Monday, January 18, 2010

Tea Partiers Must be Cautious, Vigilant

What prompts this post is a RedState.com post by Erick Erickson on January 11th. It struck home for me and for some of my conservative friends as well.

First, for better or worse, human nature implies a natural proclivity for corruption. That's just the way it is.

And so it is with well-intentioned groups, organizations and movements whose scruples and lofty missions may have attracted enthusiastic grassroots adherents--at least at the beginning of its principled journey, that is.

However, in his post Erick expressed concern over what may have been Sarah Palin’s recent unwitting acceptance of an invitation to speak at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. Why? NTP is charging attendees $500 each (not including transportation and lodging). And if that doesn't raise some well-founded concerns and questions, well, you're simply not conscious.

Says Erick, albeit without malice and with some reluctance: “I think the tea party movement has largely descended into ego and quest for purpose for individuals at the expense of what the tea party movement started out to be.” And human nature being what it is, I think it would be foolhardy and delusional to deny such a possibility.

Noting some local exceptions around the country, Erick alluded to individual tea partiers who had expressed to him their disenchantment with the Tea Party organization in their areas as well as with the national organization. In short, among tea partiers around the country there has been a growing perception that the movement’s leadership may be morphing into a matrix of self-serving elites with their own agendas. Given the historical nature of mass movements and of human nature itself, this shouldn't be at all surprising.

Erick’s greatest fear is “that a bunch of well meaning people from across the nation…will grow disaffected or burn out”…and that Sarah Palin might “harm herself unintentionally” by her close association with the national Tea Party movement.”

To me, both very unsettling and perfectly rational concerns.

Some of RedState's commenters expressed their concern that without vigilance and a clear commitment on the part of tea partiers and their leaders/organizers to continually self-correct and clean house as needed, the Tea Party organization, both at the local or national level, might well be hijacked by nefarious entities from without or, indeed, from within, who would be intent upon discrediting the movement; that the movement might descend into a disastrously divisive third party movement which would ensure leftist dominance; that corruption within local and national leadership circles might well destroy the purity and credibility of the movement itself, thus exposing what had been a well-intentioned spontaneous grassroots effort to ruinous embarrassment, leftist ridicule and all manner of opportunism from within and without. The members' America-first principles would, of course take a beating.

As a Tea Partier myself, for good reason I too have harbored these doubts and concerns and, as a result, have opted to studiously avoid active participation in organizational meetings or activities requiring a donation. Though supportive of the Tea Party movement's mission to restore Constitutional governance and fiscal responsibility, absent acceptable standards of accountability and transparency in all areas of operation, I have necesssarily distanced myself from active engagement in the local movement. And I am not alone.

So, a gentle word of advice to Tea Partiers everywhere: always be vigilant, demand an open, participatory grassroots approach to the organization's management and be wary of a top-heavy style of management. And, very importantly, assiduously demand proper accounting of donations and both rigorous and demonstrable compliance with pertinent local, state and federal fundraising and election laws. In so doing, you properly protect yourselves, the movement, your honor and the purity and viability of the mission’s purpose.

If violations of trust or perceptions of corruption or unaccountability are perceived, speak out! It’s your organization. Keep it that way. If you don't feel comfortable with the direction of management or the movement itself, simply move on. There are other grassroots organizations which share your views, concerns and approach.

Finally, Glen Beck advises all Tea Partiers, both members and organizers alike, to “hold to the truth”, “never be afraid to speak”, and “question boldly.” As Tea Partiers, it's YOUR grassroots organization. It is not the property of the organizers. For the good of the country and the success of the mission, you and the activist organization you hang with must always be above reproach. Accept nothing less. America First!

("None of us is guaranteed against failure or corruption of any kind; witness what's going on the world in this moment, the follies of human nature and the failures of human nature; all institutions are prone to corruption and to the vices of their members." Morris West, Writer: "The Devil's Advocate", "Shoes of the Fisherman")

("Even in the realm of TEA party infrastructure, corruption can still smell the allure of easy money." John McSherry, Patriotic Resistance Blog)