What the Tea Partyers have yet to master: consensus
Sunday, June 6, 2010
If Virginia's 5th Congressional District is any indication of what the Tea Party movement can do for the conservative agenda, we may be in for a long liberal reign. The Tea Party faction has encouraged a large and diverse group of people to become more politically involved, but the major vulnerability of the movement is that the only thing those participating in it can agree on is that they do not like what is happening in Washington. The Tea Partyers' distrust of career politicians and their divided support for self-proclaimed conservative candidates can only bode well for the opposition.
I became involved in this grass-roots movement in early 2009, when I helped form the Jefferson Area Tea Party in the greater Charlottesville area, home to Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia. My exasperation with what both parties had done to our freedoms spurred me to take on a more active role in politics. I and a few other disgruntled citizens were able to organize several large rallies as well as multiple protests at the local and Washington offices of Rep. Tom Perriello (D). I served as chair of the Jefferson Area Tea Party for almost a year before leaving to take a more active role in the campaign of a candidate seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Perriello in the 5th District.
As it did in other parts of the country, the Tea Party movement continued to grow in our congressional district, with no fewer than three other Tea Party organizations forming in a span of six months. Along with the multiple Tea Parties came a plethora of GOP candidates, all of whom claimed affiliation with one Tea Party group or another. With the GOP primary approaching, seven candidates are vying for the conservative vote, and one potential candidate is threatening a third-party run should an insufficiently conservative candidate win the nomination. With seven people on the June GOP primary ballot, it would be possible to win with 15 percent of the vote, though it would be more likely that the winner would gain about 25 percent. In any case, that's hardly a mandate.
My involvement with the Tea Party and with one of the campaigns has, I believe, given me a closer look at what is happening on both levels. It is evident by the passionate support for the different candidates that after the primary there may be some difficulty in gathering everyone behind the nominee. Several contenders have refused to say whether they will support the winner; some said they may even go so far as to support a third-party candidate. This would be a disaster for those who want to replace Tom Perriello.
If the Tea Party movement is going to succeed, it will need to find a way to form a consensus among its participants. If it does not, we will continue to see races like the one in Virginia's 5th District across the country. This will bode well for the progressive cause, which never seems to have this problem, but it could spell disaster for conservatives.
The writer is campaign manager for Laurence Verga, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia's 5th District.