Politics — February 9, 2010 at 7:46 am

Why the Tea Partiers will fail


Watching the news items bubbling up to the surface from the first-ever National Tea Party Convention in Nashville this past weekend was, for liberals, like driving by a horrible car wreck. Most of us want to turn away but can’t help staring in fascination at what we’re seeing.

First we have overt racist statements from Tom Tancredo suggesting that we need to return to the days of civics literacy tests in order to vote. This was an odious technique used to keep African Americans from voting and Rachel Maddow did a fantastic job last night showing just what that reference means. Tancredo also suggested that the over 4 million people that worked to elect Barack Obama and the many more millions that voted for him “couldn’t spell ‘vote’ or say it in English.”

Then we had the comical debacle of Sarah Palin writing crib notes on her hand for the same speech where she taunts President Obama for using a teleprompter. I’m not exactly sure why it’s only bad when the president uses a teleprompter since most presidents have used them since they became available but the fact that she had to write things like “lift America’s spirit” and budget tax cuts on her hand tells us more than a little about her credibility and intelligence.

But these aren’t the reason that the Tea Party movement will fail. There are three other reasons that are far more important and profound.

Reason Number One – Where all the young people at?
This is a movement with almost nobody under the age of 40. When you look at photos from this past weekend’s Convention, nearly everyone is in their 50s or above. Part of this is because they charge such an enormous fee — a fact that emphasizes that there is a not-so-subtle for-profit element to this. Politics Daily gives us more:

Where Are the Young?
A funny thing about the break-out session “How to Involve the Youth in the Conservative Movement” – not too many young people showed up. Mishelle Perkins, a 44-year-old mother of five children, worries about the paucity of young people at local meetings. The Rutherford County, Tennessee activist came Friday to get some tips. Jordan Marks, executive director of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, suggested that activists use Facebook, volunteer to speak at high schools (“bastions of liberalism”) and simply do fun stuff that hooks high school and college-age kids. Marks described a bowling party he organized – “Knock Down the Pinheads of Communism.” A strike equaled Mao, a spare, Pol Pot. Perkins said she supplements her children’s education with books by Tea Party authors, but right now it’s hard to get them too interested.

My, my – Bowling for Communists. How clever. That’s sure to bring in the young ‘uns, eh?

A movement with no young people is destined to die out in a very short time and, for the most part, the only youth you see at these events are those who have been drug along by their parents or who enjoy the thrill of carrying obscene, anti-liberal signs around and getting their pictures taken like these fine young gentlemen at the Brighton, MI Tea Party Rally last summer:

In sharp contrast to the army of young men and women that essentially ran the Obama Campaign for Change and are currently running Organizing for America, these are not future leaders.

Reason Number Two – Where all the leadership at?
The Tea Partiers are a fractured group and, as Dave Weigel at the Washington Independent has shown in countless articles, the Teabagger-on-Teabagger infighting has reached comical proportions. The Convention this past weekend is a fine example of that with some groups pulling out in a huff right up until the last minute. A scheduled Tea Party rally at the Detroit Auto Show had scant attendance and an opposing group was happy to take credit for it saying, “I’d like to think I had something to do with that.” Nice.

But it’s more than the fractured nature of their movement. They literally have no figurehead. Sarah Palin is the person that everyone points to but she is a failed politician who quit her job for can only be seen as personal gain. She clearly doesn’t have the knowledge of world events, national security and a host of other crucial topics that are required of a national leader. While she’s attractive to the Tea Partiers (in more ways than one), she isn’t coming out with any new ideas on how to take their movement forward. Palin assembling a political organization to compete with the likes of Barack Obama’s Organizing for America? Please. Frankly, as horrified as Democrats and liberals are at seeing someone like Palin getting any kind of national attention at all, they are all silently praying that she will run for president because she will be eaten alive on the campaign trail and at debates by members of her own party because she simply doesn’t have the chops to compete at that level of play and to appeal to a broad cross-section of the country. You can complain about Democrats raising your taxes all you want but when the taxes of most Americans have gone DOWN, it starts to sound a little silly.

What surprises me is that the Tea Partiers seem to be proud of the fact that they have no leadership. In a Time magazine article, Jay Newton-Small writes:

The tea-party movement has no leader, and … neither did the American Revolution,” thundered talk-radio host Phil Valentine, who spoke before Palin at the gala dinner. Leaving aside poor old General Washington, if there was one thing all tea partiers could agree upon it was that no one is their leader. And that was a condition Palin was happy to encourage. “This is about the people,” she said. “It isn’t about any king or queen of a tea party and it’s a lot more than any one charismatic guy with a teleprompter.

Bettina Bibiano, a 47-year-old filmmaker from Los Angeles, said the tea-party movement doesn’t need an iconic Obama-like figure. “It’s hard for us to unify behind any one person,” she explained. “We’re not a cult.”

That’s a nice jab at Obama supporters and I’m sure it’s something they can rally behind. For awhile. But without leadership, any movement is bound for failure. It is leadership that provides direction and keeps energy levels high and, without it, no movement can succeed.

(And, by the way, for a bunch of so-called patriots, you’d think they’d know their American history a bit better, wouldn’t you? The American Revolution had no leader? REALLY???)

Reason Number Three – Where all the nerds at?
I don’t think it’s any mystery that, in order to run a successful campaign these days, from early fundraising to getting people to turn out for events and to run your grassroots campaign, you need to be tech-savvy to the Nth degree. Not just the people that create your websites and email lists but the people who use those things. And when it comes to the Tea Partiers, they ain’t got it. In a recent New York Times article, I chuckled when I read this:

If Tea Party advocates offer little admiration for Mr. Obama, they do often cite his campaign as a model because of the way it built a fortune from small donations and used social networking.

But the crowd here was largely middle-aged and older, and technology may not come as easily as it did to the young adults who powered Mr. Obama’s campaign. A session on “collaboration in the cloud-applied technology” got hung up on basics like how to do an effective Google search, buy a Web domain or send mass e-mail.

In other words, the Democratic party (and even the Republican Party) will have a skabillion emails sent to their supporters before the Tea Partiers even get out of their beds. While Tea Partiers are still trying figure out how to set up a “Tea Partiers for Hatin on Obama and Libruls” listserv, their opposition will be planning phonebanking events online, allowing their grassroots members to create calling lists from the national Voter Action Network and will be mobilizing across the whole country with little effort. That’s the future of empowering people at the grassroots level and without those technical skills, the Tea Partiers will be left behind.

So, while it’s a car wreck for us liberals and sometimes the fervor of the Tea Partiers is a bit disturbing, it’s clear that their organization is FAIL in critical ways. And in these same ways, the Democrats do very well. While there may be some short-term successes for the Tea Party movement, in the end they will self-destruct or just get old and quit fighting. In the meantime, they may do irreparable damage to the Republicans’ electoral chances nationally. And that, as they say, is a Good Thing.

I’m just sayin’…