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The Politics of Outrage

  • November 29, -0001
A Rasmussen poll indicates that while 35% of Americans favor the Democratic Party, and 28% the Republicans, 41% of Americans identify with the Tea Party Movement. Is this a good thing?

What do the Tea Party folks want? We know what they're against, and we know they're very, very upset, even outraged. But outrage does not easily translate into political platforms, candidates, and activity. It simply feeds outrage. When Mr. Obama completes his move to the center of the political spectrum, sometime early summer, I suspect, will the Tea Party organizers be able to sustain the outrage for the fall elections?

It seems to me the Tea Party folks have three options if they want to become a viable political force in this country. First, they have to go through all the formal organizing procedures and protocols that will establish them as a legitimate political party and make it possible for them to raise candidates and get them on the ballot. That's a possibility, but probably not before next fall.

Second, they could mount the most massive write-in campaign in American history, identifying candidates who will support their agenda and urging their followers to write them in on ballots all over the country. Nah.

Third, they can foreswear all aspirations to become a political party and try to discover some real agenda items which will help to restore a measure of sanity and honesty to American politics. Then they could join one or both of the existing political parties and work for their agenda from within. That's not likely to work, either, since the existing machinery tends to grind sharp edges down to smooth stones that look like all the other smooth stones in the party.

But then, I'm not omniscient. Each time I see a clip of the Tea Party folks I remember Thomas Kuhn's argument in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In that classic work Kuhn demonstrated that major paradigm shifts in scientific thinking do not come from within the existing structures of the scientific community. The come from the fringe. A few existing protocols are challenged an debunked, one or two new ideas - foundational ideas - show promise, And the next thing you know, we have a whole new paradigm for how to do the work of science.

Something like this might work to translate Tea Party outrage into real political change, but the leaders of this movement need to be getting their heads together, targeting sacred cows, and ramping up to lead in a better direction.

Let's hope for something like that, shall we?

T. M. Moore

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