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Jon Cowan
Non-profit leader

Jon Cowan

Jonathan Cowan is president and co-founder of Third Way, a think-tank of the progressive movement. In the Clinton administration, he served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

An insurgency to remember

Q: The grassroots 'tea party' movement suffered a set back this week when its candidates in Indiana lost in the Republican primaries. How can political leaders, or leaders in other fields, harness the power of insurgencies? What are the ground rules?

Ironically, given the "Tea Party" set-back, perhaps the best example of harnessing an insurgency in politics comes from the early years of the founding of the United States.

Much of the citizen anger that led to the original Boston Tea Party and eventually to the Revolutionary War itself was absolutely necessary to break free from England. But that populist outrage alone was not sufficient to creating a new country -- as famously stated -- of laws, not men.

Our founding political leaders - from the start of the war through the drafting of the Constitution and beyond - had to channel that grassroots, anti-British sentiment so that it also became a responsible governing movement. Needless to say, by resisting its worst impulses and harnessing it to a larger set of ideas and principles, they succeeded brilliantly in turning an insurgency into an enduring and great nation.

By Jon Cowan

 |  May 6, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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