Tim Dunkin: TEApublicanism Is on the March

In previous articles, I have discussed the trend we see within conservatism that I call “TEApublicanism,” a neologism conceived on Free Republic. As I explained elsewhere, TEApublicanism is essentially the application of the principles of the Tea Parties – themselves the reinvigoration of classical conservative activism – to the Republican Party. TEApublican rejects two things: Third partyism and Republican establishment business as usual. TEApublicans oppose the efforts by some in the conservative movement towards splintering conservative efforts among a myriad of ineffective and competing third parties – each one convinced that it, and only it, is the One True Conservative Group, and that all others are compromising RINOs. TEApublicans understand the simple fact that conservative activism is best done through, or at least in conjunction with, the conservative grassroots base of the Republican Party; that conservatives both inside and outside the GOP have the best shot at advancing conservatism if they work together to counteract both the leftist agenda of the Democrats as well as that of the squishy establishment types within the GOP. Therefore, TEApublicans are not asking conservative and independent voters to blindly follow the GOP in everything it does – they are asking these voters for help in disestablishing the RINOs from power, and restoring the GOP to being a useful, national vehicle for the advancement of conservative principles. As such, TEApublicans also oppose the “business as usual” mentality that pervades much of the Republican Party’s governing apparatus at the national and state levels – the party hacks who prefer the perks of position, the adulation of the media, the pats on the head from Democrats with whom they’ve “formed bipartisan solutions” after having “reached across the aisle,” over standing firm for conservative values and truths.

That the Tea Parties should be a natural alliance between conservative Republicans and conservative independents only makes sense – despite the perceptions that the Tea Parties encompass a broad range of fed-up people from all sides of the political spectrum, in actuality, the movement is made up of Republicans and independents who lean Republican. This is conclusively shown by analysis of two recent polls of self-proclaimed Tea Partiers. Though the initial questioning showed that only around 44-49% of Tea Partiers identified with the Republican Party, and that the large majority of the rest identified themselves as independents, when pressed to label which Party they would generally tend to side with, the result was that huge majorities (in the 80%+ range) identified with the GOP, with only very tiny percentages classifying themselves as Democrats or as true independents. Ergo, the Tea Parties are, by and large, a Republican phenomenon uniting Republicans and former Republicans who left because they were angry about the squishiness of the GOP in recent years. Or, as I said above, they are the renovation of the same conservative activism that largely operated within the GOP during the Reagan years and in the years around and immediately after 1994.

In recent months, the news media and leftist elected officials have made a concerted effort to demonize and denigrate the Tea Party movement. At first, they tried to ignore it. They hoped it would go away. They thought that it would play itself out after a couple of months of rallies and town halls. But it didn’t. The movement grew, and continues to. So now they have to lie about the Tea Parties. They’re racist. People shout the “n-word” at black Congressman. They’re violent. They threaten lawmakers. Shoot, they probably kick dogs, too. As the media’s desperation grows, so does their shrillness. Yet, the Tea Party movement continues to grow. Not only in numbers, but in sophistication, in political savvy, and in organizational power. Looking at some recent events around the country, we see that TEApublicanism, as a movement of conservatives taking back their Party and their country, is on the march.

First, let’s look at Maine. The same state that has given us Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (too bad there’s no return policy for Senators) just recently saw a full convention of its Republican Party accept a Tea Party platform. Delegates voted overwhelmingly to accept a very conservative platform put forward as an amendment by delegates from Knox and Waldo counties. You can find the text of the platform here. According to reports, the platform was overwhelmingly accepted, and attempts to dilute it through further amendment were soundly defeated, much to the chagrin of the insiders and establishment types who reportedly fled to the back of the room with their cell phones in hand.

These circumstances are interesting to TEApublicans. This wasn’t some sleight-of-hand, parliamentarian takeover of the convention by a small clique from those two counties. The broad acceptance shows that the majority of the delegates, whether or not they specifically identify with the Tea Party movement, sided with the platform when it was presented. Again, this is because when you get to the heart of the matter, conservatism is the heart of the Tea Parties, and it is the heart of the Republican rank-and-file. The two groups are not that different. In many cases, they are one and the same. Presumably, to even be a voting delegate at this convention, one would have to have been a registered Republican. This was not an advance of conservatism engineered by third partyists or other self-proclaimed outsiders – it was one that came from the heart and soul of the conservative Republican grassroots in the state. This platform change was a truly TEApublican affair.

Next, let us turn our gaze to Utah. Here, TEApublicanism claimed a very big scalp, and the message sent by this is already resonating across the land. Bob Bennett, multi-term Republican Senator, failed to garner enough support at the recent nominating convention in Utah to even be able to run for re-election. He’s out. He will be replaced by one of the top two conservative vote-getting Republicans who Utah delegates preferred over him. Even though Bennett was a powerful Senator and entrenched incumbent, he was not able to withstand the anti-incumbency mood of the people in this country.

Why was Bennett dethroned? True, he did have a number of bad votes and issues that he had supported on his balance sheet. He voted for TARP. He supported unconstitutional insurance mandates that require us to have to buy health insurance or else face sanction from the government. However, even despite these, Bennett had simply been in too long and gotten too drunk on the mead of power and privilege. He had become entrenched, soft, too willing to reach across the aisle to find “bipartisan” resolutions to the things that the Democrats had defined as “problems” that merely served to continue the advance of socialism and the loss of our liberties, even if it was at a slightly slower pace than the Democrats would prefer. This compromise cost him, and he is almost surely to be replaced in November by one of the two conservatives who will now have to face each other in a primary later this year.

The taking down of this RINO was the result of a TEApublican safari. Again, the delegates at Utah’s Party convention were registered Republicans. Third partyists did not make this happen, and indeed, could not have made it happen. This was the result of the Republican rank-and-file saying that enough was enough, and that they were going to start cleaning house. Conservatives in the GOP took down one of the Party’s own Senators, and will replace him with someone more ideological compatible with the mood and desires of Utahans and the American people in general.

Continuing our TEApublican tour, we come to Kentucky. Here, we see the Republican primary race for the US Senate seat up for grabs this November. The two main candidates are Trey Grayson and Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul). Grayson is an insider’s insider – he has spent much of his adult life in state government, is supported by the “official” Party establishment, and has already made all the necessary rumblings about racist Tea Partiers ruining the Republican Party that are needed to firm up your street cred with the Mitch McConnell wing of the GOP. Mitch, indeed, supports Grayson, as do a number of other high-level establishment figures within the state and national GOP.

Despite all of this (or perhaps because of all of this), Grayson is losing. Rand Paul is currently enjoying a huge, double-digit lead over him. Paul leads in every conservative Republican demographic in the state – gun owners, pro-lifers, fiscal conservatives, you name it. In fact, the only group that Grayson leads with are pro-choice Republicans – not an excessively large demographic in conservative Kentucky. Paul has landed endorsements from a number of prominent conservative leaders, including Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, and Jim Bunning (the current occupant of the seat, who is retiring). However, this doesn’t explain why Rand Paul is winning. He is also riding a wave of Tea Party support, but even more importantly, he is leading because true, red-blooded conservatives within the Republican Party are supporting him. The grassroots of the GOP in Kentucky prefer Paul over the Party insider. In other words, TEApublicanism in action.

There are, of course, some legitimate concerns about Rand Paul. Since he is the son of Ron Paul, many question whether Rand shares the unfortunate foreign policy predilections of his father. Perhaps he does, but I shall not punish the son for the sins of the father. As but one Senator among a hundred, Rand would be unlikely to have much of an adverse impact on such things as our ability to protect ourselves from Islamofascist terrorists. And look at it this way – he’s definitely not likely to vote for sovereignty-grabbing treaties like the Law of the Sea Treaty. I’m willing to take the slight tradeoff with foreign policy and defense issues that may be present in Rand Paul, if it means getting a Senator who will staunchly oppose the advance of socialism and big government, and who won’t reach across the aisle to work out bipartisan deals like so many establishment, insider types of Republicans have shown themselves willing to do.

All in all, the TEApublican model appears to be seeing a lot of success lately. Conservatives are rallying around conservative Republicans and rejecting the RINOs. They are recapturing the structure and apparatus of the GOP at various places. We are avoiding the dilution of our inherent strength across a plethora of third parties. These three examples – Maine, Utah, and Kentucky – demonstrate the broad-based strength of conservatives when they work together, and do so within the organizational capacity readily provided by the GOP apparatus. Seems like a winning formula to me.