Tea Partisanship and the Strategic Necessity of Resisting the Temptation of Infiltration

In April of last year, following the tea party tax day protest, I argued that there were three distinct emerging camps within the tea party movement:
1) Republicans who argue that the current crop of GOP representatives need to be challenged in upcoming primaries; 2) independents who recognize that their interests are not served by either of the duopoly parties, but who have yet to break from the system as such, and could conceivably vote Republican, Democrat or even third party in future elections; 3) activists who have broken with the two party system, and advocate third party insurgent campaigns.
Almost a year later, we are now witnessing the institutional articulation of these differences as they are translated into actionable political strategy. Yesterday, I highlighted how tea party activists in South Carolina and Nevada were fighting to maintain their independence from the political apparatus of the Democratic-Republican two-party state, the former by resisting the state GOP's attempt to absorb the grassroots groups' umbrella organization, the latter by registering their organization as an official political party. Today, the LA Times reports on "tea party activists filtering into the GOP at the ground level," which is for the most part a profile of groups using the precinct strategy to infiltrate the Republican Party, the National Precinct Alliance, headed by Philip Glas in particular. The piece specifically highlights infiltrationist movements in South Carolina and Nevada:
In South Carolina, a coalition of tea party groups has made a formal agreement with the state GOP to urge its members to get engaged at the precinct level. In Nevada, a group of "constitutional conservatives" working under the tea party banner has already taken control of the Republican Party in the Las Vegas area, gaining enough strength to elect six of the seven members of the county executive committee.
In both of these states, then, we can see a clear tension between GOP infiltrationists and those advocating independent or third party strategy. Interestingly, and perhaps inadvertently, the article also reveals the fatal flaw at the heart of the infiltrationist strategy. If the tea party phenomenon is an anti-establishmentarian movement, its infiltrationist factions have already been defeated:
Many Republican Party leaders have welcomed the activity, particularly because they worried that the energy driving the tea party movement might create a third party that would split the conservative vote.
As thinkers have known since at least the time of Sun Tzu, the highest form of strategy is one that attacks and undermines the opponent's strategy. Infiltrationist strategy, however, plays right into the hands of the ruling political establishment: filling out the apparatus of the Democratic-Republican Party political machine is literally exactly what the ruling political establishment wants you to do!


Samuel Wilson said...

To the extent that Tea Partiers see themselves as part of the conservative movement opposed to some monolithic "left," won't they want a bipolarchy of some kind to exist, and wouldn't an infiltration strategy be their natural means to clarify the terms of struggle rather than rethink the war?

d.eris said...

In the beginning, the tea party folks were motivated by Bailouts Inc., which was a bipartisan endeavor. I would argue that if they really want to defeat "the left" as represented by the reigning Democratic majority, they have to defeat the Republicans too, since the two go hand in hand.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Tea Parties should work within the GOP.


d.eris said...

You are wrong Mitchell. Very wrong.

Mitchell Langbert said...