The Iowa Tea Party Plan for Holding Candidates Accountable

I would like to warn readers that what the Tea Party has planned to impact the Iowa Caucuses is radical, revolutionary...and responsible. What I mean in jest is that the issues and problems the Tea Party is attacking head-on are principles our government officials haven’t paid attention to at least in my adult life — I’m 28 — yet they are really common sense.

As Tea Partiers, we all share a well-known dedication to following the Constitution. Beyond that, we share other common sense, non-negotiable issues. These bedrock Tea Party principles are a balanced budget, a deficit reduction plan, and no new taxes. As signatures of our principled platform, these ideas go hand-in-hand with fighting for the repeal of Obamacare and fighting against cap and trade in any form — including backdoor methods of regulating through administrative fiat with EPA rules.

Laying the groundwork for the 2012 Caucuses has revealed something unique about Tea Partiers in Iowa: while we have our fair share of single-issue fiscal hawks who focus only on taxes and spending, many Iowa Tea Partiers include social issues as part of their Tea Party identity. The fractured, individualistic nature of the organization works to our advantage and creates an environment where different types of conservatives work toward shared goals.

Because not everyone agrees on every issue, and honesty and forthrightness are principles Tea Partiers can’t do without. We will insist on a purity of principles, but as these candidates seek office, many will have mistakes in their background and be called to account. I suggest that when confronted with these mistakes, Tea Partiers look for another virtue: atonement. If the candidate has admitted the mistake, apologized for it, accepted responsibility, and moved on to deal with the situation differently, we will be much nicer than when they try the usual explain-it-away method. After all, even the most effective advocate will still be human.

Tea Parties from around the state are coming into their own and building for a future of successful influence and action. The Iowa Grassroots Coalition spawned out of the need for communication among over 50 autonomous local Tea Party groups. This coordination among the varied groups means that the retail politics of Iowa just became even more emphasized by so many small groups sprouting up and communicating to keep our elected officials accountable to their oaths.

This coordination among Tea Parties also means trouble and embarrassment for candidates who try the same old political trick of “tell’em what they wanna hear” on the campaign trail. What will be different in 2012 is that instead of flocking to a candidate and attempting to attach our principles to a candidate, we will ask the candidate to say “your principles fit with mine and this is why." This is very important because it goes beyond candidate attachment and means that we will hold even “Our Guy” accountable instead of trying to justify his actions simply because he’s our pick. We might just change our minds.

Ryan Rhodes is founder and Chairman of the Iowa Tea Party, a group based in Des Moines, Iowa. He ran unsuccessfully for the Iowa House while still in college at Iowa State University in 2008 and managed a Congressional primary race for Dave Funk. He also recently consulted on multiple Iowa State House and State Senate candidates in the the largest single election flip where Senate Republicans picked up 6 seat in the Iowa State Senate.