Ned Ryun, founder and president of American Majority, has written a very insightful article titled 'Evolve or Die; The Tea Party Movement is at a Crossroads'.
In this piece, Ryan lays out 'the good, the bad and the ugly' and opines that the tea party must "become sustainable with a more concise mission and ability to fundraise... But if it cannot get past the negative impressions and the internal dissension, it will become nothing but a footnote in American political history."
As someone who has lived the tea party experience the past three years, I feel an overwhelming need to comment on Ryan's thoughts.
While he touches on some of the real challenges of the tea party, Ryan only skims the surface when it comes to the damage being done by the national groups. He talks about the internal dissension, the battles for control and the money-making schemes, yet fails to go into sufficient depth here.
Ryan takes a hard hitting approach with Tea Party Express, but doesn't follow suit with Tea Party Patriots, barely mentions Tea Party Nation, gives FreedomWorks a total pass and there's no mention whatsoever of the latest of what seems like an endless line of opportunists, TeaParty.net.
It seems highly unfair when you consider any one of the above is as detrimental as the other. In each case, don't look too closely behind the mirror. I have my theories as to why Ryan doesn't delve further into the abyss, but that's for another day.
From the very beginning, the media has been trying to define the tea party. Initially, this proved to be an exercise in frustration because there was no central leadership, no one to isolate. At the same time, this quest helped add to the vacuum that existed. And that's when the human element in all it's glory rose up, with no shortage of individuals willing to fill the role.
At both the national and local levels, the hucksters are out in force. Books are being written and peddled for profit on an ongoing basis, the demand on the speakers tour has never been greater. It seems everyone has their own particular process or angle on how to go about solving the many challenges we face and none are shy about making the pitch.
And when the national media needs a spokesman to help further the narrative it drives, there's a long line of 'personalities' willing to step up to advance their public profile - if there is no central leadership, the media will simply prey on the human frailties of ego and greed to create it.
Ryan accurately touches on the the reality that if the national groups could go away tomorrow, the movement would be fine. But the local level is beset with many of the same issues, just on a lessor scale. Ironically, those who are quick to condemn what's happening on the national scene are just as quick to emulate the very behavior, yet can't seem to equate the two actions as being one and the same.
Again the human element. Local groups remain shackled by political correctness and the fear of being 'left behind' should they speak out on the opportunists manipulating the tea party, and thus only add to the problem.
And in this carnival atmosphere, average everyday Americans that made untold sacrifices in the beginning, people like myself, simply walk away from it all realizing that the Tea Party has evolved into that which we initially rose up to fight against.
Just as the politicians endeavor to manipulate the movement daily for personal gain, so too do those within who were bold enough to step to the front of the parade and proclaim themselves leaders.
So, yes, the tea party is losing the 'battle over definition' because the focus long ago shifted away from the message and settled on the messengers.
It was T.A.R.P. and the Stimulus Bill that led to the birth of the Tea Party, however, consider this sobering fact; projected federal spending in 2012 is higher than 2011, which was an increase over 2010, which was higher than 2009.
Who among the self proclaimed leaders is leading the charge here? From my perspective, only one - Americans for Prosperity.
As for evolving, we saw the Tea Party 'evolve' from rallies protesting the spending to fighting healthcare reform and it's hard to argue that the movement has ever been more effective than it was at this point. The transition to advocacy was quick and simple, brought about by a clarity in purpose. It is in this light that Ryan is most on target in a call for "a more concise mission".
But all is not lost. In reality, the Tea Party has always been the people. It's source of strength the raw numbers. And it's motivation an out of control federal government. All of which still exist in abundance.
We understand that the mission at hand is to defeat Barack Obama and the Progressive Left, who have added more to the national debt than one would have thought possible just three short years ago. All in the quest to shift America away from the traditional values that made it the greatest nation in the history of man.
And just as we saw in the 2010 election, we the people will be heard at the ballot box.
In an appropriate metaphor*, I liken the tea party to a car nearing the end of a NASCAR race, having been told by it's crew chief that it's two laps short on fuel. So like any good driver, you start trying to save fuel to ensure you make it to the end. You lift up off the accelerator a little early going into the turns and ease back into it as you come out. You try to maintain a steady speed and coast whenever the opportunity permits.
You do whatever it takes to get to the finish line clearly marked as November 6, 2012. Hopefully, just as we see in NASCAR, a win there provides the necessary momentum to carry us into the next race... a day of reckoning for the political class in America.
*American Majority is sponsoring a car in this weekend's Nationwide race at Daytona and will be on hand with it's Pledge to Vote: Keep America Free voter registration initiative.