If there was one thing about the Tea Party movement that was troublesome from early on, it was the way that leaders were spoken of. Glenn Beck, for example, often made of a point of saying the tea parties had “no leader” and many libertarians were aghast at the idea that a free people would need “leaders.”
However, we saw the result of a leaderless revolution on the House floor with the vote on John Boehner. Tea Partiers and many conservatives were determined that John Boehner not be re-elected Speaker. Reports circulated that 20 members were ready to vote against John Boehner which would have been enough to prevent a first ballot election as Speaker and if they held firm, it may have forced a replacement. Instead, the coup broke up. They were unable to agree on an alternative to Speaker Boehner, with all twelve members who voted against Boehner scattering.
Fundamentally, what happened on the House floor was a repeat of the 2012 Presidential Race when Mitt Romney emerged as the nominee despite consistently finishing as the first choice of about 1 in 4 Republicans in polling throughout the year. Conservatives didn’t want Romney, but they couldn’t unite behind a leader, and people who could have led towards selecting a choice told people, “Make up your own mind.” When a group of Evangelical Leaders chose Senator Rick Santorum many scoffed at the idea of anyone telling people who to pick. No one led, no one followed, everybody picked who they wanted—and Romney won.
There are two sides to this leadership equation. The side the party establishment won’t acknowledge is that many GOP and Conservative leaders have not proven themselves worthy of grassroots support. At their best, many conservatives followed George W Bush’s big spending policies like lemmings to the sea. Others, long viewed as stalwarts such as Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) and then-Congressman John Shadegg voted for a $700 billion bailout that was a Pandora’s box for big government. Beyond this, there was also corruption. Not only were their scandals involving GOP members of Congress such as Mark Foley, Larry Craig, and Duke Cunningham, there was cynical use of social conservatives concerns about gambling in the Abramoff scandal.
However, there’s another side to this and that are conservatives and tea partiers who have been so stung by betrayal that they refuse to trust any leader and are closed to the possibility of following or trusting any leader.
Contrary to some propaganda, leadership properly applied, is not merely a tool of oppressive tyrants, it is a gift from God. We need people of wisdom and understanding to be our leaders in Washington, people we can trust to the best they can for our country.
Yet, many have sent a message that they don’t want leaders, that leadership itself is a bad thing. The truth is that no matter how many people we have, if we don’t unite behind trustworthy leadership, our efforts will come to nothing. We can’t all just “do our own thing” and expect that we’re going to solve this nation’s problems. The re-election of John Boehner proves that.