Paul Ogden has written that the so-called tea party has to re-define its message and return to its roots as a populist economic movement. He wrote yesterday that the "tea party" has been made, unfairly, a scapegoat for Mitt Romney’s loss in the November 6 election. As Paul wrote:
"I am not saying my Tea Party friends shouldn’t be pro-life, against immigration reform, or even against same sex marriage. Again, everyone has issues that bring them to the conservative table where Republicans sit. What I am saying is that the work done in the name of Tea Party needs to be about its core and original philosophy, i.e. an aversion to public debt, opposition to government giveaways to the wealthy, and support for a limited federal government. Expanding into other issues dilutes the core message of the Tea Party, making the movement weaker and vulnerable to bogus attacks from the left and Republican establishment types."
As frequently is the case, Paul has missed several dynamics in this discussion.
First, the concept of "tea party" never has been defined. Early on, wealthy interests grabbed it and staged the Tea Party Express. This was not an attack on the tea party staged by Republican establishment types, but a (successful) hijack of the vague concept of "tea party."
Second, what Paul sees as "core" beliefs were parsed out as vaguely as the concept of "tea party" itself. In the first demonstrations anti-choice, anti-immigrant, and homophobic posters were sprinkled amongst the "tea party" gatherings. Those are core beliefs of many of the people who identify with "tea party." To excise these issues from the tea party would be similar to telling Mitt Romney that offshore investments somehow are anti-Republican.
Finally, and most importantly, whatever one says about the "tea party" phenomenon, the issues Paul lists in the quoted passage are issues on which a majority of American voters have expressed themselves. "Pro-life"? People oppose so-called personhood amendments. Personhood was a part of the Republican Party platform in 2012. People favor immigration reform, perhaps one of the more important issues that faces our society and our economy. And people favor—increasingly as younger, more tolerant people vote—marriage between people who love each other, regardless of whether two people are the same gender.
The "tea party" people showed their true colors in August, 2011, when they refused to yield on budget deals to resolve the "fiscal cliff." Republican candidates for President—who sought to curry favor with the "tea party" people—said they would reject a compromise that called even for one dollar in increased revenue for every ten dollars in cuts.
One should remember that the biggest states for taking Federal dollars voted for Mitt this past November. The biggest "givers" were blue states.
The matter comes down to fear and a sociological component of a populist movement in the 1800s, the members of which were called "Know Nothings."
This is best exemplified by recent comments of a couple of people on TV. Senator Marco Rubio, who denies he knows the age of the Earth, says he is not a scientist. He also appears ready to launch a campaign for President. Matt Kibbe, CEO of FreedomWorks, a tea-something organization, said on November 20's "Hardball"there are several "sciences." In the context of the conversation, he meant there are several bodies of science, as in "truth."
The tea party types cost Mitt Romney and election because our bastardized system of primaries forced the ever-pliable Mitt to bend as far right as he could to appease the Tea party types. Once he was that far "right" it was difficult to correct his balance and veer back toward the center, settle up at the bar, and find his keys to drive home. The tea party types—and the failure of Republicans generally to recognize society has changed since 1964—cost Romney the election. Perhaps the most offensive comments I have heard were to the effect that Romney would have won if the "urban" types—i.e., Latinos and African Americans—had not voted so overwhelmingly against him, as if these segments of our population are outliers and lack a place in that "big tent."
The "tea party" was not the sole, but a big, reason for Romney's loss. Romney's arrogance played a part, too. But a lot of people are opposed to ideas that are throw-backs to the past---as in the 1850s past. The Republican Party needs to move on or dissolve.