The Conversation

Herding the grassroots cats

In response to Crumbs in exchange for party unity:

I suspect you're right about the likely results of attempting to herd the GOP's grassroots cats, with anything approaching the coordination Obama forced upon the gun control lobby.  One might go so far as to cite this as either a problem, or virtue, of the Tea Party movement.  They never had an "official" leadership to broker a big pile of carefully cut and measured ballots.  Individual Tea Party groups and activists tended to display loyalty toward their principles, which didn't always line up perfectly on an internal basis, let alone with the Republican Party at large.

Seasoned political hands would say that's why the Tea Party hasn't been able to sustain political influence commensurate with its membership or passion level.  Far, far smaller groups have been more influential, at least within Washington, over much longer periods of time.  Politics is the art of compromise, and political collectives rely on solidarity.  Power brokers who can sit at Washington's backroom tables and confidently inform senior politicians that they have thousands of loyal votes tucked in their pockets, no matter what they do, have the flexibility needed to become big-league players.  Union bosses and civil-rights leaders are like that.  It made Jesse Jackson Sr. rich and powerful beyond belief.

Just look at the gun control debate: the story we're discussing is about gun control zealots falling meekly into line behind Obama, shutting their traps when he snaps his fingers, and openly describing their disciplined silence as the best way to salvage some glimmer of legislative success from the rapidly fading Newtown moment.  Gun rights activists, on the other hand, would go absolutely bonkers if they heard the NRA was learning to sit, fetch, roll over, and play dead for a Republican president under comparable circumstances.  There have, in fact, been times when gun rights supporters grew cross with the NRA because of its political activities, but it was never anything half as cynical as the Obama alliance described by Politico.

And all the while, the gun control zealots insist they're on an absolute, uncompromising, irresistible moral crusade...


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