...The biggest mistake in this discussion is to frame the analysis around the third-party issue. Doing that confuses a relic of 19th century conventional political wisdom with a 21st century reality.
The Tea Partiers are not a traditional third-party movement, they are instead the most visible manifestation yet of what Examiner contributor Glenn Reynolds calls "an army of Davids" made possible by the Internet and that empowers "ordinary people to beat Big Media, Big Government, and other Goliaths."
Third parties have mostly failed thanks to immense institutional ballot access obstacles erected by the two major parties, and the challenge of overcoming geographic separation over vast differences in order to achieve timely concerted action.
But the Internet enables these new armies rapidly to overcome distance and resource limitations that would hobble a traditional third-party attempt, and instead focus effectively on bringing to bear consistent demands with widespread public support on decision makers.
They can also, if they choose and organize to do so, impose enduring consequences on recalcitrant or witless decision makers, as Martha Coakley found out a few weeks ago in Massachusetts.
The issue then for Tea Partiers and political elites alike was posed by Reynolds in a recent Examiner article: When political movements can "bubble up from below, and self-organize via the Internet, what will happen to the political class?"
Going the traditional third-party route will lead Tea Partiers to a dead end. Taking over the GOP probably should be pursued in any case, but even if successful would only win half the battle and likely would be temporary in any case.
Why settle for half a victory when Tea Partiers have within their grasp as an independent third force to be the decisive influence in both major political parties?
There is no mystery about what most Tea Partiers seek -- a limited, transparent government that listens to them and resists ideologues with millennial blueprints to remake America in their own image, minimal taxation and regulation, strong national defense, and an unapologetic commitment to American exceptionalism abroad.
Tea Partiers should seek out or field candidates in both major parties who support those aims and do everything possible to elect them, then hold their feet to the fire of accountability. Just imagine a bipartisan Tea Party Caucus with sufficient numbers in Congress to drive the national agenda.
That could be a conquering army like none before in American politics.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's Copy Desk blog on washingtonexaminer.com.
Read more at the Washington Examiner: