Tea Party about to cross the Rubicon, become more effective – Wimpy Progressives, watch out!

I’ve often complimented the Tea Party on their electoral agressiveness, but I’ve also noted that, AFAIK, the Tea Parties were not willing to throw a Republican under the bus during a general election. I pointed out that, by my reckoning, the Tea Parties were not pursuing an optimal voting strategy, because of their unwillingness to destroy a Republican’s careeer – even if it means voting a Democrat in their place. The Tea Parties were electorally aggressive, but not aggressive enough.

In some of my diaries and comments, I’ve argued that an optimal voting strategy for Democrat rank-and-file voters is to punish a modest percentage of Democrats (I guesstimate 5-10%, but I’d prefer if an accomplished political game theorist like Bueno de Mesquita advised on a figure) by throwing them under the bus, electorally speaking. That means doing everything in their power to make sure that they actualized their electoral threat, even if it meant voting for a Republican in a GENERAL election. (See, e.g., Recommended Short and Long Term Voting Strategies for the Dump Obama Movement . See also Gaming competing ‘FireDogLake Voting Blocs’ scenarios – getting Unity out of Diversity)

To drive home the point, I’ve written that Tea Parties would also be more successful if they were more aggressive, to the point of voting for a Democrat when they had determined that a Republican office-holder’s career was worth destroying. IOW, I believe that the principles of strategy that I pointed to on progressive blogs were correct – and thus, should apply for both progressives wrt Democrats, and Tea Partiers wrt Republicans.


Here is a Tea Party Nation email from 7/18/2011, entitled TEA PARTY RIPS “BOEHNER-McCONNELL RINOS” FOR DEBT CEILING CAVE-IN.





Candidate Scorecards: “Zero or 100%, nothing in between.”

(WASHINGTON, DC – July 19) As House Republicans prepared a Tuesday vote for $2.4 trillion in new national debt, Tea Party leaders ripped Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for betraying the movement that put Republicans in charge of the lower chamber last year.

“Boehner and McConnell are the predatory credit card issuers of the Entitlement State, they’re about to renew Obama’s cancelled Mastercard, and they want to saddle America’s grandchildren with all of the bills,” said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation (www.teapartynation.com), the country’s oldest, largest and most active Tea Party umbrella group.

Phillips said the Tea Party National Convention he’s chairing this fall “will focus on recruiting conservative primary challengers to House GOP RINOs and frosh complicit in any giveaway of more borrowing authority to President Obama. The Tea Party’s 2012 scorecard for this Congress will have just one issue: Did the Member vote for the McConnell-Boehner cave-in or for any cheap giveaway of more national debt?” In Tea Party parlance, “RINO” means “Republican-In-Name-Only.”

Allen Unruh, founder of Tea Party South Dakota and director of the Tea Party Founding Fathers, added that “RINOs voting wrong will win a big, fat zero on their Tea Party credit rating. Their FICO scores will crash along with their careers as we push Tea Party-backed opponents in the primary, the general election or both. Meanwhile, Members who don’t vote wrong will win a 100% score plus the fervent loyalty of our people in their district. It’s zero or 100%, nothing in between.”

Phillips announced that the 2011 Tea Party National Convention, originally scheduled for Kansas City, KS with his support, has been reset for a new state based on strategic electoral considerations and the desires of a new group of funders. Phillips said, “We and our capital sources felt that Kansas was the wrong place for our movement to gather this fall because it’s not an early primary state, not a swing state, and not blue-state territory where Tea Partiers might recapture turf from the left. Instead, the new, currently-secret location we’ll soon be announcing for our late fall event will empower our movement to slingshot into 2012 for the same kind of impact we had in 2010.”

Phillips said, “House Republicans can’t let Obama keep borrowing 40 cents on each dollar of federal spending. The ratings agencies have clearly said Congress must cut back on the federal credit card.” He said Tuesday’s planned House vote to condition a debt hike on sending a constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment to the states was good, but that “voting for the ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ plan won’t save you from the Tea Party’s wrath if you ultimately vote for a cheap giveaway of more debt to Obama, as McConnell and Boehner are planning.

“A failed CCB bill gets you no cover. The ONLY way any Republican may get forgiveness from us is if he obtains a high price tag like $500 billion in 2012 first-year cuts, defunding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, sweeping reform of all health care entitlements such as Medicare, and actual Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment,” Phillips said.

Phillips founded the country’s first Tea Party umbrella group in early 2009 and hosted Sarah Palin at the original Tea Party National Convention at Nashville in February, 2010. According to web metrics from Alexa, Tea Party Nation’s website leads all other Tea Party websites for traffic. Phillips said he is inviting William Temple, chair of the Kansas-planned event, to serve as a spokesman for the 2011 Tea Party National Convention now to be held elsewhere. “Upon final approval of this strategic new location by our funders and convention board,” said Phillips, “we’ll be unveiling an amazing, technology-based strategy for hunting RINOs and defeating Democrats in 2012, starting with this fall’s Tea Party National Convention.”

(emphasis mine)

In case anybody missed it, let me rewrite the money quote, slightly: “Their FICO scores will crash along with their careers as we push Tea Party-backed opponents in the primary, the GENERAL election or both.

It’s not completely clear what form the Tea Party intervention in general elections will take. IMO, if they’re smart, they will not target every last Republican who doesn’t give them everything they want. As I wrote in a comment in Recommended Short and Long Term Voting Strategies for the Dump Obama Movement, “I have proposed a triune strategy that I think would be far more efficient that merely attempting to dump all Democrats, on the one hand; or, in the end, always voting for the Democrats in a general election, on the other (i.e., lesser evilisms). I consider both strategies not just extremes, but to be stupid*.” If Tea Parties are smart, they’ll do as I’ve suggested (many times) that progressives do, and hire a political game theorist to evaluate and fine tune their strategies.

A lot of progressives like to smugly assure themselves that Tea Partiers are all stupid. And yet, the Tea Partiers have already shown themselves quick on the uptake, and ahead of progressives, electorally speaking. In particular, I’m thinking of a) the fact that Tea Parties are dynamic brands within the Republican party, that rise to the level of proto-voting blocs (google “metamars” and “voting bloc” at openleft.com and docudharma.com, for some of my comments on the subject) and b) competing Tea Party factions have learned from their vote-splitting experience in 2010, and agreed to unite behind a unified Tea Party candidate to successfully overthrow their mainstream Republican incumbent. (I can’t recall in which northern state this occurred.)

The only progressive organizations close to the Tea Party in political potential, that I can think of, are the PDA and PCCC, which do try and get progressive Democrats elected. (I don’t know much about Howard Dean’s organization.) However, they don’t match the Tea Parties as a brand, and don’t match the Tea Parties in aggressiveness, even before they cross the Rubicon, and go on to the next level of electoral aggressiveness.

The Tea Parties are still grossly deficient in mass mobilization via ubiquitous street action recruitment, (see here, e.g.) as are progressives. If the Tea Parties optimize their voting strategies within 2 years, and recruit and mobilize the public within, say, 4 years, while progressives mostly hold their breath, pout and/or “blog to the choir”, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Tea Party-dominated US government.

I suggest that progressives get busy, and keep a critical eye, and rational mind on the Tea Parties. If you can’t figure out how to change the system, but see the Tea Parties successfully changing it to suit their collective will, then perhaps they’ve figured out the “how” of things, while you have not. Remember copying, sincerest form of flattery, and all that.

* The stupidity of lesser evilist voting has been confirmed to me by none other than Bueno de Mesquita. See The Jesus Christ of Political Game Theory on the Stupidity of Lesser Evilist Voting