As 2009 draws to a close, the Tea Party movement continues generating controversy, at the local, state and federal levels. But despite the successful press from media outlets such as FoxNews, Politico and others, the tea party movement fails to deliver where it matters most: elections. More importantly, there’s an emerging identity criss with the national and state levels of the tea party movement; are they strictly for fiscal responsibility and keeping our leaders accountable or are they the new defenders of conservative principles and ideals?
J.R. reported the ‘uprising’ (I use that term loosely) in the 5th District, as six of the seven candidates preferred anything but a primary (since they stood little chance at winning one) and now the results have not gone their way, some are advocating anarchy not only in the 5th district but the entire Republican Party of Virginia. This despite the election of the most conservative ticket in modern Virginia history, by overwhelming margins. It’s shocking that little over a month after a wildly successful election cycle, people are dissatisfied with the RPV and want it rooted through. Such a proposition is not only patently absurd but would only serve to make the tea party movement at a state and local level even more irrelevant.
Yes, they were able to make a stink in the New York 23rd, and rightfully so. The Republican Party leaders of upstate New York insulted the intelligence of their members and the party as a whole, putting forth a candidate who not only failed to have Republican values, but after doing the smart thing and dropping out, endorsed a Democrat. But beyond the national successes, Town Hall uproars from this summer, the 9-12 Rally, where’s the tangible results for the state levels? The US Congress just passed a $1.1 TRILLION spending bill, with nary a second thought, tea party be damned. While fiscal conservatism seems to be the end game for the national tea party movement, the local and state levels have yet to see anything even close to resembling a victory, setting aside the blunder in NY-23, which was more the Republican world correcting itself rather than success. To whit, did Hoffman win? Guess the tea party can revolt against candidates they label ‘improper’ but can’t get their own elected.
The 5th District has an issue with Hurt as the front-runner and NRCC-backed candidate. I can respect that, his pro-tax vote was outrageous. But he’s taken steps to fix his image, including signing the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge, a pledge that popular Governor-elect Bob McDonnell didn’t even sign. Potentially, that trumps the 5th District tea party’s principal issue with Robert Hurt. How else is he a moderate, as defined by the tea party? He’s for fiscal conservatism, he’s announced it to everyone. That’s the national tea party’s end game. Now enter the local level tea party, after removing fiscal conservatism from the picture. Is he pro-choice? Pro-union? Pro-big government? Anti-gun? I have a hard time believing any of those are true, but I’m not sure to be honest, I’m not as familiar with him. The tea party at the national level does not see itself as the savior for the Republican creed, nor should it. So why then does the local tea party movement get up in arms when something doesn’t go their way, case in point, the 5th District. When confronted by the obvious, the NRCC would in fact involve itself in a district that trends Republican (shocker!), former 5th candidate Bradley Rees, convicted recently for illegally possessing concealed weapons, renounced the Republican party to attempt a run as a third-party candidate. Additionally, in conceding the Republican nomination fight, Rees remarked:
“It may amount to only drawing enough votes from the Republican candidate to ensure Tom Perriello a second term,” he said. “If so, so be it. Maybe then, the party will understand that we are trying to save the GOP from its worst enemy — not the Democrats, but themselves.”
Such mentality is absurd.
Thankfully, the tea party movement has not surfaced in the 2nd district fight. Believe me, the last thing we need is a nut-bag bottom rung candidate spouting off about the NRCC and anything NRCC-affiliated (see: Scott Rigell) to whip up media attention. Ben Loyola has loosely tried tapping into it with the Americans for Prosperity bumper sticker slogan, ‘Socialism Isn’t Cool’. And while catch-phrases are well and good, how likely is that to drive voters to the polls or to his side in the canvass on May 8th? The 2nd District isn’t a hard Republican district, so what does one have to gain by running far, far to the right? Not so much.
This is not to mention the ‘black sheep’ tea party members: birthers. Individuals believing that a conspiracy theory that President Obama is not a US born citizen, was born in Kenya, falsified his birth certificate, if in fact there ever was one, blah blah blah. Individuals who spout these beliefs not only bring a black eye to the Republican party and conservatives but also the tea party movement. Every time someone runs off at the mouth about wack-job theories they allow everyone, Republicans, conservatives, tea partiers, what have you, to be painted with the same brush, thereby demeaning the group collectively.
I realize that many people are passionate about the tea party movement and will take this post offensively. I respect that. I respect what the tea party movement has done at the national level: letting our leaders know that they are being watched, regardless of party or beliefs. The town hall anger, the 9-12 rally were successes but that was nationally. Statewide, there’s little reason to celebrate. In the Commonwealth, there has been none. There’s a reason Democrats rejoice when they see nonsense like what’s going on in the 5th. It simply gives Democrats a tighter grip on their consolidated power and presents an opportunity to further the downswing of Republicans and conservatives. And at the state and local levels, the tea party movement needs to get its facts straight; what is your purpose, your goal? Is it fiscal conservatism, stopping outrageous spending and government intervention into areas they have no business being? Or is it solely a vain and self-absorbed attempt at defending what they deem to be ‘true conservative’ principles? My hope would be the former, because if the tea party movement is held up or would like to be held up as saviors and defenders of the Republican party and conservative values, well, then the days of the Grand Old Party are drawing to a rapid and ugly close.