For a movement that so many people like to deride, the tea party sure is attracting its share of imitators. First the coffee party; now, the tequila party. From the Las Vegas Sun:
Latino leaders in Nevada and nationwide are quietly debating whether to sever their traditional Democratic ties and form an independent grass-roots political group.
The idea, born of frustration over the party’s inaction on immigration reform and fears that as a voting bloc they’re a political afterthought, Latino leaders have discussed the idea among themselves locally and in conference calls with colleagues across the country.
The unlikely model for the movement they would like to launch is the Tea Party — not in substance, of course, but in its grass-roots organizational style. Acknowledging the source of their inspiration, Latino leaders have dubbed the proposed movement the “Tequila Party.”
These Hispanic leaders have noticed that while the Tea Party has had spotty electoral success, it has called attention to its concerns and values and put the establishment on notice.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but there’s talk,” said Fernando Romero, president of the nonpartisan Hispanics in Politics, Nevada’s oldest Hispanic political group. “There’s discussion about empowerment of the Latino vote.”
I’ve written before that members of self-identified voting blocs are wise to make political parties compete for their votes, lest they be taken for granted. In the big picture, a re-cobbling of traditional voting interests could be a good thing.
At the same time, I think there are some reasons to think the tequila party — as its vision is described in the Sun article — won’t be as successful as the tea party has been so far:
1. Sheer Numbers: The most recent opinion poll I’ve seen, this one from USA Today, shows a statistical tie between those Americans who want the tea party to take the lead in setting policy (27 percent) and those who want President Obama to lead (28 percent). That’s not just an astoundingly high number for a 21-month-old movement relative to the leader of the free world. It’s about 50 percent larger than the entire Hispanic population in the U.S., which is estimated at around 15 percent. So, the tequila party wouldn’t have the same numerical reach as the tea party even if every Hispanic American joined. Which leads us to…
2. Sheer Politics: Despite portrayals to the contrary, Hispanic voters do not march in lockstep with the Democratic Party to nearly the same degree as, say, black voters. Republican candidates for the U.S. House won 38 of Hispanic voters in this year’s mid-term elections, according to exit polls. Among racial groups, only the Asian-American vote was more competitive (58 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican). Which leads us to…
3. Identity Politics: The tea party is focused on a narrow list of issues, but it is open to anyone who subscribes to those issues. The tequila party, on the other hand, seems to be trying to get an entire racial group to subscribe to the same (Democratic/liberal) view of a policy, immigration reform. As Allahpundit writes at Hot Air, the driving issue seems to be “amnesty and, er…amnesty.” But if any single issue, and particularly a decidedly partisan/ideological take on that issue, were enough to drive the Hispanic vote, would we really have seen 38 percent of Hispanic voters choose Republican House candidates?
4. The Grassroots: The tea party famously began as a spontaneous eruption from people who weren’t already political operatives. Who are the people apparently pushing the tequila party? Political operatives.
As I said, it’s all well and good if Americans — individually or in groups — are pushing political parties not to take their votes for granted. But the authenticity and free form of the tea-party model is going to be a tough one for a lot of groups to copy if they are really just trying to get people to circle back to the same place.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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