The Tea Party Could Damage Its Brand by Endorsing Newt

The understandable rush to whip together an anti-Romney coalition in the GOP heated up with Rick Perry’s announcement that he’s leaving the race and endorsing Newt Gingrich. While an imperfect alliance, it is at least a bit more genuine than Jon Huntsman’s about-face when he dropped out to suck up to the Romney camp.

A far more troubling endorsement seems to be in the offing, with the rumor that some Tea Party “leaders” are going to announce support for Gingrich.

Calm down; it’s from a Democrat ad.

Having been involved in this movement since Day One, I’ve always intensely disliked anyone speaking for it as a “leader”. People who do so are playing into the progressive lie that this isn’t a true grassroots organization.

The glaring problem, of course, is that Newt Gingrich is not exactly standard Tea Party fare. In fact, if you’d told anyone in the movement a year ago that there would be a groundswell of support for him now the laughter would have punctured your eardrums.

In a Weekly Standard piece written last month, I was asked about some of the shifting attitudes towards the former Speaker. What ended up in the article made it seem as if I could quickly jump aboard Team Newt. The overall idea I was trying to convey was that “anybody but Romney” fervor could drive people to do strange things. And while that anti-Mitt sentiment would probably be the only reason I’d get behind Newt, I certainly wouldn’t pretend that we were ideologically simpatico.

The Tea Party movement risks some serious damage to a brand many people have worked hard to keep pure in the face of a barrage of distortions from the MSM, the Democrats (same thing as MSM, I know) and, yes, the GOP (Remember the Crist/Rubio primary, anyone?).

Early on, every Tea Party group would be contacted by GOP candidates hoping to hop on the bandwagon and speak at an event. For the most part, these candidates didn’t share the commitment to principles the Tea Party was fighting for and they were refused without much hesitation. Even at the local level, in races that didn’t have a lot of scrutiny, there was a purity test. And that played a big part in the successes of 2010.

Throwing that M.O. out the window during a fit of panic might do irreparable harm and actually doom the movement to the death that the MSM and Democrats are still working 24/7 to will upon it.

I’ve been asked by dozens of people in recent weeks why the Tea Party hasn’t had more influence on this presidential race after its wild success in the 2010 midterms. Simply put, this is still really a nascent movement. Yes, the first year and a half was spectacular, but the training wheels have barely come off. We can ride this bike, but we’re not quite “X Games” ready yet.

There is a big difference between being able to help influence a congressional race and presidential race. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both had their sights on this race long before the birth of the Tea Party movement in February 2009. That the Tea Party movement hasn’t had much influence in this particular presidential election isn’t surprising. In fact, for those who have been around politics for a while, it’s to be expected.

There is no real sound reason any Tea Party group or representative should endorse a candidate for president at all in this election. This smacks of a power-drunk, panicky reaction to the liberal “Tea Party is dead!” nonsense. Or blatant attention-whoring.

As an activist movement it (and its “leaders”) should concentrate its efforts where they can do some good. The Senate is finally in reach and the House majority needs to be strengthened. The movement is set up to help in these areas. Tea Party members also need to continue to take over the thoroughly dysfunctional GOP at the local level so they can move up the ranks and eventually help influence things on a larger scale.

What the movement doesn’t need is some “leaders” publicly engaging in the kind of political opportunism that it has vehemently eschewed from its inception.