Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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Broadening the dialogue

Q: The tea-party movement doesn't want a single leader. After all, the last thing it wants is to become part of the "establishment." But in recent primaries, tea-party candidates ended up battling each other, enabling some incumbents to win. Does a successful organization need a leader to steer the boat? Or is it enough for the upstarts to oppose the "old guard" on principle and to agree on some key ideas?

In our current democracy we have two major political parties. This has been both good and bad for us. We now develop ideas and policies "along party lines." This has resulted in the passage of major policies but has also resulted in gridlock on even more important issues.

This voting "along party lines" has resulted in the recent South Carolina election, where an essentially unknown candidate who never made a political speech was selected as the Democratic nominee simply because he was a member of one of the major parties. This was a breakdown of the two party machinery.

Whether or not one believes in the issues promoted by the "tea party" is immaterial. They are a fact of our political process and should be viewed in that context. Our current political system does not allow every voice to be heard. Those disenfranchised citizens usually have two choices -- they can choose to not vote at all, or just go along with something they do not believe in.

I personally do not think that the "tea parties" should seek to be more organized than they already are. The problem with developing into a "major party" is that they become more like the parties they are rallying against. It takes a lot of effort, money and maneuvering and it slowly began to leave people out of the process.

It is the "tea parties" of this country that have the power to make the major parties bend and force them to represent more people. These kinds of citizen activists brought us the civil rights movement and helped to end the war in Vietnam. Political parties, regardless of how big they get, are made up of individuals with "local" roots. They have to run for office to be re-elected. It is at that juncture that local voices are heard. Each locality has its own issues. They say to their congressman, if you do not represent us, we will not send you back to govern and this is a very strong incentive to listen.

In this time of economic trouble for the nation, citizens are again flexing their muscles at their local polls. This does not mean that the views of the tea parties should prevail, but that they should make the two major parties take notice of those views. To accomplish this, no further organizational structure is necessary.


By Cleve Francis  |  June 17, 2010; 12:44 AM ET  | Category:  Upstarts vs. veterans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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