Unresolved Issue: Is The Tea Party A Threat or An Opportunity?
December 30, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed News) News yesterday of a federal investigation into Republican Tea Party Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell was an important reminder that we need to examine and reexamine the Tea Party movement and what it could potentially mean to the country at large, not just the Republican Party.
Clearly the Tea Party had an effect on the November 2010 mid term elections but to what degree is the question. In some parts of the country the Tea Party is a serious force to be reckoned with, while in other parts of the country they barely move the political dial. Christine O’Donnell is a prime example of what is wrong with the movement; namely candidates that upon further examination are less than qualified and lack serious acumen to lead. The inconsistency of the Tea Party candidates is an important consideration when weighing whether or not they should be taken seriously or if they will have longevity.Other considerations and most importantly is what the Tea Party stands for. As a reminder, the Tea Party movement was born in response to Republicans and George W. Bush’s policies that took the Party further from their conservative roots. As the federal government grew by record numbers and departments were created in response to terrorism and other national priorities, conservative Republicans were outraged by the debt that was created and the damage that was being done to the economy.
Vowing to hold their conservative brethren to a higher standard, the Tea Party began to promote and find candidates to run against established Republicans. The result again was mixed at best and has created an honest problem for the Republican Party: appeasing a faction of the Party that is loud enough to be heard and balancing that against their real goal of crushing Democrats. If we look at the mid term elections we have to ask ourselves the question of whether or not the Tea Party was a part of the election shellacking of Democrats, if Republicans, the more mainstream ones anyway were part of the movement, or whether the Democrats themselves were the problem. The answer is more than likely a combination of all three, but to give too much weight to the Tea Party would be a mistake.
The 112th Congress convenes in about a week and we will begin to see what effect the Tea Party will have on the national discussion or whether or not their fiscally conservative message will allow Republicans to move their stated agenda forward. Will the Tea Party be an obstruction to the Republican plan or not? These are questions that will be answered very quickly.
The viability of the Tea Party can certainly be assured financially. They have proven they can raise money and they have certainly proved that they are willing to fight fastidiously toward their conservative values, no matter how misaligned with the majority of America. My feeling is that they will fade quickly if they cannot grow the movement nationally and find serious candidates with serious credentials.
Will the Tea Party be considered successful if they are able to obstruct policy? Will they be deemed viable if they are able to take Republicans off their message early on in the new Congress? Will they be able to gain traction simply by sticking to their message?
Certainly we see a movement that has attracted some important names, but their growth depends largely on accomplishment and at this point they don’t have by number enough elected officials to have any real policy impact, but will that matter to what they expect to accomplish? They have said they will stick to their campaign promises of fiscal conservatism and will do whatever it takes to reduce the deficit no matter the consequence. And even though they clearly don’t have the numbers to do quite that, if they stay on message and the media continue to give them face time that may be just enough to keep them out front and give them the chance to grow.
There are many things working against the Tea Party and it is clear that the majority of Republicans must focus on Democrats if they have any shot at regaining the White House in 2012. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner has his hands full: he has to find a way to keep the Tea Party at arms length while continuing to bash Democrats just for being Democrats. This will not be an easy task especially if President Obama finds his center again and goes on the offensive, as he must.
The reality certainly exists that the Tea Party could be a tremendous asset to the Democrats in the 112th Congress. With Republicans having to defend their agenda to the country, the Democrats and the Tea Party, it may just be one too many constituencies to deal with. Time will tell, and soon enough.
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 email@example.com and can read his Blog at http://www.mediatraining.me