For this week's Mike versus Mike debate, we asked this question:
Is the National Tea Party dead?
As always, we welcome your input into the debate. Leave a comment at the end of this article for others to read and ponder.
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Mike McGreer's turn
The Tea Party movement will remain active as long as people continue to vote for the 49 members of the U.S. House (out of 435) and 4 Senators (out of 100) that claim allegiance to the Tea Party philosophy. All of whom are Republicans.
Money plays a big part in keeping this allegiance to the Tea Party alive. The Center for Responsive Politics, founded by former Senators Frank Church, (D-Idaho) and Hugh Scot, (R-Penn), reports that contributions to the Tea Party caucus, plus those from Republican conservative groups, on average, are higher than Republicans in general. That's a powerful incentive to keep allegiance to any group alive, no matter what the consequences to the larger population.
Nonetheless, the Tea Party influence will eventually implode from internal conflicts over positions and tactics, coupled with disappoints from Tea Party constituencies and a decline in support from the wealthy elite.
The decline in Tea Party influence is starting. Only four of the 16 Tea Party endorsed candidates won in the last election. The losses included some of the most visible House Republicans including Allen West (R-Fla.), Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Ann Marie Buerkle and Nan Hayworth both of New York and Francisco Canseco of Texas.
Eventually the original Tea Party supporters will realize that what they thought was a grand idea has been hijacked by the Koch Brothers, and other wealthy investors, in their effort to over-run the rights of the majority of working people, and recreate democracy in the vision of John Birch society, and other right wing radicals.
Mike Young's turn
The 2010 Republican sweep of the House signaled the rise of the Tea Party. Then in the 2012 election there were some key losses that resulted in the failure to gain control of the Senate and a weakening of the Tea Party mystique.
Because of these and other losses some Democrats say the Tea Party is dead. But the Tea Party’s refrain of fiscal conservatism and limited government still hits a resonant chord with many voters. These driving principles continue to threaten the political careers of any Republicans who venture far from these values.
If you should look at the basic agenda of the Republican ticket, it’s pretty much the Tea Party values. The Tea Party has placed it’s stamp on the entire Republican ticket from House and Senate races up to the presidency. It even forced once-moderate Mitt Romney to move so far right, that he vowed to repeal the federal version of the health care law he advocated for as governor of Massachusetts.
Mark Meckler, cofounder of Tea Party Patriots said, “President Obama was forced in the debates to call himself the president of reining in big government. That was unthinkable four years ago. The entire nature of the debate on the size of the national government has changed because of the Tea Party movement.”
Romney’s loss was a blow, but winners get up and fight again. Yes there will be some soul-searching by Republicans and perhaps a fight over the party’s future, but the debate is much needed. This revolution from within is what the party needs to force a reestablishment of values and direction.
One important weakness that the Tea Party has is that it’s not monolithic; it is split with 5 main groups nationwide. The Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation, Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks are not coordinated and at many times go their own direction. Because the Party itself is basically grass roots it has no central origination and because of this they sometimes lose momentum.
Additionally, the Democrats branded rivals as Tea Party extremists determined on destroying Medicare, Social Security, and universal health care. Without a unified voice, that is a hard charge to discredit, especially to those receiving the benefits.
Yet, a third of Americans still view the Tea Party movement favorably, according to a September Washington Post/ABC News poll. So they are not dead but it seems they can’t go much further without unification.
I believe that they need to merge to consolidate their resources and speak with one voice, a unifying voice that they lost when FOX News Channel removed Glenn Beck. Whether you love or hate Beck, he was that unifying voice, that spokesman that carried their banner and rallied the troops. Bringing 500,000 regular folks to Washington D.C. like Beck did is an astounding accomplishment. So until the groups can get together and re-establish a charismatic spokesperson, they are limited on how much further they can go in establishing a national direction.
The Tea Party movement is at the point where originations are built or lost, a place where a corner must be turned, a new leaf turned over. Which corner is turned and which leaf is picked, will make all the difference.