Republican senatorial primaries across the nation today saw the triumph of establishment Republicans over Tea Partiers. This has many begging the question: is the Tea Party finished?
Literally speaking, probably not. At least a small part of the Tea Party will most likely always exist. But in terms of being a huge and powerful organization, I can’t help but think that 2010 was the high water mark of the movement. Frankly I believe their decline can be attributed to the fact that the movement was hijacked by self-interested fools such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, who also managed to drag the Republican brand name down with them.
When the Tea Party first came to prominence I believe it served a noble cause. It was a grass-roots movement of Americans who were concerned about the quickly expanding powers of the federal government under the Bush and Obama administrations. One of the central issues of the movement was the massive budget deficits under these two presidents, an issue taxpayers ought to get riled up about. Obamacare was also an issue that galvanized many Americans who rightfully foresaw the problems that come with a massive expansion of the government into the healthcare industry. These causes resonated with large portions of the American people who believed that government was slowly eroding away their liberty, and thus the GOP was able to win control of the House of Representatives in 2010 by riding a wave of Tea Party populism. Unfortunately this is when things began to go sour.
Encouraged by their success, Tea Partiers pushed further and further to the quasi-right. I say “quasi” because I think that many views of Tea Partiers are not in line with true conservative principles such as responsible governance, and small government. What resulted was a slew of downright crazy candidates who mastered the art of quasi-conservative populist demagoguery, but were clearly not fit for governing. The tragedy is that when people like Herman Cain tout nonsense policies such as his 9-9-9 plan, it hurts the GOP brand as a whole. The GOP was normally known as the party of responsible governance, especially in the fiscal arena. But the Tea Party has now done a lot of damage to that reputation.
This is not to say that the Tea Party did no good. I think they were a necessary jolt to a Republican establishment that was at risk of abandoning small government principles by supporting things such as bailouts, stimulus bills, and soaring deficits. But I think it is time for them to go and let establishment Republicans rebuild the GOP’s reputation as the responsible party. There is no better time to do so than right now, with Obama losing popularity daily as is becomes clear that big government leads to nothing but big problems. But people like Ted Cruz are not helping the GOP by falsely promising conservatives that Obamacare can be stopped through legislative gimmicks, even if he is right about it being a policy disaster.
I think that the future of the GOP is a bright one. The American people are becoming disillusioned with Obama and big government just as they became tired of Bush’s foreign policy. If Republicans play their cards right they should be able to soak up moderate Democrats and independents who are sick of liberalism and are longing for the type of responsible leadership that ought to be associated with true conservatives.