The “Tea Party” movement in the 2010 off-year elections re-created the national political landscape. A decidedly leftist Congressional and White House agenda, characterized by bullied health care legislation, gave rise to a populist revolt not seen since the anti-war sentiments of the 1960’s. Now what?
When Tea Party (TP) politics was a movement and not an institution, it served as a valid forum for electoral outrage. Reacting to the machinations of a Democrat-controlled Congress and an arrogantly left-of-center President, voters across the country rose in reactive protests. Proving that election to office does not always translate to an open-ended policy mandate, Americans of every social, economic, racial and age demographic unloaded on an unprepared and clueless body of elected officials. It was Hollywood come to life as “The Network” played out across America: “We’re mad as Hell, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”
The GOP rode the wave of indignation and retook the House of Representatives. Anti-big government and reform candidates won elections from county to state-wide offices, defeating long-term incumbents, including Republicans perceived to be too comfortable as politicians and not the representatives they were elected to be.
The wash from that 2010 wave continues. President Obama is leaning more to the center (though his feet haven’t actually made the shift) and Republican candidates for his job are pandering to Tea Party groups and issues at every opportunity.
Too bad. As noble and necessary as some TP demands may be, acquiescence to them will likely result in the one thing the country can’t afford; another Obama term in office.
The 2010 elections were NOT about the Tea Party. They were about voter resentment and indignation. UberConservative and Libertarian activists kept that anger alive and have used it to form the nucleus of the 21st Century version of the anti-war movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s. After the ballots were cast and public bile expelled last year, most of those voters went on about their business of trying to get by. But those that remained active, the political concentrate, are forming coalitions that will marginalize everyone right of center and brand them as “fringe,” “kooks” and “wackos.” They do not represent those who took to the streets and voting booths in such huge numbers.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the anti-war movement in the United States was a vocal and passionate reaction to U.S. government actions in Vietnam. That passion led to a coup in the Democrat Party that overran more established leaders such as Ted Kennedy and Edmund Muskie and gave rise to the eventual 1972 presidential candidate – and rabid anti-war advocate – George McGovern. Running against an incumbent Richard Nixon, McGovern lost the popular vote 61%-37% and the electoral college 520 to 17. [Yes, Nixon was helped by Democrat-turned-Independent George Wallace. But, in 2012, will Ron Paul do the same for Obama?]
If the Republican Party succumbs to TP demands, it, too will likely lose to Barack Obama in a mirror image election. Should the GOP move so far to the right as to be off the coast, it cannot – it will not – reflect the needs and demands of the bulk of the people that protested by ballot last year.
The hard truth is that the Republican Party doesn’t need the Tea Party. The Tea Party, however, desperately needs the GOP. Where else can the TP go? What can it use for networking for funds, media and candidates? In 2010, it was REPUBLICAN candidates that the TP put in office as its protest, not Independents or officially designated Tea Party office seekers.
Certainly, many of the TP platform planks should be implemented, but if examined closely and with a practical eye, one will find that those principles are already incorporated.
The goal for 2012 is to defeat Barack Obama and yank both houses of Congress from Democrat hands as well as state offices across the country, the GOP needs to select candidates that are strong fiscal conservatives with records or credentials that reflect a drive to right the country from the current hard list to port. Obama won in 2008 in large part because he appealed to the political center where most voters reside. So, too, must Republicans prove to that massive group that it has the better plan for the country. It is these citizens to which the GOP must appeal, not the Tea Party.
If the Tea Party makes too many demands on Republicans or if the Republican Party tries to reinvent itself in the TP image, then those goals will not be reached.