The passage of right-to-work legislation this week in Michigan is a victory for the state’s working families. It is also a political victory for the conservative movement, and for the Tea Party in particular, which was written off as dead in the wake of Barack Obama’s re-election victory last month. The message of greater freedom and limited government is a winner; it’s the messengers that have been losers. And it’s time to adopt new tactics.
We should not be afraid to borrow from the left–not just from Obama’s data mining and get-out-the-vote apparatus, but from the methods of Saul Alinsky, the radical who inspired Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Chicago cohort. For example, when Steven Crowder took several punches–on camera–from a union thug in Lansing yesterday, he unwittingly used a classic Alinskyite tactic to expose the opposition’s brutal essence.
At the same time, we should not be ashamed to learn the uses of moderation, as Gov. Rick Snyder did. Before the right-to-work fight, Snyder was considered something of a disappointment, a politician without enough conviction to fight for the sweeping changes needed to save his state. But Snyder waited for the right moment, and began planning for the right-to-work counterattack well before Election Day, as labor unions mobilized around their failed statewide constitutional referendum to enshrine collective bargaining.
The fact is that wherever governments cannot print their own money–i.e. everywhere but the federal level–leaders are cutting both spending and taxes, while confronting Big Labor. Obama’s own former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is running Chicago like a red-state conservative–aside from attacks on gun owners and traditional marriage, that is.
Thanks to Obama’s spending excesses and economic failures, the Tea Party has an invincible ally–namely, reality. It is unrealistic for the federal government to continue to run staggering deficits for the foreseeable future, or to pay growing entitlement benefits with money it does not have and cannot raise. Limiting the size and cost of government is the only answer, which is why Tea Party ideas must prevail if America is to survive.
The challenge for the Tea Party is finding the right leaders to carry that message–and to fight the cultural battles necessary to set the stage for political victory. The latter point is critical, and one Andrew Breitbart stressed. (He would have been proud of Crowder–and would have noted that Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, is the person who told the unions to “punch back twice as hard” during the Obamacare debate. The results in 2009 were just as violent, with the beating of Ken Gladney by SEIU activists.)
The battle for America’s future did not end in November; it is just beginning. Victory in Michigan will put renewed pressure on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two other “blue” Midwestern states governed by Republicans. There are already “blue-on-blue” fights in big-debt states like California and Illinois, now totally run by Democrats. And Obama’s second term, though inaugurated by a shower of corporate cash, is already in trouble.
Yes, the results of the 2012 election were disappointing. And several Tea Party figures lost seats in Congress (as did Republican moderates). But Snyder’s move in Michigan–and the bravery of the conservative activists who showed up to support him–proved that the Tea Party can take a few punches, literally and figuratively, and keep fighting to win.