Why the Tea Parties Aren't a Third Party

In 2009, many pundits speculated the Tea Party would become a third political party. Rasmussen even did a poll showing the Tea Party beating the GOP in a generic ballot race. Glenn Beck was spoiling for a third party throughout the year.

So far, 2010 has been a year of political upheaval. Conservative favorites have enjoyed uncommon success, including Mike Lee, retiring three-term U.S. Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), Trey Gowdy’s defeat of Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), the defeat of Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at the hands of conservative Joe Miller, and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del) being defeated by Christine O’Donnell. Consider also the rise of Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Nikki Haley. Yet something funny happened on the way to the revolution. Third-party efforts have had no role in conservative and Tea Party triumphs this year.

The two-party system is a popular scapegoat among those who feel disenfranchised. Yet 2010 shows that our two-party system works. Disenchanted conservatives have rediscovered they have the power to change a political party if they commit themselves to the process.

They are addressing their concerns by actively campaigning in Republican primaries for candidates who support their ideals. Tea Party activists, working through the GOP, have accomplished far more for the cause of liberty than the Constitution and Libertarian Parties have in their combined fifty-six years of existence, and we’re not even to the general election yet.

That said, not every conservative candidate has met with success, including J.D. Hayworth in the Arizona Senate race and Debra Medina in the Texas governor’s race. This is as it should be.

Primary and caucus voters are quality control for our political process. They judge whether a candidate has the necessary combination of judgment, qualifications, and values to win in the general election, and thus they hold back candidates who they judge as not being ready. Also, as these voters tend to pay more attention, they are more likely to spot when a politician, like a jug of milk, has reached their expiration date as some politicians have already been reminded.