Back in the day, before I defected to TV news, I used to be a political organizer. I was a state College Republican president and and I worked full time on the Reagan-Bush '84 campaign. The early '80s had brought a wave of enthusiasm among religious conservatives. I remember driving one night with a Reagan campaign official from Illinois. The guy was moderate. His boss, the governor, was a moderate. At one point in the conversation he started talking about conservative activist Phillis Schlafly. He said that she was a conservative that he respected. I asked how she differed from other conservatives. "She walks her precinct," he said matter-of-factly.
This guy may have disagreed with Schlafly on any number of issues but he gauged her as committed beyond just her core issues. I used to tell that story to religious conservatives. I would explain that it's not just your "hot" issue that matter. To those motivated by "life" issues, I would challenge them to care about tax issues too. I would explain that you can't always tell which issue is going to turn out to be pivotal. To prove it, I would point out that the whole trip to Bethlehem had a little something to do with -- taxes!
For the last year, I've been telling Tea Party activists that the test of 2010 for them is maturity. This is the phase past enthusiasm. Like the test of love beyond the first few dates. How do you get deeper stronger wiser without becoming cynical or compromised? Are you going to walk your precinct?
We are seeing that happen. Sure there are lingering waves of Tea Party enthusiasm that haven't fully matured. But I'll take that. There are rough edges on some candidates. There are a lot of operators on the fringes trying to take advantage of Tea Party energy.
If there is a message to be "gotten" from Tuesday's election, it may be this: if the establishment GOP doesn't like some of the Tea Party candidates coming along -- then find better candidates with similar appeal. Not the same old crew from the club. Kevin D. Williamson nailed it on The Corner last night:
What this really should communicate, I think, is that the Right needs a lot more Club for Growth–style candidate-recruiting efforts. If conservatives do not like O’Donnell, then they should be out identifying better candidates to run against vulnerable RINOs — because somebody is going to run. These incumbent takedowns are going to inspire a lot of new people to get into electoral politics, many of them without the sort of experience or backgrounds that Establishment types are comfortable with. Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum.
Yes. Step up and lead -- or get out of the way.