We are all strong and independent thinkers. If we were not, we’d still be sitting on our couches yelling at the television. We need to maintain that independence by allowing the membership to make their own choices. It is that thought that leads me to the following conclusions about why tea party groups should not endorse:
PERSONAL LIBERTY: If one belongs to a tea party who endorses, the appearance of personal liberty is lost. Obviously, every member has the right to choose whom they support and should be active in campaigning for that candidate.
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: The purpose of the tea party movement is to engage its membership in the thought process of choosing their own favored candidate through education and debates. Then, that member should be given the motivation and proper tools to actively campaign for whomever they choose.
CORRUPTION: Endorsing a candidate can (and has) led to corruption within the tea party. Without naming names or pointing fingers, I’ve seen a tea party endorse a candidate after a board member was hired on the campaign. Having people in positions of authority who are paid to work on campaigns does not lend itself to fair and balanced education on all the candidates.
DIVISION: Not all tea party members think alike. Not all the same issues are important to all tea party members which leads to different perspectives as to whom is the best candidate. Let’s just say, for example, that one person believes Sarah Palin would make the best president while another believes it’s Michelle Bachmann. If the tea party endorses one over the other, both being excellent candidates, there will be division amongst the membership that leads to the destruction of the movement.
FALSE ENDORSEMENTS: The tea party movement is a grassroots movement. It’s not a third party. If it were, then endorsements would be crucial. However, because it is grassroots and not led by any national entity, ANYONE can start a tea party. A candidate, for example, could start a tea party, endorse himself/herself and claim that the tea party endorses him/her. There’s no accountability in this movement. We must police ourselves! This is also a problem with individual tea parties staking claim to a name or identity that appears to represent all of the tea parties in the state when it doesn’t. In our case, the Tea Party of Louisiana (which is one small group who does NOT represent all tea parties and with whom most tea party groups refuse to associate) endorses candidates and it gives the false impression that each group in the state also endorses their candidate.
DAMAGES CAMPAIGNS: Whether you agree with it or not, there are people out there who just don’t appreciate the tea party for various reasons. If a candidate claims the tea party endorsement, it could turn off some fence-sitters. Having the tea party endorsement is not always a positive thing for a candidate.
DISAGREEMENTS/DISUNITY: Having one tea party endorse one candidate while another tea party endorses a different candidate can lead to confusion for the members but also the public. It shows disunity and that there is no common purpose in the movement. This leads to competition within the movement itself and turns one group against another. We must keep in mind that we have one common goal and we must work together to accomplish that goal.
However, I am not opposed to a tea party group taking a fair and balanced poll of their membership (after education/debates) and publishing those results for all to see and use however they wish. Knowing where the majority of the membership stands is also helpful to the leadership in directing their organization.
This article is written because of the recent issues within certain tea party groups in our state. I am very pleased that the Baton Rouge Tea Party has new leadership that I am confident will return to the core values and principles that began this grassroots movement.
Update: Jan 27, 2012 @7:07PM
I failed to mention that I am no longer in any leadership position in the tea party movement by my own design. I now educate, train and provide the tools necessary for my members so they can become active in grassroots activism on issues at Louisiana Grassroots Network.