It’s been months or perhaps years since the Tea Party was trending anywhere in social media. In at least one report, Republican leaders have said that they no longer try to encourage the movement, but with the rise of Donald Trump, the conservative activist group has risen along with him.
The Los Angeles Times published an article on what they see as Donald Trump breaking up the Tea Party movement, where the writer points out why they might be failing.
Fighting President Obama provided an easy alliance that Republicans at first leveraged to their advantage. But it also was a relationship built on what now looks like a rickety foundation — less about think-tank-driven policies and more about voter outrage against perceived elitism.
Even so, the article also quotes Adam Brandon, who is the president of a libertarian and Koch funded group called Freedom Works, who explains how the movement is evolving rather than being destroyed.
“The tea party has won. Now the bifurcation is: Do you want a burn-it-down with Donald Trump or do you want a battler like Ted Cruz.”
There is no doubt that a good portion of the anger pundits often refer to in news programs is that of the Tea Party, who are upset that illegal immigration hasn’t been stopped, that Obamacare is still in place, or that the omnibus spending bill passed late last year.
But the anger from the Tea Party exists not only because it’s directed at the old Republican establishment, but for their refusal to even consider bipartisanship as part of the legislative process.
In October of last year, the Freedom Works president Adam Brandon was on The Diane Rehm Show, discussing the chaotic process during the time when the House of Representatives was looking to nominate a house speaker.
In the discussion, he refers to the Freedom Caucus — which is made up of conservative senators who claim responsibility for forcing John Boehner to step down — as created by Freedom Works, and takes offense to being called an extremist by the others on the panel.
The first thing I just want to say is being called a right-wing extremist, that hurts my feelings. That’s not what we’re — I think that’s a little unfair.
Through the entire discussion, the topic of obstructionism was the main focus, with the idea being that the Tea Party’s effort to obstruct — and refusal to work with others across the aisle — will only cause them to fail.
For instance, Norman Ornstein, who is a resident scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, pointed out the thin line where people like the Freedom Caucus could get what they want while settling for some involvement with legislation from Democrats.
If you really did have regular order, which means freedom for amendments and committees, open rules on the floor which potentially bring chaos, but you’re going to have to allow Democratic amendments and you might well have that bipartisan coalition. Be careful of what you wish for. You might get it.
At another point Vin Weber, who is with a congressional consultant called Mercury, responded to Adam Brandon’s idea that the Freedom Caucus grow from 40 to 50 or 60 members in order to build more pressure within the House and increase centralization of power in the House against the “imperial presidency.”
I understand what Adam’s saying there, and I agree with a good deal of it. But there is a bit of a contradiction in the position of the Freedom Caucus on that issue. On the one hand, yes, they don’t want an imperial speaker. In fact, as Byron pointed out, they want to weaken the Speakership rather considerably. But the Hastert Rule discussion we just saw would, if it were institutionalized, strengthen the Republican Caucus. Now, I’m a Republican. I suppose I should like that.
But that’s at the expense of everybody that gets elected as a Democrat. Because they have no role in it anymore. So, we’re talking about centralizing and strengthening the power of the party, but not the leader of the party. You know, I get it, but it is a little bit of a contradiction. If you really want to decentralize power and allow democracy to work, you wouldn’t decide you’re going to institutionalize a rule that essentially says, the minority party has no voice in this institution.
But Brandon did seem to settle on what the Tea Party caucus would accept as bipartisan support on criminal justice reform and for the most part, that does appear to be the case.
But as an article in US News points out, this unifying piece of legislation has pretty much died due to more obstructionism from the Republican/Tea Party.
The article refers to a tweet by the National Journal, which says that some provisions in the law are being rejected by Republicans around certain drugs and weapons charges.
The Statesman‘s latest round-up of issues for the week says that senator Ted Cruz is one of the few Republicans standing in the way of the bill — among many others — perhaps putting more priority on his presidential campaign.
But financial support for such a group who say they’re purely grassroots can’t be entirely in order for the Tea Party to have the kinds of wins and gains in offices that they’ve run for and essentially held and still hold.
What the LA Times does point out, which makes Tea Party support of Donald Trump even more difficult, is the threat to their funding from people like the Koch Brothers.
There’s also still the case of dark money with various SuperPACs, which are popping up all the time for insurgencies like these.
For instance, in 2010 NPR posted an interview with Dave Levinthal of Open Secrets who talked about how these Tea Party groups get funded.
But, one supporter drops and another steps in line, and while many would like to see the Tea Party go away, the chaotic or toxic environment we’re reading about in the headlines will not destroy the insurgents, not when they’re the ones responsible for creating it.
At worst, it will only make them adapt to and work harder to make sure another Democratic presidency can be sabotaged and prevented from serving its people.
[Featured image by Willis Glassgow | AP Photo]