Feature: Election 2012

Political Purity Tests A Great Way To Stay In The Wilderness: Tea Party Lessons In Fragmentation

Author: Alex Hamilton
Published: November 07, 2011 at 6:07 am

Political purity tests have been around a long time, and they will be for some time to come I suspect, but the focus is more often than not the person who is attempting to overcome the test, not the testers. There is a perfect example of this going on in American politics with the Tea Party.

The Tea Party is a force to be sure, but their star will fade. Why? It will be because of the purity test that is at the heart of their movement. Grass roots movements tend to be suspicious of power and those that seek it, and the Tea Party is no different, but this creates an inherent contradiction when politics is involved. The tests are easy for any dyed in the wool conservative: Small government-check; Pro-life-check (never mind that particular hypocrisy); and so it goes. But politics is about power and leaders, which is not very ‘grass roots’.

Michele Bachmann is your perfect example here, she has certainly passed the purity test and then some, but Bachmann wants to get elected and to lead. Oh no you don’t. Ned Ryun of American Majority had this to say about Bachmann using their platform to usurp power:

"An individual personality or organization purporting to be a 'leader' of what is truly a grassroots movement can hurt the tea party brand by creating false impressions about its core beliefs."-Huffington Post

And so the purity conflicts with the reality of getting elected. At some point, the chosen one will get elected and have to deal with compromise; the enemy of the pure. The Tea Party for all their bluster (and actual power), are setting themselves up for continued defeat by their own non-leaders.

Right now the Tea Party are taking up a lot of oxygen, zealots usually do, but if they don’t learn what politics is actually about, they risk being the Republican Party’s Ralph Nader of 2012.

Back to the astroturfed wilderness for you


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Article Author: Alex Hamilton

Alex is the creator and writer of his own website and blog, The Xavier Post. He writes about politics, technology, philosophy and more. In addition to his website and blog, Alex also consults on online identity and social media strategy for public …

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