Spoken to promote teamwork, these words place a group’s needs ahead of individual members—for as the team’s fortunes rise, so do those of each player. Problem is, frustrated team members can abandon these words, and often with good cause. Leaders let followers down. Followers undermine leaders. Co-workers backstab and gossip. Though a low tide sinks all boats, we sometimes choose to damage our cause anyway rather than let corrupt teammates win. “If our pain is the only way they’ll get what they deserve,” we lament, “so be it.”
And nowhere is this truer than in politics.
For instance, I really like senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee. They’re my kind of “boats.” Carrying my ideological cargo across the political ocean, they advance my hopes and concerns. Certain GOP senators fail to do this—at least, not my way. Several even criticize my “faves.”
But something has happened since Election Day, 2014. Though GOP gains were more Establishment than Tea Party, my faves are still rising to much greater influence in this “high tide” of 54 seats. Do they still battle GOP leadership? Sure, but the high tide benefits are immense. This reminds me of 2010, when it was the Tea Party raising the tide and the Establishment sharing the benefits. Like today, success for one brought success for all. High tide, baby. High tide.
Our tide—our numbers—rises when we unite and draw others. Therefore, I now pose a simple challenge to all members of the Conservative Coalition: Don’t lower the tide. Leaders, don’t deflate your base with divisive power moves. Grassroots, don’t splinter your coalition. Everyone, speak openly. Dissent freely. Just don’t lower the tide, for there are better ways to lift your boat.
Below are actions by some Conservatives that can lower the tide—or at least be perceived as doing so. These may sound harsh, and we’ll all want to defend our groups, but might I ask a favor? Wait a minute. Yes, I know your defenses have merit—so do mine. But whether valid or not, the items on this list still lower the tide, and their cumulative impact adds up. Looking them over, think of our Conservative Coalition. Look how we drive people away. Look how we fail to draw people in. Just look.
When some in GOP leadership:
- Use secretive tactics to influence primaries in Mississippi and Colorado, this angers the grassroots and lowers the tide.
- Fail to offer real influence for Tea Party and Libertarian leaders, this lowers the tide.
- Needlessly change convention rules to centralize power, this lowers the tide.
- Backs candidates (ie. Dole, McCain, Jeb Bush) who fail to inspire voters with clear separation from Democrats—or fail to govern as promised if they win--this lowers the tide.
When some in the Tea Party:
- Undervote the GOP ticket in protest, this lowers the tide.
- Back candidates with less chance for victory in hard races (ie. O’Donnell, Angle, Akin), this lowers the tide.
- Insist that leaving the GOP is a viable strategy despite Democrat numbers, this lowers the tide.
When some Libertarians:
- More aggressively recruit votes in Republican settings than Democrat ones, this lowers the tide.
- Avoid sharing blame when Democrats win, this lowers the tide.
- Insist Republicans must “earn their votes just like businesses earn customers,” this lowers the tide by forgetting differences between consumer and voter choices:
- Society is unaffected when we don’t buy a product, but society is very affected when we don’t support the most numerically viable barrier to Democrat rule.
- Consumer choices require no majority; voter choices do.
When some Fiscal Conservatives stay home in protest of Social Conservative candidates, or demand that Social Conservatives silence their views, this lowers the tide.
When some Social Conservatives ignore the political landscape by demanding like-minded candidates or nothing, this alienates fellow Conservatives and lowers the tide.
When ANY of us:
- Demand sole allegiance to our priorities at the expense of others--
- Fail to support the most numerically viable opponents to the Democrats—be they Tea Party, Establishment, whatever--
- Expect total allegiance when our groups are in power, but threaten to leave when they’re not--
— We ALL lower the tide.
Raising the Tide
I once wrote about the movie, “Independence Day,” and how all humanity united when faced with extinction. (click here for the link) Today, faced with a growing Democratic Party that obliterates liberty, we Conservatives must raise our tide. But how is high tide achieved? Must some Conservative factions become doormats for others? Hardly.
For a common example, suppose GOP leadership is considered hostile to the Tea Party. Suppose we feel they are lowering the tide with power plays and weak candidates. What should we do?
Answer: Be honest, but committed.
Rather than blowing up or shrinking away, let’s plainly call out actions we feel dishearten the base and turn off the general electorate. Call them out, and keep calling them out. But should we threaten to leave? After all, without that threat, we’ll have no impact, right?
Wrong. Don’t obsess over leaders; think of their supporters. Remember, even with power moves, leaders don’t command without millions of supporters—good people working hard to advance liberty. If we threaten to leave, those supporters will remember our willingness to lower the tide.
Then, even if we remove the leaders, a portion of their followers will abandon us for threatening to leave—meaning we’ve lowered the tide. And if we fail to remove the leaders, our supporters will grow more hopeless and bitter because we set removal as the goal—so again we’ve lowered the tide.
Suppose, however, we keep voicing dissent, but promise to stay and raise the tide. As time passes, our high tide commitment will win support. Also, if leadership takes our votes for granted and dismisses us, their lack of high tide commitment will be revealed. For PR sake alone, they might opt to listen.
The math is simple: Raise the tide = Increase impact. Lower the tide = Damage impact.
I don’t offer this as some tool to manipulate our way up political ladders. I don’t care about political ladders. I’m only saying that honest words and commitment raise the tide—and not just when dealing with leadership. No matter what group frustrates us, our high tide strategy works the same.
Each of us has the power to raise the tide—or lower it. It’s our choice. Positions, power, connections—these mean nothing next to humility and wisdom. It’s always easier to destroy than create, but with honest words and loyal commitment, we can create a high tide of liberty.
That high tide lifts some boats we don’t like, but it also lifts our faves…and our coalition…
...and our spirits.