The Tea Party has been hijacked by unprincipled conservatives

Music is a passion of mine. In finding the music that most interests me, I’ve found Derek Webb. His album “Stockholm Syndrome” (one of my favorites) is a must have for anyone who has ever thought that maybe Christians were entirely missing the point on some current political and social issues. One of the songs on “Stockholm Syndrome” is a catchy little tune called “Jena & Jimmy.” It’s about date rape.

Well, kind of. ”Jena & Jimmy” is a political metaphor for the way grassroots movements often get intoxicated with power – power that ultimately brings the demise of the movement.

I often wonder if the Tea Party movement will become like Jena in this song. I certainly hope not, but I get concerned when I see so many Tea Party leaders working to spread their influence rather than working to advance the principles they claim to value.

For example, look at the Republican Senate primary in Nebraska. A candidate (Deb Fischer) won the election last night, largely because she was sporting endorsements from Sarah Palin and Herman Cain. Meanwhile, somebody like Don Stenberg (endorsed by Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and Club for Growth) goes home a loser.

We really can’t fault Fischer for seeking out endorsements from Sarah Palin and Herman Cain; they certainly have sway with voters, and in a tight race, you need every edge you can get. The real issue here is the lack of vetting candidates by the people perceived as leaders in the Tea Party movement.

Why do people like Cain and Palin latch on to candidates who aren’t really great? Is it the attention they get? Is it the way people swoon at the site of them behind a microphone? Are they just looking for a way to extend their political influence?

We can’t judge intent. We can, however, look at consistency in the people they choose to endorse. While Fischer doesn’t seem to be the worst candidate out there, she’s certainly not the best. Proper vetting would have revealed some dark spots on her voting record and may have discouraged Palin and Cain from supporting her campaign.

Who has the best chance of identifying a quality Senate candidate? Would it be someone like Jim DeMint who has experience being a lone voice of conservatism in the Senate? Perhaps it’s groups like FreedomWorks or Club for Growth who have been instrumental in finding and endorsing some great candidates in previous key elections.

Or would it be someone like Palin, an almost 1-term governor and former VP candidate who enjoys popularity because she’s not John McCain and because she looks pretty good for a grandma? Or maybe Herman Cain, whose business career led to a career in talk radio supporting big government policies of the Bush administration before using other people’s money to raise his profile with a sham of a presidential campaign?

I’m not saying that Palin and Cain should be avoiding endorsements. They are both in a position to influence our country for good, but they are being much too careless with the candidates they endorse. (Have you ever noticed how frequently Palin endorses women running for office?)

When people like Palin and Cain abuse their popularity and endorse candidates for the sake of endorsing candidates, it’s bad news for those of us looking for good candidates to elect. Voters get distracted by a celebrity; more statists get elected; and when the popularity of a Palin or a Cain subsides, the Tea Party will be remembered as a loud but mostly ineffective movement.

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