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Tea Party Problems

The Tea Party is an interesting phenomena. I believe, as do others, that it represents a body politic that is fed up with business as usual on Capitol Hill. It consists mainly of right-of-center voters who are anti-tax, balanced budget, and pro-American. It has grown almost completely grass-roots, with some professional political help. That help is also it’s biggest problem.

Recently, the Tea Party has had some notable successes. Christine O’Donnell won the GOP senate primary over Rep. Mike Castle. In Florida, Marco Rubio holds a notable lead over former republican, now independent, Charlie Crist. In Nevada, the senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is in a virtual tie right now with the tea party backed Sharron Angle. The tea party looks like it’s here to stay, and the professionals are doing one of two things. They are either jumping ship, like Charlie Crist, or like remoras are attaching themselves to the shark, hoping to be pulled along.

Then, here is always the oddball, like Karl Rove. Thirty years ago, during the battle for the heart of the republican party, Ronald Reagan issued what was to become known as the “11th commandment.” He said never speak ill of a fellow republican. Rove, apparently, has forgotten that wisdom. O’Donnell had barely had time to give her acceptance remarks when Rove started trashing her. Rove works for Fox News, and there is some suspicion that he also works for campaigns he reports on. What is also abundantly clear is that Karl Rove has failed to adapt to the new environment. It seems he’d rather lose the general election, than to admit he misread the political tea leaves.

Charlie “I’m a whore” Crist took the option of jumping ship. When it appeared a certainty that he was going to lose the Florida senate primary to Marco Rubio, he left the republican party in a huff. Claiming that Rubio didn’t represent the rank-and-file republican in Florida, he decided to run as an independent, sort of like Arlen Specter. Now Crist at 30% trails Rubio at 41%, and democrat Kendrick Meek brings up the rear with 23%. Charlie is so out of touch with the shift in party demographics that after jumping ship he picked up endorsements from state Rep. Luis Garcia of Miami Beach, the former vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and Democratic state Rep. Yolly Roberson of Miami, who recently lost a primary bid for the congressional seat held by Crist’s Democratic rival, Kendrick Meek. Crist, like Rove, is so attached to the establishment view, that he’d rather take democrat endorsements and hope to win as a crypto-dem, than to let Rubio beat him.

When asked whether the Republican Senate nominee, Marco Rubio, is too conservative for Florida, Crist said, “I think so. We’ve seen some elections across the country — another one yesterday — where you have a certain element of the Republican party that’s been hijacked. It happened here in Florida. It happened in Delaware, apparently, yesterday and some other states.” Apparently, if you don’t like Crist, you’re too conservative and you’ve been hijacked. By who Crist never says, although it’s clear he doesn’t care much for the “regular” people that make up the bulk of the people voting for Rubio.

Perhaps worst of all for the tea party, is the attempt by some professionals to co-opt the party for their own gain. The first person to come to mind? Sarah Palin. At a recent tea party gathering, she had this to say: “This is about the people and it’s bigger than any king or queen of a tea party and it’s a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter,” she said. That is, until the crowd started the chant by the end of her speech: “RUN, SARAH, RUN!!”

The media suggests that tea party supporters want her to run for president in 2012. Palin had done nothing to quell such talk, and has done a lot to encourage it. She takes a lot of the credit for the recent tea party victories, claiming that her endorsements have been decisive in those races.

It doesn’t matter that she once supported the Wall Street bailout. Now, on Fox News this past Sunday, she said, “The bailout, the takeovers of the private sector — that’s not the answer.”

It doesn’t matter that she protested when the White House chief of staff used the word “retarded” to refer to Democrats but seemed OK with Rush Limbaugh using the phrase. And it doesn’t matter that she ran with and is still raising money for John McCain, even though many tea partiers find him too moderate.

Sarah Palin is that other type of professional, the remora who has attached herself to the tea party and hopes someday to be that “queen of the tea party.”

The tea party shows signs of becoming a significant force in politics. But to do that, they must do a couple of things first. They must tell the republican party that there are consequences for trying to marginalize the tea party. They must tell republican politicians that the party drives the issues, not the candidate. They have to serve notice that the Charlie Crists are not welcome. Finally, they must remind themselves of the goals they set out to achieve, and not allow themselves to be sidetracked by hucksters and showmen of politics.

The best part of this whole tea party thing is that it shows that there is a wellspring of dis-satisfaction with politics as usual. Perhaps the disaffected democrats could take a lesson from them. Maybe we’d get a chance to throw all the bums out!

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