Stale Tea (Party)

Politico has become the must-read site for Washingtonians and others who want to be plugged in. Ben Smith’s blog is my favorite, but I always scan the rest of the articles. Their coverage of the final days of the health care debate was unparalleled. But every once in awhile you discover something that is not quite right. For example, yesterday, they ran an article by James Hohmann under the title "Primaries Bruise Establishment Picks" and, just below it, was a news item, also by Mr. Hohmann that was headlined "Coats, Fisher win nominations." Former Sen. Dan Coats was the establishment pick in Indiana and Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher was the establishment pick t o run for the Senate seat in Ohio. You see the mismatch?

Hohmann thinks that both of these two candidates should have done better, noting that Coats won with less than 40 percent of the vote in a five-way race and that Fisher did more poorly than recent polls had suggested. But, they won and the next race will not be for the "heart of the party" but a binary choice between the candidates of the two parties. Most Republicans and most Democrats who turn out in November will vote for the candidate of their own party. Yesterday’s results, with their low turnout, tell us very little about the preferences of the general electorate in November.


Hohmann also notes that, "In Ohio, tea party activists suffered other notable defeats in the races for state auditor general and state attorney general. In both cases, tea party support wasn’t enough to carry their preferred candidates over the finish line." This follows the results in Texas where the tea party candidate, Debra Medina, came in third and last in that state’s gubernatorial primary. Yes, she was running against the incumbent governor and a sitting U.S. Senator, but in this anti-incumbent year, her outsider status was supposed to be her greatest strength. And, if the fired-up activists in the tea party movement can’t determine the outcome in low turnout primaries, they certainly are not going to have a major impact in the better attended midterms this autumn.  

I attended a tea party rally in D.C. and to hear them tell it, they are about to take over the country. Alas, their principal achievement so far on American politics was to drive Dede Scozzafava out of the special election in New York 23rd congressional district, handing the seat to the Democrats for the first time since the Civil War. There is a difference between being noisy and being persuasive to your fellow citizens. The press would love to run with the tea party story – Lord knows, they are colorful. But, if they can’t win in a low turnout GOP primary, they can’t win.

The phenomena of playing to and hyper-ventilating about the base are not unique to the Republicans. Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 presidential nomination, wounding Carter in advance of the general election. (N.B. The only two incumbent presidents to lose their re-election bids were both challenged in primaries.) More recently, I distinctly recall Democrats in the House and on MSNBC fulminating to the effect that they would never, ever support a health care reform bill that lacked a public option. President Obama correctly surmised that there was nothing to such threats.

With unemployment still high, the economy still sluggish and the threat of terrorism still with us, it should not surprise that incumbents will have a tough time this year as they did last year. But, the notion that the tea party is taking over the GOP and will thence take over the country seems a bit histrionic in light of the actual results at the polls.


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
8 years 10 months ago
"But, the notion that the tea party is taking over the GOP and will thence take over the country seems a bit histrionic in light of the actual results at the polls."
Well now you're whistling a different tune from a few posts ago when you basically equated the Tea Party to the GOP & have consistently cited Tea Party talking points (such as they are) as GOP dogma.  Meanwhile conservative commentators have been saying for months on end that the so called true conservative blood-letting was media-driven, & that the Tea Party had no political home (something like 1/3 of them are white women, and self-described Democrats; they are, in fact, hardly a "movement" at all).  David Brooks is the last to tackle the civil war myth, showing why Charlie Crist's switch is less an revolt of conservatives and more the departure of someone who had no political conviction other than his own electability.  And the Scozzafava loss was hardly notable; she had a more liberal abortion rights record than the Democrat who won the seat!  Yet somehow you Democrats still want to trump that out as a sign of conservatives enforcing some ideological purge to the harm of the party.  Meanwhile, GOP keeps winning and Democrats keep retiring. 
8 years 10 months ago
Mr. Winters is a sophist.  They were Greek rhetoricians who could take either side of an argument and apparently win either way because of the words they used and the arguments they made.  They never really stood for anything which is why they were held in disdain but the rich went to them for training.  This is why the presidential debates are almost useless in an election.  Are we to pick the best debater or the most charismatic speaker?  One that could just as easily argue against the United States as for it in a political debate; just as easily argue against Republican positions as for them.  Or against Catholic positions as for them.
Mr. Winters must write a column each morning.  I assume that is what he is getting paid for.  But he is limited.  He can only write on certain things and if it is politics he must slant the argument one way because that is why he has been hired.  That is why I say the current Jesuits and their disciples here are cheating their students or following.  They are not exploring all the intricacies of an issue such as the Tea Party phenomena and routinely slanting a subset of the facts and are becoming, well what should I say, sophists.
What a shame!
8 years 10 months ago
Here is something Mr. Winters and his fellow travelers should chew on.  At this moment, unemployment amongst men 25-54 is at 20%.  And Larry Summer, that economic wonder who works for Obama, said it will probably settle out at around 16 or 17% when things get better.  Yet Mr. Winters praised Obama for his expertise in moving the health care bill through which will not take effect till around 2014 and now wants to consider immigration reform which I am sure will also improve the jobless situation for this male cohort.  Oh yes, jawbone Wall Street, that will help.  Amazing cynicism.
His so called stimulus packages was geared towards Democrat voters, primarily females in education and health care and union members.  It was never intended to foster employment amongst men.  If one wants to use the term ''shovel ready'' to show that is was construction friendly, then they will have to deal with the fact that there was 15 billion dollars of unspent money last year from the last transportation bill in 2006.
Callousness is the only word I can use to describe the purveyors of ''social justice'' on this site.
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
We will see what happens in Arizona in the primary, although the ultimate effect won't be known until after the mid-terms - when we can compare Tea Party endorsed candidates to non-Tea Partiers and see if the movement had an effect electorally.

The other place to watch is the tax debate. Regardless of electoral results, the Tea Partiers will have won if Obama signs an extension of the Bush tax cuts because a modified version cutting taxes just on the middle class and poor are blocked by Republicans (and Obama refuses to let all of Bush tax cuts expire - thus winning at Chicken).

Of course, many in that part of the movement are the kind of libertarian who want to see a financial crisis and unrealistically think that liberty will rise up from the ashes. (Delusional is a good word too). If tax cuts on the wealthy are maintained, I can't see the bond rating of the United States not going down, or the Asians continuing to buy US debt (or repurchase in the short term market).

Of course, the ultimate test of the Tea Party movement is the GOP nomination fight in 2012. First, the question will be whether there even is a movement by then (the money may dry up) and second whether they are sought out by the candidates and their preferred candidate wins the nomination. In the unlikely event this occurs, then the question is who will win in the general election.

Of course in the 24 hour news cycle, watching such long term trends is painful to some, but is the only real test.

I am also wondering how the Tea Party movement will react to tax reform - both in terms of providing input to the debt commission and arguing for or against its positions. Of particular interest is whether they want taxation to be more broad based or less and how they will regard proposals to do away with those provisions that make tax filing more inconvenient. There are too possible motivations for a Tax Protest movement. One is a belief by richer people that poorer people should pay more and that they should pay less (hopefully none of these people are Catholic - since such a position is at odds with the option for the poor in Catholic Social Encyclicals). The other is the belief that current tax laws are too intrusive to the average citizen - and that ending tax filing for most would be a good thing.

I know how the leadership of the movement thinks on this, but I wonder if there is a silent majority that just wants to be rid of all the paperwork.
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
One last thought. The comments attacking the poster may make the commenters feel good, but they are not very relevant to the arguments. They seem to be "hitting back." That is hardly the way to win allies.
8 years 10 months ago
1. How is pointing out an inconsistent argument an "attack"?  Just because you don't agree (or secretly do) doesn't make it mean or wrong to raise the issue.
2. If the Tea Partiers aren't winning these primaries (where fewer and the most committed voters vote), wouldn't that suggest that the feared Tea Party revolution so many liberals must really want is unlikely to happen?
3. Your very familiar tax arguments still lack any factual basis (such as who actually pays taxes) & the increasing trend of fewer people paying taxes (undermining your broad base tax argument).
4. If you think Tea Partiers want poor people to pay more taxes, then you don't know what the leadership thinks.  As I understanding them, Tea Partiers think EVERYONE pays too much taxes, and more importantly, the spending is uncontrolled and grotesque.  I think the "movement" is more aimed at the size and scope of federal government & hence spending than anything.
5.  Sorry if you think these are "attacks".
8 years 10 months ago
''The comments attacking the poster may make the commenters feel good, but they are not very relevant to the arguments. They seem to be ''hitting back.'' That is hardly the way to win allies.''
I have no expectations of winning allies here amongst the authors or the echo chamber that was here when I started to read this blog about 6 or 7 months ago.  My only objective is to hold people to a standard of honesty and relevance.  Mr. Winters has frequently commented on the morality of others and I actually find his judgment quite dubious.  He hides behind a facade of caring about the Church and the poor while endorsing a movement that is both anti Church and anti poor.
Hopefully the readers and authors of this blog will start to realize that there is a quite different point of view out there on how to promote ''social justice.''  And I certainly do not feel good after criticizing someone.  In fact I always feel a little queasy.
8 years 10 months ago
Mr. Winters was not interested in a debate about the Tea Party and those who have attended many of the demonstrations and who support the general efforts of the Tea Party.  He was interested in anyway possible of putting down something he does not like.  So he found something in a friendly blog.  Putting down is the essence of his writing.  It is obvious in everything he writes.  He does not write for what he believes and then asks for discussion.  He puts something down as a way of justifying his position.  And so a few here are calling him on it and pushing back.
Did Mr Winters discuss that Stupak and Obey quit and that this might be the result of the Tea Party movement?  I did not see it anywhere and today's column would have been a perfect place to discuss it since Obey quit yesterday.  These two are not the only ones to quit so an honest person would have been upfront about the problems people are having who voted for the Obama agenda and the movement is has spawned.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 10 months ago
"Mr. Winters was not interested in a debate about the Tea Party and those who have attended many of the demonstrations and who support the general efforts of the Tea Party.  He was interested in anyway possible of putting down something he does not like."
Mr. Cosgrove, you may not be able to see this, but what you accuse Mr. Winters of, is exactly what you do.  You take whatever he says and turn it into a way to state, again and again, your displeasure with Obama and his administration, your interpretations of how economics should work, your negative take on the comments of others that differ from yours ("an echo chamber"), your frustration with the material that America magazine chooses to publish which differs from your perspective,  and your own ideas of what social justice should look like.
At least Mr. Winters provides some new material everyday.  Yours is always the same.


The latest from america

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shakes hands with Alabama State Sen. Henry Sanders at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on March 19. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to a question about his religious views by talking about his own faith and what he sees as a distortion of Christianity among U.S. conservatives.
Since retiring from my job, my husband has found me irritating. We had a talk (after fighting), and he is right: I am mothering him. Smothering him. “I have a mother,” he said. “I want a wife, a partner, a best friend.”
Valerie SchultzMarch 25, 2019
Jesus asks us to be generous with the poor. It’s one of the foundations of his public ministry: caring for the poor himself and asking his disciples to do so.
James Martin, S.J.March 25, 2019
We are invited, today, to listen—and as the psalmist today colorfully puts it, God has even done us the courtesy of digging out our ears so that we can hear.