September 2014

The Tea Party – All Hat and No Cattle?

by Pitt Griffin on September 30, 2014 · 0 comments

in Politics, The Tea Party

“You can tell the greatness of a man by what makes him angry” ― Abraham Lincoln.

A headline in the Washington Post announces, “Ted Cruz finds a core of support among social conservatives frustrated with GOP“. It is not a surprise, ‘frustrated with stuff’, is an ongoing theme with the far right. And why not?

Political parties are not immutable things. Today’s GOP likes to claim that it is the “party of Lincoln” – which is absurd, as it has changed so much it isn’t even the party of Reagan.

Parties change because of exigencies in the short term – and tectonic shifts in the long term. Factions within the larger party can establish new equilibria. But sometimes the divide between the traditionalists and the radicals is too wide and new parties form. Notably the Republican Party in the 1850s.

We may be at such a moment now.

The Tea Party might like to pretend that it is non-partisan; that its ideal is libertarianism, which can be found all along the political spectrum. But in reality they are firmly jammed in the GOP. Their strategy is to drag Republicans to the far right and reset the party as an anti-government governing group (pardon the oxymoron).

It seemed a good strategy in 2010, when the Obama inaugural hangover was at its throbbing worst. A wave of reaction swept a horde of blow it up, anti-establishmentarians into office. But since then, lust for the lunatic fringe has cooled. 2012 saw some notable righties elected, but the 2014 primaries were not kind – as the Tea Party, almost to a candidate, was shown the door.

Which leaves the GOP rent in two. The establishment – aka the “let’s make money and keep the rich, rich”, mainstream – is at odds with the ‘family values’ absolutists, and the bomb-throwing anarchists. So what of the future?

The big money is never going to allow the GOP to marginalize itself into the party of unelectable purity – and the Tea Party wing will never hear of compromise. If those Tea Partiers had the courage of the Founders – to whom they pay such unctuous lip service – they would follow the example of Lincoln, and create a new party.

But they won’t. Because for all the tough talk they lack the spine. Someone like Ted Cruz can throw his brickbats, safe in the knowledge that the Texas GOP has his back. There is no percentage in him going it alone, only to be reduced to electoral irrelevance. Which is why he will never run for President. He knows he will lose and find his national credibility gone.

Cruz’s power lies in what he could be – establish that he can’t be and you have Sarah Palin redux. An Amazon warrior to an ever-narrowing slice of the electorate.

The Tea Partiers are bullies. They are full of sound and fury. They are good at tantrums. They excel at nihilism. But don’t have the nerve to go it alone. They lack the courage of their convictions. They are – as Cruz’s fellow Texans would say, all hat and no cattle.

The Tea Party at its root is no more than the black sheep of the family. They don’t want to sit down to Sunday dinner, but they will keep cashing the allowance checks.

Cruz crew


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