Misreading the Tea (Party) Leaves

June 10, 2010

Raynard Jackson

I was stunned by Tuesday night’s election comments from all the talking heads. In listening to many political pundits (both Democrats and Republicans), you would have thought Sarah Palin had just become God!

How can anyone with the least bit of a brain credit Palin with many of the Republican victories last night, especially among the female victors?

Only once in recent history can one credibly argue that an endorsement by an individual had any measureable effect on an election—and that election was in 2008.

When Colin Powell endorsed then Senator Barack Obama for president, there was a noticeable change in the trajectory of Obama’s campaign. Powell’s words validated Obama within the Black community. Powell is the E.F. Hutton of America—when he speaks, people listen.

Powell’s stature is so much revered, his blessing was received as imprimatur for the military to believe that “the kid’s ok.” White America, who was not very familiar with Obama, was reassured by Powell’s words. The fact that Powell chose Obama over Senator McCain (a very close personal friend of Powell) sent shock waves throughout America. Powell’s endorsement was measureable, newsworthy, and game changing.

Because of Powell’s stature, he was able to impact a national election by sheer force of his person and his accomplishments. Sarah Palin, nor the Tea Party, is nowhere close to having this type of gravitas.

Palin and the Tea Party are like empty vessels—everyone fills them with whatever they want. This will prove to be the Achilles Heel for the Republican Party. Palin constantly issues “bumper sticker” slogans that have very little practical meaning and no substance.

The four people Palin endorsed were: Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and candidate for the U.S. Senate in California), Nikki Haley (South Carolina state representative who is running for governor), Terry Branstad (former four time governor of Iowa), and Cecile Bledson (Arkansas state senator who lost during yesterday’s Republican primary for U.S. Congress).

Palin’s endorsing these candidates and claiming to have helped them win (Bledson was the only one to lose) is like Ron Artest claiming to have helped Michael Jordan win his titles with the Chicago Bulls because they both played basketball; or Al Sharpton taking claim for Obama’s presidential win because he is a supposed civil rights leader. Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.

There is absolutely no causation between Palin or the Tea Party and these candidates victory. Fiorina had proven success in the corporate world, Haley, Brandstad, and Bledson all had proven track records in the political arena. But, as is typical in politics, if you can’t explain why something happens, then make something up. In the immortal words of the Doobie Brothers, “What a fool believes, no wise man has the power to reason away; what seems to be is always better than nothing at all.”

The days of individual “power brokers” are over. The above candidates won, not because of Palin, but because they were good candidates who had a message that resonated with the electorate.

The political pundits can’t fathom the possibility that these candidates won on the merits of their campaigns—what a novel thought! For all the talk about Palin, can someone explain to me why she has not contributed any money to these candidates? If she so believes in them, why is she not putting her money where her lipstick is?

She and her sycophants have deluded themselves into believing that if Palin just speaks the word---candidates will win.

Republicans should do well at the polls come November, but my biggest fear is the party’s penchant for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This is the only thing that can save the Democrats. You can count on members of the Tea Party to make some incendiary, racial statements between now and November.

The lesson to be learned from Tuesday’s election results is that Americans want common sense solutions to the problems facing America. They are not looking for candidates to pass litmus tests of political purity. They want people with clear records of success outside of politics—no more career politicians! They want civil discourse.

To have Sarah Palin or the Tea Party as the storyline from the election is a total misreading of the tea leaves.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (

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