Ken Connor

Recognizing the wisdom in the old adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," the major operatives within the Grand Old Party know that the only way to maintain their grip on power is to find a way to keep the troops in line. In the military such control is maintained by the strict adherence to the chain of command. In third world dictatorships such control is maintained through intimidation. In Washington, such control is maintained by money, the mother's milk of politics. Secure the Tea Party Republicans' loyalty the old fashioned way, Lott argues – by buying it. By doing so, the Establishment's agenda will become their agenda.

This, sadly, is the way it's always been done in Washington, and it's a trap into which even the most conscientious, idealistic political newcomer can easily fall. They come to our nation's capital, electoral mandate in hand, full of big ideas and dreams for their constituents back home, only to find themselves caught in the web of establishment interests on the Hill. Campaign contributions, fancy dinners, box seats, all expense paid trips – this has been the medium of exchange for years in the Federal City. It is all very alluring. And it's precisely why the voters are clamoring for a change.

The American people are hoping the Tea Party candidates – precisely because of their relative political inexperience will – help chart a new path for our government. There is a desperate desire among the American people for a new and different generation of representatives – people who run for office not because they need the job, or the money, or the power, but because they are people of integrity and honor who truly feel called to serve their fellow citizens.

Instead of embracing the American people's call for authentic change and welcoming the Tea Party's influence, the GOP establishment appears hell bent on doing business the old fashioned way. In the meantime, the likes of Rove and Lott are watching and waiting to see if America's first Tea Party candidates have what it takes to prevail against the Democrats in a general election. A bigger issue, however, is whether the Tea Party's electoral vanguard has the character and fortitude to stick to its ideals and resist the lure of being co-opted by the GOP establishment. For voters across the country who are sick of politics as usual in America, this is the million dollar question.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.