Improbable Tea Party Victory Scares the Hell Out of Me
October 15, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – An article today in The New York Times rocked my world a bit this morning. Beyond the usual stories about mid-term elections and all the pabulum that focuses on scenarios that political prognosticators love to delve into is this headline that screamed itself in to my psyche a bit too loudly.
Like being battered by a baseball bat the headline reads, Tea Party Set to Win Enough Races for Wide Influence. OK, as I was choking on my coffee, it took a deep breath once I was able to get control and clicked on the title and read the piece. It basically tells the story of a movement that may see as many as eight Tea Party candidates elected to Congress. If you think that eight people can’t matter in Congress, think again. Although they would be a vocal minority, the key word is vocal.I’ll let you read the article yourself for the purpose for writing this piece today is to be sure we frame the reason this may happen because if you think this is a mandate on President Obama and the Democratic agenda, let me remind you of why the Tea Party came into being to begin with.
The Tea Party, whom by the way is not a unified national organization, as many of these types of groups tend to be. They are not a cohesive and one minded. They had a great deal of trouble upon their birth into the political world getting their collective stuff together. All that being said, they certainly had enough to get attention and to energize the conservative base of the Republican Party. That’s my point. The initial mission of the Tea Party was in response to what Republicans were doing NOT Democrats. Tea Party candidates were focused on the idea that Republicans in power were not conservative enough and had abandoned their conservative roots.
Tea Party activists were directing their anger and ugly disgust at their own Republican Party, and if you need to be reminded, the majority of Tea Party candidates had to defeat seasoned Republican backed candidates to get where they are today. This creates real problems for Republicans, especially if they gain control of the House for not only will they have to beat back their Democratic colleagues, they will have to find a way to placate their Tea Party colleagues, and that won’t be easy as the Tea Party agenda is more radical than any progressive campaign has ever been.
Hey, listen folks, if the Republican Party is backing away from them, shouldn’t that tell you something?
In fact, as I think hard about this, I can’t find a subset of the Democratic Party that is as equally vicious to the Democrats as the Tea Party is to Republicans.
If I were John Boehner, now minority Speaker, my enthusiasm about Republicans gaining control of the House will be dampened by Tea Party gains.
Democrats have just over two weeks to make their case to keep themselves in control of the House, and if they are smart they will use the threat of the Tea Party to their advantage.
But what does this NYT article really tell us? What’s the story within the story?
It’s clear that not every Tea Party candidate is as simple minded as Christine O’Donnell, as I discussed in yesterday’s piece. But if you look into the Tea Party candidates that are doing well in the polls, you will find that many of them have very disturbing backgrounds and the congressional areas they would represent are in extremely conservative parts of the country.
Listen, I get it. People are unhappy with the state of the country and they think they want change. And I could write for days on why making deep change right now will set us back further, which I will in a post soon, but it is clear that some change is coming with what I feel will be a detriment to the progress we have made to this point.
So what difference can eight new members of Congress make? A lot. They can take their platform, and I can assure you it is not the same agenda of their Republican brothers and sisters, and control the debate. They can force the current Republican leadership to spend too much time and perhaps too much political capital that it renders Republicans almost moot. This could be quite a show.
At a time when we desperately need all members of Congress working toward a goal, what we are threatening to have is a Congress more deeply divided than they already are now. But for those of you who think that this liberal Democrat is smiling and anxiously awaiting the mess that could unfold, think again.
I don’t want a Congress even more divided than they already are. I don’t want an extremist agenda of a minority faction of Congress that can’t win, hijack progress for their ideological gratification, and I can assure you that because the Tea Party candidates that will get elected will never have the political muscle to accomplish anything of substance, we will move backward over the next two years.
What eight people can and most assuredly will do is move the country closer to the center, and back to Democrats that fit much more neatly in the center than Republicans ever have.
The greatest threat to democracy and progress over the next two years if this plays out the way it looks today and as positioned by the NYT is that we will delay even longer the progress that is needed to restore some sanity to the economy, employment, housing, senior services, etc.
I can tell you that from where I’m sitting the Tea Party looks like trouble; for Democrats, for Republicans and sadly for all Americans.
Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.