Tea Party movement: Focus on defeating pols, not electing them


Perhaps the most powerful image from the Tea Parties is the video of South Carolina GOP Congressman Gresham Barrett being relentlessly booed at the Greenville event.

Some are suggesting that the way to give the Tea Party movement long term impact is by using it to encourage people to run for local office. Gresham Barrett’s smackdown suggests that defeating candidates may be more effective for getting at the real root of the problem, which is incentives within the system that push whoever’s in office to do the wrong things.

Electing a few sterling characters won’t change that. But if one or a bunch of political establishment hacks get “taken out and shot” – figuratively speaking, of course – that does change incentives, and behavior.

Milton Friedman said it well:

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Turn that around and the point becomes clear: It needs to become politically unprofitable to do the wrong things. At this moment the most important thing about an election is not who gets elected, but who gets defeated. So rather than electing candidates, the movement should make defeating them its goal.

This applies to incumbents and also to open-seat races, where the front-runner is almost always a member-in-good-standing of the political class. Make that identity the issue, and defeat those people. Make political-class membership a political death sentence for candidates.

Back to that SC congressman being booed at the Tea Party: Talk about “changing the climate of public opinion” – that kind of thing is an incentive changer, especially if it marks the beginning of the end of this establishment pol’s career.


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3 Responses to “Tea Party movement: Focus on defeating pols, not electing them”

  1. Tabitha Hale Says:

    The trick is always turning the sentiment at a rally into something at the ballot box.

    Thanks for continuing to highlight the need to take this thing to the next level, Jack.


  2. Dan Sheill Says:

    I totally agree. What we need is a Political Action Committee in Michigan that focuses on state races like Club for Growth focuses on congressional races. We do not have a fiscal equivalent of Right to Life of Michigan currently weighing in on Republican primaries.

  3. Extreme Thoughts in the Tea Party Aftermath | The Classic Liberal Blog Says:

    […] We need REAL fiscal responsibility. We need ideas on how to shrink government. Just electing someone from a certain political party, out of the usual cast of characters, isn’t going to change a thing.  Maybe we should focus on defeating politicos, instead of electing them! […]

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