having a complete party structure that survives between election cycles.

Yet in many counties in America today, a large number of precinct committeeman (PC) slots are empty.

In this era of 24-hour news cycles and the perpetual campaign, having a reservist party structure is a luxury we can no longer afford.

What Can Be Done

The Tea Parties are a loosely knit web of like-minded patriots.  No one controls them. As Redstate’s Fred Maidment notes, no one can control them.  They – we – are explicitly not looking for a leader, and anyone who claims to be more than one of many leaders is a charlatan.

But rallies need organizers and speakers.  Following the model of the Concord Project and the tireless lead of Redstate’s ColdWarrior, I recently tried to get the organizer of a local Tea Party group to push our GOTV agenda. She invited me to speak.

Rather than trying to get all of the local PCs to contact Tea Partiers, I told the Tea Partiers to look at their voter card, find their precinct, and look up their PC — or volunteer to become one. I handed out a sheet with all of the local PCs listed.

About 20 of the 100 in the audience were enthusiastic about doing so. If you’ve ever done party recruiting before, you understand those numbers. These folks are hungry to do more.

Many Tea Parties are having events in October.  The Concord Project, Tea Party Patriots, and others are compiling lists of events. The organizers I’ve talked to see the need for GOTV, even if they don’t have a plan other than telling people to tell people.

We in the Republican Party should, at a minimum:

  • Try to get the word out to Tea Party leaders to pass out our lists of local PCs and ask for volunteers
  • Ask the Tea Partiers to find a campaign in a tough race and volunteer
  • Request feedback on how willing the County Chairmen and other officers are to accept volunteers and new PCs.

These simple steps can help fill the ranks of our party with motivated members while shaking out the cobwebs from the GOTV machine.  There is a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it.  But we cannot assume victory, and we cannot take our foot off the gas.

Republicans should seek total victory. When the Democratic Party is finally crushed and Marxism a short chapter in a dusty history book, there will be another foe.  Or perhaps our party will split.  But our work must never stop.