July 5, 2009

READER PAUL LEE thinks that Sarah Palin will try to start a new Tea Party in August.

Pure speculation on my part but this was the very first thought I had when I heard she was resigning. Here’s why I think my theory is valid.

1. Sarah Palin is a fighter and wants payback for her VP run in that she wants to run an unfettered campaign free from internal sabotage.

2. Her speaking points are very much aligned with the stuff coming out of tea parties of late

3. The tea party movement to date has been entirely grassroots but lacking a coordinated national leadership. In fact, to date, it has purposely avoided that to maintain its character and idealism.

4. Palin knows running again as a GOP candidate would be a political dead-end. Her only real choice is to offer her services to raise tons of money for a new party – the TEA Party!

5. In terms of symbolism, the TEA Party would resonate most strongly with middle America – something the Greens and Libertarians never had.

6. She’s resigning now because the road to 2012 first needs to make a stop at the 2010 midterm elections. The only way a new party would have a chance in 2012 is to take a lot of seats in 2010.

7. The tea party movement needs to field its own candidates in 2010 because the last decade has shown neither Republicans nor Democrats can be trusted with power. The only candidates people will be able to truly trust will be those who run on a new platform free from the political influence peddling of the current parties.

8. The only way a new TEA Party can field candidates who will win is if they have a strong national leadership and access to a lot of fund raising power. In other words, Sarah Palin.

9. To win significant seats in 2010 means you have to start organizing now. Hence her unusual timing of her resignation.

10. Palin at the head of a new national party will suck all the oxygen out of the room. This single act will guarantee she will have as much air time as our Spender-in-Chief. Furthermore it will no doubt scare a lot of Republicans (since the leadership is all chickenshit today anyway) into actually taking on the Democrats.

11. And, cranking it up all the way to 11, Sarah Palin declaring the formation of the national TEA Party would be the single most disruptive, and dare I say most revolutionary act in the history of modern American politics. It will totally change the whole ballgame because everyone in a single stroke will be playing by HER rules.

“Higher calling,” indeed.

Hmm. My thoughts: (1) How’d that Ross Perot thing work out? (2) It would be hard — not impossible, but hard — to get enough candidates on the ballot to make a difference, given that state ballot laws are quite deliberately designed to prevent third parties from getting a toehold. (3) Palin’s got a lot of popularity, but she’d draw almost entirely from Republican voters. (4) On the other hand, it would serve the GOP establishment right . . . .

UPDATE: Lee responds:

Also, here are my responses to the questions you raised.

1. Ross Perot, despite having come out of left field, still won 19% of the popular vote. I think Palin could avoid the Perot effect by first establishing a political base for a new party via the 2010 midterm elections. How much stronger would she be as a candidate for a third major political party that manged to win, say, 20% of the contested seats in 2010? Going into 2012, she would have a much bigger advantage than Perot ever had.

2. Yes, I agree getting enough candidates on the ballot would be EXTREMELY difficult. But my counter-argument to this is, what other real alternative is there? My fear is that the tea party movement will fizzle by next year. People can only be angry for so long, and after venting at their elected Republican and Democratic officials for so long, how can the justified anger be channeled into real action? Tea partiers can “throw the bums out” but in order to do that, they have to have strong opposition candidates to actually vote for.

I’m pretty sure incumbents running in 2010 will make just enough pleasing noises to attract just enough votes of tea partiers to retain their seats – only to return to business as usual. I sensed a lot of “I’m glad I’m here to voice my opinions, but I don’t know what else to do” type of attitude in reading some of the tea party articles you posted this morning. What the TEA Party needs now is to be able to say, “Here are our slate of candidates in 2010 – let’s do everything we can to get them elected.”

3. I somewhat agree that Palin’s draw is almost entirely from Republican voters. Which is why heading up the formation of a new national party is the best move for her politically. She gets to ditch the Republican label and the constant internal sabotage. Palin doesn’t need the GOP, and the GOP is too ambivalent to give her the kind of support she needs to run a national race.

In any case, I’m not totally convinced myself Palin would be the BEST candidate for Presidency in 2012. That would be something to decide a few years hence. But the reason I like my theory so much is that Palin is probably the only figure in American politics today who can make a national TEA Party happen. Jim Geraghty noticed this about Palin’s resignation statement:

“She quoted Douglas MacArthur in her resignation announcement, referring to ‘not retreating, but advancing in another direction.’ But the words most associated with Douglas MacArthur in American minds are “I shall return.”

Geraghty is looking at the wrong MacArthur analogy. “I shall return” was MacArthur being forced to leave the Philippines under fire, under circumstances he couldn’t control.

But if my speculation proves to be true, then Palin’s reference to MacArthur is actually a reference to the Inchon landing in the Korean War. Remember that the U.N. forces had been overrun and pushed back to the Pusan Perimeter on a tiny corner of the Korean Peninsula. The war was virtually lost. MacArthur, by landing in Inchon, managed to turn the entire war around in a single action, and within a short period of time, North Korean forces had been pushed back all the way to the northern border with China. It happened precisely because no one expected MacArthur to make such a daring and difficult move from an unlikely direction at an unlikely time. Viewed in this way, doesn’t her sudden resignation make sense?

If Palin does emerge as the head of a new national TEA Party, it will be her version of Inchon.

Is Sarah Palin’s grasp of military history that sophisticated? Oh, well. As long as there’s no trouble at the Yalu. Meanwhile, John Richardson writes:

I think the third party talk is ill advised. I think Palin just needs to try and stick her finger in the eye of the Republican establishment. She can do that by supporting/encouraging challengers to incumbents, where appropriate, in the Republican primaries. Supporting Marco Rubio against the RNSC’s boy Crist would be a good place to start.

You’re right, history shows the folly of third party runs at the national level. The only way I see for the Tea Party to become a third party is to focus on getting people to run in local elections, and establishing themselves at that level.

I think pushing primary challengers — to both Democrats and Republicans — is a more promising approach. But what do I know?

And Ashley Cruseturner thinks she could become “a Republican Al Gore, beloved and admired on her side of the aisle and reviled and ridiculed by her irate opponents. Remember, Vice President Gore has reportedly earned $100 Million during the years following his defeat in 2000. Like Gore, Palin will always have star power and the ability to draw a crowd. We can expect her to use her influence on the party faithful when needed, and we can also expect her, like Gore, to continually dangle the prospect of running for president before the press and her faithful boosters (but my hunch is, ultimately, she will never pull the trigger again on a all-out run for the big prize). All she needs now are a ‘few inconvenient truths.'”

The budget provides plenty of those. But she’d be wise to avoid Al Gore’s weight gain. Meanwhile, a reader sends this post suggesting that a third-party run isn’t as hard as it used to be. Maybe, but I am not yet convinced.

And reader Meryl Jefferson says forget all the third-party drama:

Look, Palin is relatively inexperienced, compared to say, John McCain or Ted Stevens, but she’s not a nutter.

No matter what Maureen Dowd writes.

You don’t go all Ross Perot on the Republican Party and start your own fringe party by trying to coopt the TEA Party movement into a new Party.
Palin isn’t stupid. She knows that the two major parties are the only game in town. She understands that the correct path is to conduct an insurgency within the Republican Party, as Goldwater did.

If she were a loon, she’d be going to Idaho and into the mountains. But she’s not. She’s going to Simi Valley on August 8th to address the 50th Anniversary of the Simi Valley Women’s Republican Club. Seats are $150.00 a ticket for non-members. This is her roll-out speech. I bet the tickets are being snapped up so fast that not even Arnold can get one.

This is not the action of one who wants to go Ross Perot. It is the action of one who’s gone Galt on her own party and has decided to play the game her way.

The way Nixon played it in 1965, and Reagan played it in 1977.

Well, stay tuned. She’s certainly got a plan in mind.

MORE: Rush Limbaugh weighs in. Boy, she’s certainly taken over the weekend.

STILL MORE: Reader Chris Lynch writes: “Why couldn’t a new Tea Party be successful? The Republican Party was once a third party and their single issue was compelling enough to topple the existing party in power (the Whigs had just elected 3 of the previous 4 Presidents when the Republican Party formed in 1854). Within 6 years this new party had succeeded in electing Abraham Lincoln as President. Why couldn’t the Tea Party become just as successful in half the time?”

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