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In a race between the Tea Party and a knothole, the knothole wins
By Mike Norman ,Fort Worth Star Telegram , January 15, 2010

Friday,January 15, 2010

*Major parties have stacked the political deck against newcomers, even revolutionaries.

Maybe all Americans should consider themselves Tea Party members. Who could oppose the broad ideals stated by the very loosely linked organizations that make up this nationwide movement?

Several Tea Partiers have filed to run for offices in the March 2 Republican primary. But can they win? Don't sell them short; many of the things they say are worth thinking about.

"Tea Party Nation is a group of like-minded individuals who believe in our God-given Individual Freedoms written out by the Founding Fathers," says the Web site of one of the largest Tea Party organizations. "We believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the Second Amendment, our Military, Secure Borders and our Country!"

I agree, although I might add support for the rest of the Constitution. It's when we branch away from broad statements like this that we begin to fight about specifics.

There is no real leader, individual or organization among the Tea Partiers, but isn't that the way it should be? After all, one of their main principles is that everybody should work for their own ideals in local, state and national government.

There are active Tea Party groups in Arlington and Burleson, plus others that share the Tea Party ideals in Fort Worth, North Richland Hills and Trophy Club.

Another national group, Tea Party Patriots, says its core values are fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. "We hold that the United States is a republic conceived by the architects as a nation whose people were granted 'inalienable rights' by our Creator. Chiefly among these are the rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' "  

Sounds good to me.

Tea Partiers are unhappy with government, mostly in Washington, D.C., but also on many state and local issues.

But can they get elected? The deck is stacked against them, and although I disagree with many of the particulars of their specific policy proposals, a stacked political deck is a very bad thing for all of us.

Let's say U.S. Rep. Woody Knothole, R- or D-Anywhere, has been in Congress for years. He got there probably because he started out in local politics, maybe serving on Anywhere's Planning and Zoning Commission, then on the City Council, then as mayor and finally a stint in the state legislature.

He built name recognition, a powerful asset in elections. His Power Party controls the Legislature, and it took advantage of that to redraw boundaries of the state's congressional districts. Redistricting grouped like-minded voters in every way possible so Power Party candidates would have the best chance to win.

Sure enough, Knothole went to Congress. He votes the way Power Party leaders want him to and gets Power Party financial support in every election, but does little else. He shows no initiative, living up to his name by being little more than a knothole in the framework of national government.

Along comes Pat Patriot, a Tea Partier with no experience in elected office. "I can do better," Patriot says. "Throw the bum out! Stand up for our Founding Fathers!"

Patriot wants to run against Knothole in the Power Party primary. Party leaders try to discourage him, because Knothole is a secure Power Party vote in Congress. Patriot may have good ideas, but he has no name recognition and could be defeated by the Antipower candidate in the general election.

The Power Party would have to spend a lot of money to get Patriot elected, and even then it could not be sure of his vote because he's already said he wants to be different from Knothole. Start off small, party leaders urge. Run for local office and climb the political ladder for a few years.

Patriot is stubborn. He's inspired by Tea Party values and files as a candidate against Knothole in the primary.

Maybe Knothole starts going to Tea Party rallies and gives speeches saying he wants the same things the Tea Partiers want. Maybe that in itself is good for the Tea Partiers. Maybe the Power Party shifts its priorities a notch or two in the Tea Party direction.

Is that the kind of change the Tea Partiers say they want? No.

Knothole ends up back in Congress, still a knothole. The Tea Party eventually fades away.