Days of Change

What’s the Tea Party | January 21, 2016

I was a little surprised at the amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth involved in Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. Some people essentially declared the Tea Party dead, along with Trump’s seriousness and Palin’s credibility. National Review had the most re-posted column, offering different scenarios about when the Tea Party died.

Actually, any of those scenarios depends on your definition of the Tea Party. I think my definition starts in 1994. Although Bill Clinton won the presidential election in 1992, he only had 43% of the popular vote nationally. He started off sending jackbooted thugs to blow up compounds of isolationists, failing at Hillarycare and letting closeted gays serve in the military with “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

At the same time, Rush Limbaugh had what was the only alternative media in the days before the internet and networks like Fox News. The only opposition left, the Republican minority in Congress, decided to use 40 years of Democrats in Congress as a way to sell the Republican party. Nothing about this was grassroots, however. Still, the Republicans won the House and regained the Senate after a decade out in the woods.

Fast forward 12 years to 2006 and you’ll find the death of the “Republican Revolution” of 1994. Newt Gingrich was ousted soon after 1996 and the Contract with America was mostly ignored. By 2006, Senators elected in 1994 were running for a third six-year term and procedural reforms were vetoed by Clinton and not even proposed to President Bush. Voters were tired.

The election of Barack Obama was almost a gift to Republicans. Remember that Obama ran as a bipartisan then immediately worked on an agenda designed to pass with 2 or fewer Republican votes. The Tea Party was named based on the idea that bailing out losers in the housing market would destroy the economy. However, the Tea Partiers were a protest against Barack Obama and his administration. It was an imperial presidency in the making, where the Democrats had just enough votes to rubber stamp one man’s agenda.

Fundamentally, the Tea Party was anti-Democrat. They were not about “taxed enough already” or “get the government away from my Medicare.” There were conservatives, libertarians, Christians who didn’t like Obama’s abortion agenda and Democrats who didn’t know what the hell happened to their party. The “AstroTurf” was when GOP groups tried to use the Tea Party to advocate tax policy.

People like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are what happens when the Tea Party wins. They represent different approaches to opposing Obama. They won’t pass a litmus test and the original intent of the Congress was a group of people with different opinions.

Donald Trump is a Tea Party. He can’t be an imperial president because the Republicans feel no allegiance to him. Depending on how you look at it, the Tea Party is dead or alive, old or new. One thing is for sure. They want something to change.

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