Article first published as Tea Party; GOP Friend, Foe, or Foil? on Technorati.
Many people scoffed when the Tea Party first appeared on the political scene last year. The nascent movement was labeled “fringe” and dismissed as inconsequential. But now, more than a year and a half later, polls show around 20% of Americans claim to be a part of the Tea Party. The growth and success of the movement cannot be denied. Thus far, the GOP has been the beneficiary of the movement’s enthusiasm. But as we press nearer the November election, one serious question remains unanswered — is the Tea Party really helping or hurting the GOP?
When the movement originally began to gather steam, certain prominent figures in the Republican Party took notice and positioned themselves to leverage the excitement. Former House Majority Leader, Dick Armey was amongst the first, throwing the support of his FreedomWorks behind the Tea Party, he embraced the movement and helped craft their “Contract from America” in time for “Tax Day” 2009.
Sarah Palin was another early proponent. The former Republican candidate for vice president actually resigned her post as Governor of Alaska three months after the “Contract” was formed and soon thereafter became a vocal advocate of the movement. The half-term governor solidified her position as co-figurehead of the movement, sharing her influence with Fox News political barker Glen Beck, when she appeared as the keynote speaker at the Tea Party’s inaugural convention this past February.
The first fruits of the movement were harvested shortly before the convention, when Scott Brown rode a Tea Party endorsement into being the first Republican elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since 1972. Tea Partiers basked in the glory of the first successful candidate, but in certain ways, the thrill was short-lived. Being more than a little moderate for the Tea Party, before February was done, Brown split from the GOP and became one of five Republicans to vote in favor of the jobs bill.
Since February, much more has happened. Sarah Palin has been fully engaged in the Tea Party speaking tour, often handing out her sought after endorsement and amassing a respectable record of primary victories. To date, Palin has made 43 endorsements of which 24 have been for Tea Party candidates, and 23 have been women and 21 men. She’s presently batting nearly .700 with 25 victories and only 11 losses, and just over half of the wins were by Tea Partiers.
But in the midst of the reverie surrounding the trail of victory are growing concerns that the momentum may be taking the Republican Party far right — right off the edge of a cliff. Four of Palin’s endorsees, including her most recent, are signaling cause for alarm. One early endorsement, Rand Paul of Kentucky, spoke out against portions of the Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for business owners to discriminate against customers on the basis of race. Another of her Tea Party candidates, Sharon Angle of Nevada, ran on the “transitioning out” of Social Security and the elimination of the “unconstitutional” Department of Education.
Palin’s more recent endorsements include Joe Miller, Senate candidate from Alaska, another advocate for privatizing Social Security and eliminating the Department of Education, who also believes that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. But the crown jewel of Palin’s string of primary victories has to be Christine O’Donnell, who formed a successful underdog campaign and beat former Republican Congressman Mike Castle to be Delaware’s Republican candidate for the Senate.
O’Donnell, who also ran for the Senate in 2006 and 2008, is an avowed fiscal conservative who has spoken strongly against “spending money we don’t have,” yet seems to have trouble practicing what she preaches. Accused of criminal activity, the records indicate that O’Donnell misappropriated campaign funds, spending the money on personal expenses. She is on record stating that “America is now a socialist economy” and is on video talking about her teen years dabbling in witchcraft and how she believes that scientists experimenting with cross-breeding have created mice with “fully-functioning” human brains.
Obvious to the most casual observer is the fact that all of these Tea Party candidates are empty vessels. They consistently take positions popular to the far-right and routinely state opinions with little to no basis in reality. Not a one of this gang of four believe that global warming is an issue for America. They are all against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Each of them is in favor of radical shrinking of the federal government and further cutting of taxes without being able to articulate how they would achieve the balanced budgets they promote. They’re all against cap and trade, in favor of the repeal of the healthcare legislation, and none of them will speak to the media except under the protected umbrella of Fox News.
These bagger candidates are the Frankenstein monsters of the leadership of the Republican Party. People like Armey, Gingrich, McConnell and Boehner seem to think that words and rhetoric are transitory, that they can spread whatever lies, distortions and half-truths they wish in order to promote their positions and obfuscate the truth. But the fact is that speech has creative power: it triggers emotional and intellectual responses that impact perception, direct opinion and in the end define political “reality.”
The problem for these Republicans is that their complete lack of veracity and substance has created a movement fueled by belief in a veneer of talking points. There is no substance beneath the surface. Guys like McConnell and Boehner, Gingrich and Demint all know how things really work, but none of them have spoken the truth in years. When you profess to support average people but in reality sacrifice them for the top 2%, you can’t speak the truth. So, now the dishonesty of these self-serving manipulators has taken the form of an army of zombies who have nothing to offer but the talking points through which they were created.
Palin, Paul, Angle, O’Donnell, or Miller, it doesn’t matter. None of them have a clue beyond their “government is bad” rhetoric. They all actually believe that tax cuts pay for themselves. They buy into “small government” blindly, without even evaluating what it might mean. The country needs thinkers, and the Tea Party is giving us winkers. What will they do when more than a sound bite is needed? Sadly, they’ve all gained power because American culture is so easily exploited, never looking for substance or asking for facts. Hopefully, they will fulfill their Frankenstein destinies and ruin their creators before they have a chance to govern and take a real toll on the nation.