The media’s wishful thinking about the demise of the Tea Party continues to drive coverage during the run-up to the election despite plenty of contrary facts. Last week, Politico’s James Hohmann declared boldly that, “the Republican Party establishment has withstood the tea-party revolution.” Hohmann’s analysis rests on the fact that he didn’t see many of the “Gadsden flag-waving insurgents” at the RNC’s recent spring meeting at some swanky resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. For all those in the press looking, waiting, praying and inventing reasons to believe that the Tea Party is waning, I have news for you. They don’t care about the RNC – at least not right now.
Tea Partiers are certainly not going to fly themselves out to a posh hotel and sit in a room full of suits who spend most of their time engrossed in their mutual admiration society and precious little doing something to build a stronger, more principled national force for reform.
For the Tea Party, the present Republican Party establishment is becoming little more than a legal method for obtaining a place on the ballot. Tea Partiers understand that nationwide, the Republican Party is becoming less relevant as aging committees at the local and state level lack the energy, tactical knowledge and money to mount effective campaigns.
The California Party has drifted into irrelevancy. In Minnesota, the State Party just received an eviction notice from their headquarters while the state GOP in Illinois is buckling under debt. Other state parties, particularly in large, populous states are a mere shell of what they were only a decade ago.
The decline of the GOP will be evident in the 2012 cycle in the rise of the PACs and Super PACs who will likely spend more money and deploy more people than the GOP on a national basis in support of Republican candidates. Those entities will look to the Tea Party to staff their ground operations and GOTV pushes this fall. The so-called GOP establishment will play second fiddle to the national PACs and the dozens of conservative grassroots organizations who are more aggressive, more passionate, better prepared, better financed and more effective.
There is also a very real philosophical battle going on that the folks drinking scotch in Scottsdale should be concerned about. Tea Party leaders see the GOP as too accommodating to the progressive left, and quite frankly, the statists in the Republican Party. They may still be learning the game, but they understand that playing by their opponents’ rules won’t be a winning strategy. In the end, the Tea Party is seeking not to take over the GOP but reform it from the bottom up.
The movement is learning how to win even more effectively than it did in 2010. For anyone who thinks the Tea Party lacks influence in the party or national political scene, tell that to Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar. If Governor Scott Walker survives a recall election against millions pumped in from unions and progressive groups, the Republican Party should not get the credit. It will be the Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations across Wisconsin and the Midwest who will stave off the full assault of the public employees and liberal interest groups who want to roll back Walker’s reforms.
An important sign of the Tea Party’s influence and evolution can be seen in the Lugar challenge for instance. The Tea Party alternative in that race is a credible candidate with a real shot at winning both the primary and the general elections tossing out a Republican incumbent who after years in Washington is out of touch with the needs of his constituents and America was more a Ruling Class statist than a defender of limited government.
Of course the folks at the RNC would like to treat the Tea Party as just another coalition. This should be no surprise. It’s a defense mechanism and one that blinds them to the reality that unlike any other group within the GOP today, the Tea Party’s aim is to hold the Republican Party accountable for talking tough with little action. Honestly, as one who is a social conservative, the social conservative coalition isn't. The Tea Partiers will.
The Tea Partiers goal isn’t to run the cautious and plodding Grand Old Party establishment. They want to reform conservativism in America and bring the values of limited, constitutional government, lower taxes and more freedom back into the mainstream. If taking over the RNC is a necessary evil to accomplish that goal, the Tea Party is already laying the groundwork at the local level to do it from the bottom up.
Perhaps when they do, the RNC won’t have meetings in posh hotels and spend millions to entertain its members. Maybe, the RNC would focus more on winning than just trying not to lose.