Editor’s Note: we offered the Tea Party of Louisiana the opportunity to respond to our piece from Sunday criticizing, for tactical reasons, their decision to endorse Roger Villere for Lieutenant Governor. What follows is that response:
Earlier this week, one of the political “Monday Morning Quarterbacks”, posting on the Hayride, labeled the Tea Party of Louisiana (TPoL) as the “number two (second biggest) loser” in this past Saturday’s primary elections.
This writer’s reasoning for heating up the verbal branding iron, and attempting to label us thusly for all the world to see, was their opinion that our failure to garner enough support for Roger Villere to get him into the run-off in the Lt Governor’s race was “something of a disaster for TPOL, and since they made the mistake of insinuating with some of their communications on Villere’s behalf that the rest of the state’s tea party groups were also behind Villere, it looks like a disaster for the entire movement in Louisiana.” The writer then went on to say that “The other tea party groups who raised hell about TPOL and its founder Chris Comeaux last week regarding this issue look well-justified in their anger.”
Wow. Where do I start to respond? First, I’m reminded of JFK’s quote that “Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.” Had Mr. Villere won, we would have looked like geniuses. Would we have deserved such accolades? No, not anymore than we deserve the criticism leveled at us after his loss.
Second, labeling us “losers” is a fairly narrow point of view, but not a particularly accurate one. Was Peyton Manning a “loser” because the Saints beat his behind in this past Super Bowl? Before you say “yes”, remember that there were 30 other NFL quarterbacks that would have been glad to have been there in his place.
I don’t think we were “losers” Saturday night. Three of our four endorsed candidates won; two of those, Jeff Landry and Connie Bernard, won by HUGE margins. I don’t think that either of them would label us as losers. Would their victory margins have been so large without our endorsement and support? Probably not. We clearly made a difference in these races; if you don’t believe me, ask Hunt Downer.
Did TPoL influence the Lt Governor’s race? I think Jay Dardenne would agree that we did. I believe the reason that, even with his almost universal name recognition, he only got 28% of the primary vote is our that we made the public aware of his “love” for bigger government and higher taxes by publicizing his voting record as a state senator. This no doubt dropped his final vote total by several percentage points.
We were not, however, able to have the positive influence on Mr. Villere’s campaign that we had hoped for. For that, we accept the writer’s criticism as valid, but we do want to point out that we are a fairly new organization (~ 15 months old), we have no paid, permanent, or professional staff – we all work on a volunteer basis, we worked on a “shoe string” budget with no funding – despite rumors to the contrary, we received not one penny from any candidate, and this was our first experience in elective politics. Where I come from, three out of four’s not bad.
Third, I’m not sure what “communications” the writer’s talking about, but it’s not accurate to say that we ever “insinuated” that the rest of the state’s Tea Party groups were behind Mr. Villere. If someone else did this, we’re unaware of it and shouldn’t be held accountable for something we didn’t do. To lay this at our door, is a phony criticism, and one likely initiated by a small group of folks who believe that the Tea Party movement shouldn’t endorse candidates, believing instead that Tea Parties should maintain “electoral neutrality”, functioning solely to “educate the voters” and to “hold office holders accountable”. While we do believe that we should educate people and hold office holder’s “feet to the fire”, we respectfully disagree on the endorsement issue, and have chosen to follow our own path in this regard. This is, after all, America, and we are all free (at least for the moment) to follow the path that we each think is best. Based on this position, our first endorsements were for Senator Vitter and Congressman Cassidy. We believe that if strong conservatives like these men don’t get re-elected, we all need to start picking out which Central American country we’re going to flee to. For any other Tea Party group or “leader” to criticize us for this puts them in the position of becoming exactly the type of “totalitarian dictator” that our movement is fighting against.
We believe that, to have a positive influence in shaping our country’s future, we have to be “engaged and involved” and, for us, this means endorsing candidates that share our core values of limited government, fiscal and personal responsibility, and, yes, lower taxes. In our system, the acceptable way to change the government is to change those who are running it. We see NO way this happens without electing likeminded people to public office and we see endorsements as being the best and most sure way to make this happen. Will our endorsed candidate win every race? Of course not, but, remember, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, and, to not try is to have already failed.
As for our relationship with other Tea Party groups, we’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible with other groups with every event we’ve ever held, offering other leaders speaking opportunities, etc. We believe that the strength of the Tea Party movement is its “bottom up”, decentralized structure. It’s a true grass roots movement, driven by its membership, not a “top down”, centrally controlled organization like the government or a political party. TPoL absolutely celebrates this fact and believes that this makes our movement unique in American politics. No one person or group speaks for the Tea Party movement, and, thus, unlike a few other groups, some national – some local, who, self appointedly, claim to be “umbrella” groups” who “speak for the Tea Party movement”, TPoL has NEVER claimed to speak for anyone other than itself, has NEVER criticized or attacked another Tea Party group, nor ever tried to tell another Tea Party group what it could or couldn’t do.
Fourth and finally, as for people “raising Hell” about TPoL, well, that’s nothing new. Frankly, by now we’re used to it. We’ve been under attack since four of us founded this organization last may at a lunch meeting in a Baton Rouge restaurant, and, for the record, Chris Comeaux wasn’t there. He wasn’t a “founder”; he came in some time later.
Even though we’ve become accustomed to attacks and criticism, it’s sad when these come from others who claim to share our values and goals. The formation of a circular firing squad is never a good idea. Unfortunately this type of behavior seems to be a common part of political life today, and attacks seem to always be directed toward people who are accomplishing something, because it’s easier to tear someone or something down than it is to build something up. In any event, we at TPoL must be doing something right, because people who aren’t accomplishing anything don’t draw “fire” from their critics or “attention” from bloggers and the media.
Tea Party of Louisiana