Wed11262014

Last updateMon, 27 Nov 2017 12am

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The Tea Party comes into its own

There isn’t much more to be said about Eric Cantor’s defeat earlier this week.

The GOP House Majority leader lost to a Tea Party-backed favorite. Some ascribe the Congressman’s loss to his support of immigration reform; others say it was a matter of his being associated with the Republican establishment, while a few more say it was that he had lost touch with his district.

Really, it doesn’t matter. It was, going away, a decided win for the Republican Party’s most radical element, the Tea Party. However, trying to capture the primary season in a tally sheet of wins and losses, Tea Party versus establishment, doesn’t capture the whole picture. Using that approach, the numbers in favor of the Tea Party aren’t that great.

However, when you consider the effect the Tea Party movement has had on the GOP, that’s another story entirely.

First of all, the media likes labels. This isn’t, contrary to right wing chatter, because reporters are inherently evil. Rather, it’s because labels make writing about politics a lot easier. It’s much easier to call someone a conservative, a liberal or a tea partier, than it is to spend a paragraph or two dissecting their positions. If we did, we’d probably find that most politicians aren’t so easily categorized. And the Tea Party is no exception. They aren’t really an organized group, and finding out exactly what they stand for can be challenging.

There are some in the Tea Party movement who advocate a more libertarian philosophy, with concerns about government snooping and overseas involvements, while others, probably the majority, are highly conservative; in many cases, far more conservative than most Republican-elected officials.

They are also decidedly anti-tax. As if all taxes, all the time, no matter for what, are bad. Mind you, there are times I have sympathized with that. Usually, around April 15, and when my county taxes come due.

But the Tea Party’s impact has been more profound than most political observers seem to realize. They’ve won a few big name races. However, the big impact has been on the Republican Party itself. To survive, to ward off potential Tea Party threats, Republican incumbents have been forced farther and farther to the right. No “hands across the aisle,” compromise or working with the other side on issues of common concern for them. Many establishment Republicans have responded by trying to out “Tea Party” the Tea Party itself.

Our Congressman, Rob Wittman, easily defeated a Tea Party-challenge, but to do so, at least if his literature is any guide, he had to make Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz look wimpy. Wittman often tries to project a conciliatory, even moderate image. But, when it came to the primary, at least if his literature was to be believed, he was a no-holds-barred, Tea Party Republican. That’s happened in a lot Republican districts all over the country.

It’s even true at the local level. Members of the House of Delegates in our region are all keeping a wary eye out for possible Tea Party challengers in 2015. Senator Richard Stuart (R-28th Senatorial District) may get one, and who knows, maybe even Speaker Bill Howell (R-28th House District) may have to ward off a Tea Party-based challenger as well. However, most importantly, while they both would probably survive a primary challenge, both men, each often willing to work with the other side, may have to become much more harshly partisan. Both individuals support new spending for large capital projects, like roads, and both were supportive of the 2012 Transportation Bill. Unfortunately, many in the Tea Party movement were not amused and still carry a grudge over this one. The Tea Party is on a roll, and they’re not going to stop.

Like it or not, they are rapidly becoming the Republican Party.

Reach David Kerr at
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