The GOP’s Predictable Plan to Destroy the Tea Party

Yes, the establishment wants you to go away. Are you going to obey?


With a little help from The Atlantic and New York Times (of all places), we can put together a strategy to recognize and deflect the establishment’s tactics. 

Put this in your back pocket. You’ll need it before primary season is over.

Establishment Tactic 1:  Never admit membership in the establishment

How To Handle: Never argue about what he establishment is.  Instead, demand super-specific policies that the establishment would hate.  “Then you must oppose TARP and Stimulus. Could I get a quote from you for my blog?”

Establishment Tactic 2:  Kill the Tea Party with kindness

How To Handle:  Whenever someone praises you, thank them.  But if you suspect an ulterior motive, there probably is. Again, demand specificity:  “What would your legislation to unwind Social Security look like?”

Establishment Tactic 3:  Push Candidates to the Left

How to Handle:  You’ve heard it before—run to the base in the primary and to the middle in the general.  I’m not a fan of strict pledges that opponents can use to bludgeon a candidate. But letting the Billy Longs of the world lie their way to Washington to turn left is no way to save the republic. 

Hold out the third party threat.  Hand wobbly nominees a pair of flip-flops at a meet-and-greet.  They’ll get the message.

Establishment Tactic 4:  Make compromise a moral imperative

How to Handle:  A conservative once lamented that if the Democrats sponsored legislation to burn the capitol to the ground, Republicans would offer an amendment to phase the fire in over three weeks.

To combat  this tactic, point out the folly of the idea. If you’re in debt up to your eyeballs, borrowing half as much as you’d like to doesn’t make you better off.  Sometimes, reversal, not compromise, is the right thing.

Establishment Tactic 5:  Take the GOP ball and go home

As I pointed out in a previous post, the establishment is more prone than activists to defect when it doesn’t get its way.  Let them.  When Republicans say “it’s our party, not yours,” smile and nod.  Then run for low-level party position.  Get your friends to do the same.  Show up at township and central committee meetings.  Reagan’s forces took over the GOP in short order.  Tea Partiers can too.

Bonus Point:  Don’t Become the Establishment

Actually, you can’t really avoid that. But remember—new insurgents are born every day.  Someday you’ll be viewed at the powerful interest seeking to exclude the stamp-licking rabble.  Be careful how you use your power and influence.


You might have even better ideas.  Please add them to the comments below.

How the Establishment Wins

A few years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an awesome article for The New Yorker:  How David Beats Goliath.   Read it after you read this. The story encourages and frustrates at the same time.

Encourages because we learn Davids can, occasionally, beat Goliaths.  Frustrates because Goliaths tend to change the rules just before the epic battle.


That’s how the establishment wins—by establishing the rules. And changing them as necessary. Not exactly fair,  but fairness isn’t in the rule book.

Insurgents win by rejecting the establishment’s rules.

The reason conservative insurgents struggle is our good, middle class upbringing.  We believe in established customs, established manners, and even established music.  Then we get upset when the establishment serves itself first, leaving us the leftovers.

If we’re to overcome our manners and execute Gladwell’s strategies for defeating Goliaths, then we we better understand how the establish wins.  And I’m going to tell you. I’ll at least try.

The establishment wins by laying down the rules. And charming us into accepting them.

In Gladwell’s story, an unlikely girls basketball team used the full-court press to disrupt the established basketball giants in Silicon Valley.  Until the championship game.

By then, the establishment had gotten together and convinced the referees to fight against the girls.

The refs called foul after foul.  The insurgent team lost to the establishment.

And the slaves lived happily ever after.

In con games, the con artist gets the mark to accept some rule, some stipulation.  “If I can do x then you will do y.”  The mark always loses his shirt.

Why?  Because the con artist knows the game and creates the rules in his favor.

In elections, the establishment follows the same pattern.

  • Applaud the insurgents
  • Pretend to be an insurgent
  • Lay down the rules for insurgency

Establishment candidates have cash and the power cash brings. They can buy prominent endorsements. They can intimidate potential donors of the opponents.

Because cash, and the power of cash, is their strength, they establish a rule early:

  • Thou shalt not discuss money

When the insurgents stop talking about money, the establishment places the next subject off-limits.  Say the establishment candidate worked to save a RINO.

  • Thou shalt not discuss my endorsements

And so on.

Eventually, the insurgents are left with nothing.  The rules have changed. The game the insurgents thought they were playing is over, and a new game begun.

Down the road, the rules changes that preserved the establishment this time will haunt them. But they’re the establishment; they’ll change the rules again.

The reason the Tea Party happened wasn’t because Barack Obama was elected or because TARP passed.

If the Tea Party is to reassert Constitutional Conservatism, then we cannot live by the establishment’s rules.

The Tea Party happened because the establishment blinked in the presence of the insurgency. Lehman Brothers fell.  TARP failed in the House.  We caught them.  And we’ll never fear them quite the same way again.