Pro/Con: Will Tea Party candidates hurt the GOP this fall?
No: They’ll help; both parties need more diversity
Left-wing pundits sounding the alarm that Tea Party candidates will hurt Republicans this fall have succumbed to a severe case of wishful thinking.
The congressional elections of 2010 — the first and only survey of the people’s will that included large numbers of Tea Party candidates — gave Republicans control of the House and helped stymie President Barack Obama’s push to turn America into a Western European-style welfare state.
Establishment Republicans shouldn’t be shunning Tea Party members. They should be embracing them and welcoming them into the big tent that GOP bigwigs constantly talk about, but — all too often — do too little to achieve.The fact is that in many areas of the country — most notably the South, Midwest, Southwest and Rockies — the Tea Party represents the vox populi: hard-working Americans who’d like to see big government restricted and individual freedom expanded.If you think that sounds remarkably like the goals of our founders, you’re right.The presence of strong Tea Party voices in the fall almost certainly will allow the GOP to grab back the Senate from the likes of Harry Reid and Dick Durbin while increasing its majority in the House.That could be extremely bad news for the liberal forces that control today’s Democratic Party because the dominant GOP would be able to reject any Obama nominees to the Supreme Court and either scrap or make major repairs on such disastrous legislation as Obamacare.It also likely would wield enough power to force reform on rogue agencies such as the EPA, the U.S. Patent Office and the Homeland Security Department which impose sweeping and costly rules that circumvent a democratically elected Congress.Of course, there are some bad apples in the Tea Party, just like there are in all controlling factions of both parties — people caught up in the partisan passion that exemplifies those with strongly held views don’t always act like ladies or gentlemen.When they don’t behave well there is always a platoon of pundits on one side or the other that yell “gotcha” and unleashes waves of condemnation. If you consider Tea Party stalwarts like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann and Rand Paul intemperate at times, the same label fits easily around the necks of Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and many, many others on the left. “Politics,” as Finley Peter Dunne’s famed Chicago bartender, Mr. Dooley, used to say “ain’t bean bag.”One of the problems highlighted by today’s ultra-partisan, gridlock politics is that both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have become so intensely homogeneous. The rise of the Tea Party within the Republican ranks in the long run likely will be seen as a good thing, forcing establishment Republicans in Washington to look far beyond the Beltway and begin cultivating America’s real grass roots.The Democrats, now largely controlled by their far-left wing, could use some dissenters all their own.When both parties contain more disparate viewpoints within their own ranks and that disparity shows itself on both sides of the aisle in the Senate and in the House, the art of compromise will reappear on Capitol Hill.So maybe — just maybe — Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Minority Leader Pelosi would do well to welcome some strong-on-defense and fiscally vigilant Democratic conservatives to their flocks.And likewise, House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may want to realize that Tea Party members aren’t their sworn enemies but just conservatives of a different stripe.
Whitt Flora, an independent journalist, is the former chief congressional correspondent for Aviation & Space Technology Magazine and former Washington correspondent for the Columbus Dispatch. Readers may write him at 314 W. 27th St, Baltimore MD 21211.
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