Tea Party Divisions

By James Di Palma-Grisi, Tory

As I write this, puttering along the American countryside in a government-subsidized train, I find it difficult to comprehend the Tea Party’s rage. But as difficult as I find it to understand, I must respect that it is there and detachedly analyze it for the benefit of the reader.

Last week, we looked at the rift between the Tea Party ideologies — one being anti-elite, and another being anti-government. Today, we will speculate as to whether these Tea Party candidates will follow a route similar to Scott Brown, or will become Republican stooges equally vulnerable to democratic attacks of party complacency in two years.

Scott Brown, for example, voted for the financial reform bill, which, by several reasonable metrics, hurt the Boston area which is a hub of finance. Whether he will receive credit for stabilizing the overall economy is yet to be seen, but his popularity in his home state — initially enough to get him elected — has since sagged, mostly as a result of his willingness to reach across the aisle on key votes.

The opposite end of the spectrum, the Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells of the Tea Party, are dogmatic and simplistic candidates parroting the same talking points that, by even the admission of Alan Greenspan, will not work in our current economic climate.

So what will happen once these people (or, perhaps except in the cases of Angle and O’Donnell) are elected? We see what happened to Scott Brown — he compromised his conservative principles to do something popular with liberal Massachusetts voters, and his support dropped sharply.

Seeing this example (and being from areas far less liberal than Massachusetts, in most cases), the other Tea Party candidates will probably not take this route. Instead, they will either stick to their conservative principles (and become regular republicans) or will take a free-wheeling, anti-lobbyist approach and find themselves without funding at all.

That is to say, while they are conservative they may or may not represent the elite interests that funded their campaign and their organization — if they don’t, they will be marginalized candidates in the next election cycle — if they do, they will lose the credibility they had with their constituency. Crucially, the latter will only happen if the voters find out about where the money is coming from — something that will be quite clear once the votes on key provisions in bills, or the attachment of earmarks, are made public.

In Congress, in other words, there can be no hiding behind opaque organizations — the Tea Party will be on record, and their ideological purity will be brought into question the same way Scott Brown’s integrity was called into question when he voted liberal on the financial reform bill.

But — stopping Obama’s agenda may be the real purpose behind the Tea Party, and it can almost certainly accomplish that feat.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email



Leave a Reply