Tea Party R.I.P.
Thursday May 8, 2014
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Writing the obituary of the Republican Tea Party movement may be premature, but that doesn't change the inevitability of the glide path it is on.
On Tuesday night, the Tea Partiers fielded candidates in a bunch of states against what are generally considered "establishment" candidates. I don't doubt that I am an establishment Republican, so on behalf of the Establishment, I accept the tag.
Establishment Republicans are not exactly the same as the Rockefeller Republicans of several decades ago. They were the very moderate - actually to the left of Southern Democrats - wing of the Republican party that no longer exists.
The Tea Party fielded a primary candidate against House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner squeaked out of victory by an 83% to 17% margin.
The real test of the Tea Party was in North Carolina where Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House, Thom Tillis was running against what CNN called "a bunch" of Tea Party candidates. It was actually five.
Under North Carolina election law if no one gets more than 40 percent of the vote on election day, the top two candidates have a runoff to see who gets into the general election in the fall.
Tillis got 45.7% of the vote and so has six months between now and November 4 to beat up on the incumbent, Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagen.
Democrats have been using the playbook devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) when he was running for re-election in 2010 and didn't want to run against his toughest opponent, former GOP State chair, former State Senator, former news anchor and former kindergarten teacher, Sue Lowden.
During the primary season Harry Reid and his allies ran ads against Lowden to weaken her to the point where she was beaten by Sharron Angle - the Tea Party favorite in the primary election.
Reid successfully maneuvered the system to run against the weaker general election candidate and beat Angle 50.3% to 44.6%. Not exactly a landslide.
Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagen tried the same thing in North Carolina by running ads against Tillis during the Republican primary to try and boost any of the other five candidates at least into a run-off (which would have caused Tillis to use precious time and money) if not beat him outright.
According to the Atlantic Magazine:
"She used her campaign funds to run anti-Tillis ads on conservative talk-radio stations and send mailers that targeted Republican households."
Alas, the GOP has become wise to the Reid Gambit so in-state and outside groups spent lots of money supporting Tillis who may well be the next United States Senator from the Tar Heel State and one of the six necessary for the GOP to take control of the Senate.
Far be it from me to tell someone else that they are not allowed to stick their thumb in the eye of people in power, especially if those people are using that power to feather their own nests.
Years ago, a reader emailed me and asked: Are you a Conservative first or a Republican first?
I didn't have any trouble answering that. I have spent my entire adult life working to elect Republicans to public office. Twice, the Republican I was working to elect was me. I was successful once.
The problem I have had with the Tea Party is what I have called the "religiousity" of their positions. This has nothing to do with organized religion, it has to do with demanding candidates adhere, blindly, to the orthodoxy of what the Tea Party position might be on any issue.
It is hard to elect people to public office. Including primaries, far fewer than half the people who put their name on the ballot get elected. I never understood why the Club for Growth and their ilk took it upon themselves to try to defeat incumbent Republicans.
Go defeat incumbent Democrats!
We'll see what happens as we move through the rest of the primary season. It is not impossible for a random Tea Party candidate to unexpectedly sneak into the general election in a multi-candidate primary, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Tea Party movement has lost direction and is running out of gas.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Atlantic Magazine's look at North Carolina this year and a Politico piece from 2010 about Nevada.
Also an Mullfoto of the Great Old Town Alexandria Flood of 2014.
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