04 March 2010

Infiltration Strategy: A Challenge Worthy Of Sisyphus

I thought the article below was interesting as it illustrates the problem with the infiltration strategy used by the Tea Party activists. Note how the Harris County GOP Chairman is already talking in terms of integrating the Tea Party and swallowing them up, rather than the other way around.

The reason the infiltration strategy fails is because the primary voters are self-selected. They are party stalwarts. But that is only the first obstacle.

The party self-selection process only begins with voting. The precinct caucuses are held the night of the election. Only the more dedicated types show up for that meeting. There, they elect delegates for the district conventions, and from there, elect delegates to the state convention, and from there delegates to the national convention.

At each stage, the majority selects the next level, so that party stalwarts and loyalists are more likely to appear. Even if infiltrators are able to dominate one level, that support will be diluted at the next level. At each stage, already established party activists run the show, and are already in place and embedded. I know from experience -- they are in charge, everything is already set up, and they are highly resistant to change.

Even if you were part of a large, coherent, and organized group, you will be facing entrenched party faces. People with connections and contacts, who live for this, and who already know each other. Yes, they will be nice to you. Then they will get exasperated. And then they close ranks against the interloper.

By the time your attempted infiltration works its way into the party, you are more likely to have become part of the party machine than you are to have changed anything. Not to mention it would take several tries, spaced out at two year intervals, and heaven help you and your group if enthusiasm flags at any point, because then you would be set back, and have to start over. Two years later.

Mounting an insurgency by that process will be even more frustrating than trying to organize a new political party.

There would appear to be a short cut, in that it is easier to get on the ballot for the primary. Then your insurgents only have to show up to vote. But the self-selected group of primary voters will not be familiar with you, and you will need to raise money to make yourself known. That means currying favor with the same voters and donors that you are supposed to be opposing by infiltrating, remember?

Much is made of the supposed takeover of the Republican Party by social conservatives starting in the late 70s and the 80s. But there was a huge difference: they were invited in. That was the result of a coalition in which two groups sought mutual support.

Also, social conservatives were organized by outside interest groups. And even then, if you listen to social conservatives, the takeover of the GOP is still not complete! They still complain that the GOP is not far enough to the right. So even after nearly thirty years of organized, continuous effort, according to the perspective of those involved, the takeover is still not complete.

The issue of infiltration is not confined to the Republicans, either. There are a great many on the progressive left who are very dissatisfied with the Democratic party. Think of all of those activists on the left who now question the responsiveness of the Democrats to their concerns. The Democrats swallowed them up in 2008, and they thought they were using each other, but it was the anti-war activists who were used and who are now discarded. Their attempts to influence Democratic policy produced some campaign rhetoric, but otherwise little to show for it. For all the fuss paid to progressives in 2008, how many of them participate in round table discussions with the Democratic leadership? Are their calls returned?

They aren't getting the media coverage anymore, but poke around the blogs and discussion forums, and there are a lot of disillusioned progressives out there. And in a couple of years, there will be joined online by a bunch of disillusioned Tea Partiers.

The only rational response is to say to hell with both of these irredeemable, entrenched and unresponsive legacy parties. Then will you have two choices: to become disillusioned and disengage, or to support a new or third political party. You will have more fun supporting a third or a new party, and it will better for your health.

Houston Chronicle: Lackluster showing puts damper on Tea Party
Faithful are left to wonder if Perry is worth their vote

Anti-establishment voters simply didn't materialize at the polls on Tuesday, and most Republican incumbents cruised to victory over their Tea Party challengers.

“After all the talk from the 9-12 groups and the Tea Party, it's surprising,” said John Gay, one of three Republicans who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside. “From what I was hearing, there were a lot of people saying they were going to vote for someone besides the incumbent this time.”

[T]he energy and drive the insurgents brought to the process in recent months has been infectious, said Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.

“They're conservatives first and Republicans second,” Woodfill said, “and I think what they'll do is continue to grow the party from the ground up. Their whole goal is to bring the party back to its conservative roots. Unlike in 2008, you're seeing a new level of energy and enthusiasm, and for a party that's huge.”

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