No, the Tea Party Really Is Dead
The 2014 GOP primaries are more or less over and the Tea Party has lost all six contests where it tried to oust an incumbent Republican. Thad Cochran (LA), Lindsey Graham (SC), LaMar Alexander (TN), Pat Roberts (KN), Mitch McConnell (KY), and John Cornyn (TX) were all able to defeat their Tea Party challengers with McConnell early on in the election cycle proclaiming that they would “crush them everywhere” As a political force in America, the Tea Party is done, although the more liberal media and Democratic Party will likely continue to prop it up to tie moderate Republicans to the less than popular aspects of the movement.
The Tea Party movement is an American political movement known for advocating a reduction in the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing U.S. government spending and taxes. The movement has been described a mix of libertarian, populist, and conservative activists. It has sponsored multiple protests and supported various political candidates since 2009. Various polls have found that slightly over 10% of Americans identify as members.
The Tea Party is dead, and the eulogy reads disaffected groups of Republicans were able to organize effectively to tip the balance of the House of Representatives as well as effect some Senate races in 2010. They expired in the GOP primary of 2014 confirming unfortunately affirming the necessity for the type of political campaigning they eschew in the name of their message of reducing the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing the U.S. government spending and taxes at all costs. Don’t believe me? Let’s recap.
The earliest primary was in Texas. The Tea Party candidate, Rep. Steve Stockman lost to incumbent John Cornyn by 41 points. Stockman submitted his papers to run literally 15 minutes before the filing deadline, and his campaign featured Obama barf bags. Come on.
Towards the end, even a lot of Tea Party groups began to slowly back away from this guy which probably explains Cornyn’s 60% to Stockman’s 19% in the final tally. An organized political party would have a better vetting process for its candidates and stronger oversight of the direction of their campaign.
Mitch McConnell was personally targeted by the movement as an embodiment of a Republican In Name Only (RINO) who compromises too much with Democrats. He is known as an inside player and cleaver deal maker.
The Tea Party chose Matt Bevin who ran into problems with comments on same sex marriage leading to parents marrying their children, his support of TARP in spite of being heavily critical of TARP, and said it was a bad idea to outlaw cockfighting. Come on.
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Lindsay Graham faced six unknown Republicans in his primary, each claiming Graham was too “liberal” and they were the true Tea Party Republicans. To avoid a runoff, Graham had to win more than 50 percent in his primary. He prevailed with 56 percent of the vote.
Pat Roberts was the most vulnerable of this year’s incumbents. He is 78 years old, and admittedly does not live in Kansas. The Tea Party ran Milton Wolf who was among other things, Barack Obama’s cousin. Dr. Wolf posted pictures of dead bodies on his Facebook page and made crude jokes about them. The people of Kansas came to believe he had some kind of fetish about dead bodies, and Roberts easily won.
The Tea Party in Tennessee tried to make a run against Lamar Alexander, a former governor and Secretary of Education, but candidate Joe Carr never got traction. Carr dismissed critics who suggest that Republicans lack compassion in the immigration reform debate. Tennessee has an open primary, meaning that any Democrat who wants to vote for alexander could, and with the seat likely to go to a Republican, Alexander was more preferable for them.
I wrote about this race and the Great State of Mississippa’ before. To recap, Thad Cochran is 77 years old and did not even want to run again after 36 years in the Senate. He is in line to become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee if the GOP takes the Senate, so influential Mississippians talked him into seeking another term.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, and it looked like he was going to win as he got 49.5 percent in the first primary to 49 percent for Sen. Cochran. But as both man fell just short of the 50 percent requirement to win, a primary runoff was necessary.
Tea Party allied groups poured more than $3 million into attacks on Cochran and support for McDaniel, but Cochran had a secret weapon, the political machine assembled by the wily former governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour. In the runoff, these Cochran supporters made an appeal to black voters who had not already voted in the Democratic primary to vote for Cochran in the Republican runoff. It worked and in the runoff Cochran prevailed by 7,600 votes after trailing by 1,400 votes in the first primary.
The Tea Party was outfoxed by a ground game it never saw coming. Despite howls of protest, the Cochran win, based largely on black Democratic votes, has prevailed, and the ineptitude of a non party “party” is exposed again.
The House Too
Only three incumbent Republican members of congress lost in this cycle. The Tea Party tried after the fact to take credit for the defeat of House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, but in fact the Tea Party did not get involved in his race and he lost for district related reasons and mistakes in the Cantor camp concerning turnout. One of the three ousted congressmen, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, was a Tea Party member himself.
Impact of the Death
The meaning of the death of the Tea Party in 2014 is twofold. First, the Republican Party is not burdened by unwinnable candidates like those the Tea Party foisted on it in 2010 and 2012. Secondly, the GOP set of candidates this year are stronger resulting in the likelihood that Republicans win back control of the Senate this fall.
If they do, President Obama will be forced to negotiate with Republicans in the last two years of his term, and Republicans will be able to set the legislative agenda. None of this would be possible had the GOP mainstream not come together and “crushed” the Tea Party insurgents in this year’s primaries.
Some will say the Tea Party has pushed the conversation or agenda rightwards. I don’t think there is any denying the Tea Party’s effect on the GOP in accepting the sequester; however, immigration, gay marriage and even minimum wage seem to be happening on both the local and the federal level. These may not be issuers for all Tea Partiers, but they are certainly issues claimed under a supposedly purely economic motive of the party.
John Birch Society
This same thing happened to the Birchers. The John Birch Society is an American political advocacy group that says it supports anti-communism and limited government. It has been described as radical right. Unlike the Tea Party, Businessman and founder Robert W. Welch Jr. (1899–1985) developed an elaborate organizational infrastructure in 1958 that enabled him to keep a very tight rein on the chapters.
Its main activity in the 1960s comprised of monthly meetings to watch a film by Welch, followed by writing postcards or letters to government officials linking specific policies to the Communist menace”. After an early rise in membership and influence, efforts by people like conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and National Review led the JBS to be identified as a fringe element of the conservative movement, mostly in fear of the radicalization of the American right.
Sound familiar? The rallies and parades of the Tea Party have gone the way of the Tea Party. This is not surprising because most Tea Partiers are not extremists or radicals within the party. They were just Republicans upset at the direction their party had taken.