Year later, tea party’s profile low but focused
A year ago, the tea party was the focus of Washington, praised by Republicans for the punching power it displayed in the 2010 election fight and derided by Democrats as an unhealthy influence on the ascendant GOP.
Now, less than a year before the next elections, the tea party is striving to carve out a role going forward, even as its public support falls, its clout in Congress wanes - the House Tea Party Caucus hasn’t met since June 2 - and its street-level power has been overshadowed by the new, more violent Occupy movement.
Still, there are continued signs of power, albeit tied more closely to Republican Party politics: One tea party affiliate co-hosted a GOP presidential debate in September, and last week another group with deep tea party ties hosted a debt summit on Capitol Hill. The movement also is thought to have helped persuade Republicans on the deficit-reduction supercommittee to reject Democrats’ desire to pair some tax increases with spending cuts aimed at reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
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While it arose as an anti-Washington movement, the tea party gained steam when its adherents began to make themselves heard in politics, and particularly in Republican primaries, where they helped topple a series of the party’s preferred candidates in favor of more conservative options.
Why do news media capitalize ‘Occupy Wall Street’ but not ‘tea party’?
For a two-and-a-half-year-old movement, the tea party has already left a massive imprint on American politics. No Republican contender for the presidency can afford to betray its positions against taxation, against liberalizing immigration policies, against a loose interpretation of the Constitution. Tea party backers in 2010 helped vault a number of Republican candidates into the House of Representatives, which now boasts a thriving Tea Party Caucus. Need more evidence of its mainstream emergence? Just weeks ago, CNN teamed up with Tea Party Express to sponsor a GOP presidential debate.
These milestones notwithstanding, the movement remains a pipsqueak on the copy desks of newspapers in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The challenge is one of elementary-school grammar: The tea party movement can’t get itself a pair of capital letters.
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“The tea party came into our stylebook a couple of years ago,” Minthorn says. “We decided at the time to stick with a lowercase spelling, for a movement or a state-of-mind issue, but it doesn’t seem to be a national organization with one hierarchy with a president of it or a chairman of it.”
A negative attitude toward the tea party
We have to thank Rep. Maxine Waters and Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Their negative attitude toward the tea party made headline news. It brought publicity to the tea party concept. I’m confident the majority of our population has little faith in the credibility of Ms. Waters or Mr. Hoffa. Testimony suggesting the tea parties can “go to hell” is typical of what makes news. The positive aspects derived from the tea party’s activities never make headlines in the mainstream media.
Tea party is not a party. It’s a concept. It is apparent many of our politicians are intimidated with this fast-growing concept. Millions of us are becoming concerned with the direction in which our country is going. The tea party concept consists of like-minded people who are typically concerned with the lack of moral and ethical values, excessive spending, government regulations and the list goes on.
It’s apparent the mainstream media is also ignoring the tea party concept. Many times it labels tea party people as mean-spirited agitators. This is far from the truth. Typically you meet people from all across the U.S.A. and then exchange phone numbers and email addresses.
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The tea party concept is the fastest growing, spirited conservative movement this country has known. It’s estimated there were nearly 2 million people who attended the Washington, D.C., rally Sept. 12, 2009.
What the tea party is — and isn’t
That the tea party sprang to life during Obama’s presidency should have been less surprising than it was. According to Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, “The tea party movement can best be understood in the context of the long-term growth of partisan-ideological polarization within the American electorate and especially the growing conservatism of the activist base in the Republican Party.”
Over the past three decades, the size of the base within the party has grown significantly. At the same time, those activists were becoming more and more conservative in their views — and more and more hostile in their evaluations of the opposing party. When these activists were asked to rate Democratic presidential candidates on a thermometer scale of 1 to 100, the average fell “from a lukewarm 42 degrees in the late 1960s to a very chilly 26 degrees in the 2000s,” Abramowitz said.
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They were also predisposed to oppose his agenda, whether it was his big stimulus package or his health-care proposal. Those measures helped galvanize the group that became known as tea party activists or supporters, but as Jacobson notes, “The tea party movement conferred a label and something of a self-conscious identity to a pre-existing Republican faction that already held strongly conservative views on both economic and social issues.”
GOP leaders oust tea party-backed New Hampshire chairman
A tea party-backed chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party — under fire for lackluster fundraising, election losses and inexperience on the job — resigned just minutes before fed-up GOP leaders could remove him.
Jack Kimball — who became chairman just seven months ago as part of the much-heralded “tea party revolution” in New Hampshire — stepped down, telling supporters “I am not going to become an obstacle for this party.”
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His forced resignation is widely viewed as another sign of the tea party’s declining fortunes and a move by Republican leaders who are trying to take back control of the party from the tea party.
Don’t blame tea party for the U.S. debt crisis
Contrary to what you and others in the liberal news media portray, we commoners know that this debt crisis and credit downgrade was not created by anything tea party members in Congress did. The simple truth is years of previous deficit spending coupled with recent huge increases of additional deficit spending have created this problem. And we, as well as Standard & Poor’s, know that more government spending being espoused by liberal politicians in order to solve this “crisis” is insane. That’s exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. Common sense — apparently a rare commodity in Washington and by some who write newspaper opinion articles — dictates reduced government spending in order for the United to avoid certain financial collapse.
Tea party members and other fiscal conservatives in Congress have offered rational solutions to our nation’s debt problems. That’s why they were sent to Washington: to propose and attempt to pass legislation that will reduce government spending and invigorate the private sector economy — when the private sector increases so do government revenues, as history clearly demonstrates — so why fault the tea party for attempting to rein in out-of-control government spending which has put our country on a disastrous course that could quite possibly collapse the global economy? And why do you give those politicians who put us on this course and refuse to address the problem a free pass?
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You also blame the tea party for Congress’ low public approval ratings. Really?! I would argue that those in Congress before tea party members were elected — the majority of whom are still in office today — are to blame. They are the ones who spent us 13 trillion dollars into debt and have offered no sound solutions to long-term solvency. FYI: The recent debt ceiling agreement does not actually reduce current government spending, it only reduces the rate of growth in future government spending. So instead of ridiculing the tea party — and all of us Americans who have common sense — please tell us how the U.S. government can spend its way out of debt?
Feeling its debt ceiling oats, the tea party shakes up GOP and 2012 elections
Now the GOP establishment wonders if the movement will sweep Republicans to victories in 2012 or dash them on the rocks of unbending ideology.
The tea party already is reshaping the Republican Party. Once-moderate lawmakers are shifting sharply right. They fear primary challenges more than Democratic opponents.
And most GOP presidential contenders have positioned themselves to the right of party leaders on the debt-ceiling issue.
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The movement’s influence on the GOP is double-edged. Tea partyers’ adamant anti-tax stand helped Republican negotiators. But House tea partyers embarrassed Speaker John Boehner by forcing him to revise his debt-ceiling bill. Republican candidates have gotten the message and shouldn’t get blindsided by the tea party’s power in 2012.
Tea party won’t take down Allen West, but Democrats might
Talk of a tea party challenge to Rep. Allen West
(R-Fla.) is overblown. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be in the House come 2013.
The announcement last week that tea party groups were targeting West for supporting the debt ceiling plan proposed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — a plan that could not get enough Republican support to pass the House — was taken as a sign that the movement had started to eat its own. In 2012, West was propelled into office by tea party activists; he’s a fixture on the tea party circuit. If he can’t survive one controversial vote with his reputation intact, no one can.
West has continued to stand behind GOP leadership, saying over the weekend that the compromise deal scheduled for a House vote Monday night was a “good one.” Should he be worried?
Tea party support not a given for Perry
The Texas governor publicized and attended the 2009 Tax Day “tea parties” that launched the movement created to rein in government, becoming one of the first and most prominent governors to do so.
But his early embrace of the movement may not be enough to vault him to the top of the tea party heap if he decides to enter the 2012 presidential race. As a late-announcing candidate, Perry would face a tough fight for tea party supremacy with candidates who have been running for president — or courting national tea party activists — for years.
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The political stakes are high. According to a Gallup Poll, 28 percent of Americans identify with the tea party and, in some states, a majority of likely Republican primary voters support the tea party’s stated goals of slashing government spending and regulation. If anyone doubts the clout of the movement, just look to Washington, where the roughly 80 tea party Republican House members are blocking an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling without trillions of dollars in spending cuts.
Perry has troubled relationship with tea
In spite of his thundering speeches against big government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a troubled relationship with the tea party, a rift increasingly obvious as he gets closer to a presidential bid.
Tea party groups from New Hampshire to Texas are collaborating to criticize Perry’s record on immigration, public health and spending and his former affiliation with the Democratic Party.
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“It’s real easy to walk into church on Sunday morning and sing from the hymnal. I saw a guy that talked like a tea party candidate but didn’t govern like one,” said Debra Medina, a Texas tea party activist who challenged Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. “I still don’t think he governs like the conservative he professes to be.”