A Tea Party Comeuppance

I need to set the record straight. I am no fan of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. I cannot foresee any time in the near or distant future when I will ever become a fan of the right Honorable Republican Senator from the Bluegrass state.

I suppose I hold nothing against him personally. But his politics run contrary to nearly all of my political and social principles. He is a card carrying nickel plated Obama hater and he stated in deed, if not by verbatim word, that he will do everything deconstructive he can in order to destroy, or at least discredit, the current administration.

And it is with this underlying fabric I have been casually following the recent political goings-on in Kentucky.

As you may or may not know, there is an election scheduled for this November. A big one. An important one. The Senate race in Kentucky is just such a member of this.

Yesterday, the good Senator trounced the bejeesus out of ultra conservative businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primaries leading up to November’s general election. Mr. Bevin enjoyed substantial support from like minded tea partiers.
This moneyed support proved to be of no avail to Mr. Bevin for several reasons. One of the reasons is that hard right Junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul actually put the battle axe he has reserved for McConnell to his side, probably his right side, and actually endorsed McConnell for his party’s primary rather than the hapless Mr. Bevin. Mr. Rand’s decision for this backing is based on extremely complex back room political wranglings. It is obvious Mr. Rand has no great love in his heart for the senior Senator. Nor is there an enormity of sympatico flowing towards Mr. Rand from Mr. McConnell either, as evidenced by his previous backing of Rand opponents. But there you are.

Elsewhere in the world, specifically Idaho, eight term Republican Senator Mike Simpson fended off ultra conservative challenger, attorney Bryan Smith. The incumbent won the primary. Smith’s campaign seemed to have focused around his opinion that incumbent Senator Simpson was “… too liberal for Idaho…” Apparently, Smith was making reference to Simpson’s vote to end the Federal government shutdown last year which, as you will remember, focused exclusively on the absurd attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, known affectionately as Obamacare. Smith was funded by the Club for Growth organization, a hard right non profit Political Action Committee formed in 1999 whose primary goal was and remains tax reduction.

In the Georgia Republican Senate primary, businessman David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston advanced to a July 22 runoff. Coming up short were Representatives Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey and former secretary of State Karen Handel, endorsed by Sarah Palin.

A split between Republican factions was on the ballot in Oregon as well, where surgeon Monica Wehby defeated state Rep. Jason Conger in the race to oppose incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley. Wehby was backed by 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Conger had been endorsed by Rick Santorum, the 2012 candidate who beat Romney in Iowa.
Incumbents held off Tea Party challenges in Pennsylvania, where seven-term Rep. Bill Shuster defeated retired Coast Guard Capt. Art Halvorson.

Oftentimes mistaken as a political party in its own right, the so called Tea Party is instead a sort of political movement consisting of political conservative, libertarian and certain populist political thinking. Some see the Tea Party as a faction, a splinter group if you will, of the Republican party. At the risk of expanding upon the reference, the Tea Party is its own faction and has become a rather profound thorn in the side of the GOP. Born from the ashes of Ron Paul’s failed 2008 campaign, the Tea Party hailed itself as a bastion of the people as a force to rail against the evil forces of big government and their pesky regulations.

The Tea Party movement’s membership includes good folk such as Republican politicians Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. In July 2010, Bachmann formed the Tea Party Congressional Caucus. However, the caucus has been defunct since July 2012.

There are currently a little over 100 US Congressmen, 7 US Senators and a handful of US State Governors openly affiliated with the Tea Party. All of them came to be during the period where disenfranchised Reaganites and W types rattled sabers and made a lot of noise as though they were voicing the concerns of the common electorate.

As it turns out, there has been a bit of a slow down as the masses who at once wholeheartedly and loudly endorsed these guys are suddenly realizing their polarizing effect within the government. Do these same people have Republican leanings?

Of course they do.

But the smell of the wake up coffee has presented itself a bit like this: The two major parties, Democrats and Republicans have the power. A third party generally serves to divide that party to which it is most closely aligned. Ralph Nader’ s Green Party run in 2000 is the text book example for this. By dividing the Democratic ticket in the 2000 Bush/Gore election, Mr. Nader gift wrapped New Hampshire and Florida over to the Republican party.

There is a none too subtle difference between the structure of the Green Party and the Tea Party. The Green Party was an actual registered political party where a collected vote there on its behalf meant one less for the Democrats. The Tea Party is not such an organization. A vote for a Tea Partier is still a Republican vote. Nevertheless, a hard line Tea Party position can effectively alienate an otherwise hard-boiled Republican voter. A Tea Partier winning a Republican primary can serve as an extremely alienating wake up call. While the likelihood of such a voter migrating to the other side of the aisle can probably be measured in very round numbers, there is a greater likelihood of having this individual just throw up his or her hands in abject frustration and, thereby, handing that vote to the Democrat opposition.

It seems this recent election has given a fairly reasoned message to those whose sympathies would ordinarily lie in the Tea Party camp. The message seems to be: “Party’s over.”