Oh my god. It’s the 60’s. They’re back. But… different.
For some time, I’ve tried to wrap my head fully around the whole Tea Party movement. And quite a few times, I’ve grasped at elements and seen pieces, but earlier today it all crystallized in my head.
It’s the return of the 60’s… but from the opposite direction.
Think about it. Set aside ideology for a moment, and look at the parallels between the Tea Party movement and the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 60’s.
Otherwise apolitical people getting heavily involved in a political movement for the first time: check.
Movements with no real defining national leaders, but a very clear, very simple message: check.
Activists who are very clearly out of power, out of the mainstream, and fighting back with the unique tools such groups have in a democratic republic, like those outlined in Saul Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals: check.
Activists branded as “pawns of the great enemy” by the political establishment and tagged with what have been “killing words” once, but now laughed at and shrugged off, if not embraced as ironic badges of honor: check.
Establishment power insists that the movement is the bought-and-paid-for tool of their foes: check.
When we look back at the 60’s, we often mock the hippies and the peaceniks and whatnot, but we overlook one key point about their struggle: they won. They saw the corruption and wrongness of the status quo, took it on, and fundamentally changed this nation.
Ever since then, many people — especially the left — have retried to recapture that magic, to put the lightning in the bottle. And here we have the closest thing we have to that happening again.
But now the left is The Man, the Establishment, the State, and the People rising up to challenge them are from the right.
Consciously or not, the Tea Party movement has picked up so many of the winning tactics of the 60’s left, stripped them of their ideological trappings, and repurposed them for today’s issues.
And it’s working.
Now, the Tea Party is following the next step towards victory. And it’s a simple one.
Some of the Tea Party critics have called the Tea Party a branch of the Republican Party. It ain’t that simple. What the Tea Party is doing is attempting a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. But that’s only part one of the plan. (If there really is a plan written down somewhere, and I doubt there is.)
Step one: take aim at a few key Republican incumbents and insiders, and challenge them in primaries. Take them out, and replace them with candidates more amenable to the Tea Party agenda.
So far, the Tea Party’s polished off about eight Republicans, and given a hell of a scare to quite a few more. (Here in New Hampshire, Tea Party favorite Ovide LaMontagne damned near beat GOP Establishment favorite Kelly Ayotte for the Senate nomination, and Ayotte has suddenly become a lot more receptive to the Tea Party agenda.) Others have decided that they just can’t bear to be out of office, and are running even after being kicked to the curb by the GOP. (Crist, Moocowski, and Specter come to mind.)
Next up: November. That’s when those Tea Party insurgents will go head-to-head with the Democrats. And those insurgents will have the support of the establishment GOP (if they read the writing on the wall, and realize that they better hop on the Tea Party Express train or get run down by it), as well as their own not-quite-so-partisan base.
That’s how it’s shaping up. That’s why I think this November will nominally be a Republican victory — but the Establishment GOP will end up just as bad losers in the end.
The people, united, will never be defeated.
Power to the people.