One of the most consistent refrains heard within the Tea Party movement is that it should remain independent, that it should not allow itself to be co-opted. The entity against which this warning is sounded, the one that the Tea Partiers fear will subvert the purity and autonomy of their movement, is the Republican Party. Certainly, this fear is understandable. Having seen the Republican â€œleadershipâ€ in action over the past decade, I and many other conservatives are less than confident in the ability â€“ or even the desire â€“ of the GOP leadership caste to represent and advance conservative principles. Even though it has been recently revealed that current RNC chairman Michael Steele, in his new book, recognizes the fact that the GOP strayed from its core principles after Reagan left office (even singling out the two Bushes who served presidential terms), this admission appears to be a day late and a dollar short, especially given Mr. Steeleâ€™s own complicity in this drift from principle. Yes, in this sense, the Tea Parties have a point â€“ who wants Mike Steele, John McCain, or Lindsey Graham trying to horn in on their popularity and ruin their image?
However, this is not the hijacking that I want to warn against today.
Let me begin by laying out some basic information. The Tea Party movement is nothing new. Instead, it is the reawakening of latent conservatism that has been there all along, but which entered a period of complacency and disengagement with the political process over the last decade. Some conservatives - having elected â€œourâ€ President in 2000 (even though he wasnâ€™t all that conservative) and having kept â€œourâ€ Congress through the rough years of 2000-2004 (even though it was growing less and less conservative) â€“ simply decided to ride their laurels, and got caught by voter backlash. Others, frustrated by the â€œbig-government conservatismâ€ of Bush and his complaint Republican Congress, decided to sit it out completely. This happened in 2006, and the GOP lost Congress big. It happened again in 2008, and cost the RINOish McCain the White House. However, the overt radicalism of Congress and the President over the past year has served to wake up conservatives and motivate them to get back into the political arena. The Tea Party movement is the vehicle through which much of this activism and involvement is taking place.
Another important piece of data that I will use in just a moment is the fact, as recently observed by Rasmussen, that 56% of conservatives consider themselves Republicans. While some might focus on the obvious fact that many conservatives have left the Republican Party, we should also consider what this number also means, which is that an outright majority of conservatives in this country are still registered Republicans. There are more conservatives who are Republicans than there are conservatives who are independents, Third Partyists, and even Democrats combined.
That is significant when we now consider that there are elements out there trying to hijack the Tea Party movement to use it as a vehicle for Third Partyism. Take, for example, the new â€œTea Party Partyâ€ that has been registered in Florida by an Orlando attorney named Fred Oâ€™Neal. The essential idea behind this new Third Party is to recruit fiscally conservative candidates to run against both Democrats and Republicans in elections. Based upon past discussions Iâ€™ve had with other folks who are pushing for the creation of a â€œTea Party Partyâ€, this will be the case even when the Republican in the race is a solid conservative.
This is a monumentally poor idea, one which is practically guaranteed to allow liberal Democrats to stay in power so that they can continue to advance their radical agenda.