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Monday, January 16, 2012

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TEA PARTY?

"When is this country going to wake up?"

Dangerous Extremists
You've probably noticed that after the 2010 elections, the Tea Party Movement became much quieter. For over a year, there were rallies, protests, letter writing campaigns, fundraising efforts and more by this group, then once the election happened, not much has happened.

The most recent battles in the GOP primary have been rough but there hasn't been a lot of evidence of the Tea Party's previously impressive weight behind any one candidate or another. It looks like Mitt Romney will end up the GOP nominee at this point, which has led blogger Carin at Is This Blog On? to wonder
What HAPPENED to the Tea Party?

I’m depressed.
No conservatives are happy with Romney as the nominee, any more than we were Bob Dole, George Bush the younger, or John McCain. In fact, the only nominee that really made conservatives particularly excited was Ronald Reagan, because he was such an excellent promoter of conservative principles (fiscally, at least).

But what has happened to the Tea Party? Why so quiet, why so apparently ineffective?

The first thing I think that happened is that with the 2010 election, the American people showed the Democrats that they were sick of what was happening and gave them a pretty strong slap up side the head. That's very likely to continue next election. With that success, I think much of the rage and frustration that built up to the rallies and protests was reduced, having been given an effective release by throwing lots of congressmen out of office.

It took an incredible amount of fury to get people in the Tea Party movement out in the streets. As I wrote about last year several times, these are folks who usually just do their jobs, vote, and live their lives without needing drama or public outrage. They are too busy with life and family and work to run around with paper machet heads and placards every time something upsets them. And as conservatives, we've pretty well gotten used to being annoyed, nearly all of popular culture is openly hostile toward us. So it takes something quite impressive to get folks like that out on the streets.

Once that has been dealt with, we go back home to our jobs and get back to being just hard working Americans. We don't have time to sit in a tent for weeks getting steadily more filthy while destroying a park. We don't have the inclination to go protest over and over again. The elections last year were our voice, and we'll be heard from again, but we managed to stop the progress of the radical left and don't feel so enraged and frustrated any more.

However, part of the result of the 2010 election was frustration and some embarrassment. The Tea Party Movement managed to throw a lot of annoying incumbents out, but failed miserably to get one of the most obnoxious and corrosive ones out of office: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Granted, they were up against the party machine and Casino industry in Nevada, which may be impossible to defeat, but pushing for Sharron Angle was portrayed as an idiotic, suicidal effort.

Sure, she wasn't the most capable politician on earth but then... neither is Harry Reid, and she seems at least as informed as that pathetic wretch. The problem was the press managed to portray her as a crazy stupid slut and the image stuck, which made Tea Party efforts backing her look stupid to many people (particularly more moderate people who don't pay much attention to politics). So the Tea Party is a bit more low profile lately.

Another reason is that the Tea Party Movement has shifted from an on-the-streets protest to a behind-the-scenes effort. There was a huge push during the rallies for people to not just protest and vote but get into the party machinery and control the local precincts. That effort has been at least partly successful, but its more quiet and unnoticed. If the Tea Party movement can infiltrate and control the Republican Party at least at the local level, that will spread over time to the state and regional and national level. It will take time.

The present Republican Party nomination process is a tough one for Tea Party conservatives and libertarians because we don't really care for any of the nominees. Sure, Michelle Bachman said some of the right stuff, but she doesn't really seem to know what she's doing and has done some truly bizarre and foolish things. Rick Santorum is a pretty conservative guy socially and that we like, but he's awful on fiscal issues, and quite frankly right at this moment the fiscal ones are the most critical. Rick Perry seems to be fairly conservative but doesn't seem to have the slightest clue how to campaign, despite having won election three times in a row to Texas Governor.

Radical White TerroristsAnd the others aren't conservative at all. So Tea Party types look at this and almost weep with frustration. There's nobody to push, nobody to truly want in office. So there was no one to rally behind. This nomination process was a struggle between the Tea Party and the GOP elite mainstream in Washington DC, the guys who control the party at the national level. And without a candidate to really like and endorse, the Tea Party didn't really have the ammunition to fight with.

The GOP beltway types seem to have won, they chose their guy long before the voters ever had a say and he looks to be the one who'll make it - in no small part because the Democrats and the legacy media want him to be the nominee, too.

That's how wars go. And its a war, make no mistake. The entrenched GOP party bosses want big spending types in office. They like squishy moderates who'll go along with Democrats on many issues, just a little less. They want guys who know how to throw around money and power to help their friends. They like politicians who understand the use of congress to reward those who help them gain power. These are the cronyists, the big government types who are terrified a Democrat might call them racist or mean spirited and will vote for huge government programs.

These guys hate conservatism and small government ideals. They can't stand people who want to reform congress and reduce spending. They are repulsed by the concepts of constitutional limits on federal power. John McCain is their ideal candidate. The Tea Party represents the crazies and radicals they have to trick to win power.

So this battle was lost, even before it began. The system was front-loaded with moderates and designed to destroy anyone who'd dare challenge their chosen one. They win this round, but there are future elections. Its true that I think time is running out (if it hasn't run out already) on how long we can go before we make changes to save this country, but we still have the future to fight for, get better organized, and get more of a foothold in the party machine.

Its something I've noticed about getting older: you get a better perspective on the long road. You don't have to win now, as long as you win ultimately. Its better to win decisively and conclusively than win every single small battle. That takes time and hard work, and that's what the Tea Party Movement faces.

One thing that's for certain here: clearly the Tea Party Movement is not an anti-Obama thing. If this was just about hating black presidents or fear of President Obama, then the rallies and events would still be going on. The quieting after the 2010 victory proves this was about stopping the activities and agenda of the left, not any particular person or race.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Eric said...

One thing I have become convinced of is that the Tea Party is an intensely local movement, and the farther you get away from local, the less effective it becomes. The main thing the Tea Party boom of 2009 did was to bring 'normal' conservatives and libertarians together to talk about public policy away from professional politicians or media pundits. The result has been that many of these people encountered a number of good ideas and were inspired to get involved to try to get them enacted, and most of that involvement is local. The Tea Party has had a bigger effect on the make up of our school board and city council than it has on our State Representation, and it's had a bigger effect on our State Representation than it has on our Federal Representation.

The Presidential election is about as far away as you can get from a local process, politically speaking. Therefore it is not surprising to me that the Tea Party has had relatively little influence on the outcome of the Republican Primary.

I've been to two big Tea Party rallies and quite a few smaller monthly meetings with a local group (I quit going when the focus of the meetings changed to social issues, and since then that group has entirely died out... but no less than four people from that group, including myself, are now involved in some kind of leadership with local organizations). In my experience, a lot of Tea Party organizations quickly come to the conclusion that the federal government is largely beyond saving, and their efforts are better spent at the local and state level.

11:56 AM, January 16, 2012  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I think there's something to that, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to find that politics becomes more and more locally focused and the feds are just left to rot on the vine. After all, if the federal government and the United States as a nation collapses, individual communities, counties, and states will likely survive and continue as independent entities.

And it may be too late to save America as a whole in any case. But we can save our neighborhood.

1:28 PM, January 17, 2012  

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