Is The Tea Party Over?

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Recent political events can’t be pleasing for the Tea Party. The rise of  the “moderate ” Mitt Romney coupled with the S.S. Gingrich running aground everywhere but South Carolina has forced many in the ostensibly “grass roots” movement to question their viability. The soul-searching has caused as least one prominent leader to declare the movement kaput. Ohio Liberty Council co-founder Chris Littleton said, “The tea party is dead. It’s gone.”

 This dire observation seems prompted by the lack of any enthusiasm for the Republican slate of Presidential candidates (Perish the thought that this “nonpartisan” group might consider a Democratic candidate). Says Littleton, “I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant in the primaries. They aren’t passionate about any of the candidates, and if they are passionate, they’re for Ron Paul.” Damning praise indeed from an expert in the field.

 But what about Tea Party darling, Rick Santorum, now that Gingrich has faded? The former Pennsylvania Senator, who during office  resided in Virginia, did make some surprising noise in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. However as they say on that most Republican of boulevards, Wall Street, the “fundamentals” are against him. Santorum trails well behind Romney in fund raising and his infrastructure has the feel of the Afghan highway system.  Santorum promises an aggressive attack in Michigan where Romney’s father was governor, but polls show him dead last in the four horse race.

 That said, what’s a right-wing anti-government type to do? Well look to the future for one thing: “When the (Republican) candidate is selected, I think ‘anybody but Obama’ will have nationwide support from groups like us,” Dayton Tea Party President Don Birdsall said. But that presumes the Tea Party will show up at the polls despite its admitted lack of enthusiasm. The next time they do that will be the first time it’s been done.

 Groups that are agin’ things tend to peter out rather quickly. Think Ross Perot. The Tea Party claimed some headway (though how much is debatable)  in 2010 when it pointed to victories in the mid-term elections of Marc Rubio and Rand Paul and the Republicans took over the House. But has anybody heard from these two since their matriculation to Capitol Hill? How about legislation cutting taxes or cutting government? Lots of talk about it, but most of the meaningful legislation passed is Obama proposed law. Groups with staying power tend to be “for” something and not just agin’ something else.

 The Tea Party suffered from a lack of  a charismatic spokesperson and any real traction in the political middle where staying power is built. Oh, there were pretenders to the throne. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and several others had plenty of rhetoric but no real intellectual gravitas to throw the disgruntled right on their back and carry them to the White House. Most are still trying to pick up the standard, but being out of the Presidential Race in 2012 doesn’t help. At best, they are left to cheerlead from the sidelines or offer timid advice like this stuff from Sarah Palin: Romney has work to do to convince GOP voters he’s moved beyond his “pretty moderate past … even in some cases a liberal past. I am not convinced, and I do not think the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced.” Not exactly “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead,” is it?

 The Party does claim success in shaping the Republican campaign issues, but are cutting taxes, less government, run-away capitalism, and the Second Amendment really anything new in Republican circles? More importantly will they be front and center in a Romney White House? History says emphatically “no,” and that’s what has the Tea Partiers hopping mad and likely to take their six-packs and stay home this Fall.

 There still a chance the movement could rally around a Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, or Sen. Rand Paul, but none have the national stature to get traction before November. All in all the Tea Party seems fated to be just another passing fancy littering the political landscape.

 Anyone remember the Whigs?

 Source: Daily Beast; Detroit Dailey News; and USA Today.

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

68 thoughts on “Is The Tea Party Over?

  1. The Pee Party in my county is having its second annual get together at the boat ramp this weekend. Last year I won distance competition and some County Commissioner won the fill the barrel contest. This year they are having a special dog division and I am entered again for Distance and Write Your Name in the Snow events. We are not much into politics this year and will not be getting involved in the get out the vote campaign. Too many of our members can not pass the literacy test required in this State.

  2. Oh hell, they’ll be back with a brand new grassroots movement, name … and hats. After all, the Roman Catholic Bishops are too exposed and will demand cover.

  3. The thing was a joke, a short-term tactic by Koch/Murdoch to convince the moran brigade that they needed to vote Republican when there was no good reason for them to. A little manufactured outrage to make sure that the 27% continued to vote against their own interests.

    It was never intended to be a long-term player and only a few deluded souls thought it would be.

  4. Mark,

    Good article. My suspicion has been the Tea Party was like the “Swiftboaters” dredged up by Right Wing money they were just dupes with strange political outlooks and short on facts. After a while they went too far in their empowered craziness and their creators began to lose control and had to shut them down before they got to far out to get anyone elected.

  5. I think the Republican Party as a whole has moved farther
    to the right probably since the days of Ronald Reagan. Gone are the days of grand coalitions between Democrats
    and moderate Republicans that used to dominate the passage of important legislation. This has been a great
    detriment and stumbling block to the legislative process.
    And it is this divide that the Tea Party immersed themselves in. Instead of bringing unity of purpose, they have brought discord. We can agree that they may be
    waning as a seperate movement but the ideology they grabbed hold of is on the upswing. They have exposed the
    true nature of current day Republican Party politics.
    One can argue that there is no such thing as a moderate
    Republican any more. Democrats on the other hand are
    admonished or praised depending on your point of view of
    having a big tent that welcomes many different points of view. Even some Democrats say that this can be a problem
    when it comes to advancing legislation. I think it was
    FDR who was said to have remarked that there are many
    ways of moving forward but only one way of standing still.

  6. WE so called, Tea Baggers are all here and not going anywheres. Just like the Progressives…..we hide in the Both Parties as well. We are just sitting back and looking at each canidate with a magnifying glass. Discecting it all. Right after the RNC meet this fall……… out.

  7. Lizzie,
    Congratulations I hadn’t realized that one could create an oxymoron out of an entire paragraph. Well Done!

  8. Grassroots? Or more like AstroTurfing. The tea party has three national-level conservative groups, all with slightly different agendas, guiding it. Freedom Works, dontGO, and Americans for Prosperity. All are quick to tell you that the movement is a bottom-up affair and that its grassroots cred is real. All three groups vehemently deny that the movement is a product of AstroTurfing–fake grassroots activism organized from the top down.

  9. Grassroots? Or more like AstroTurfing. The tea party had three national-level conservative groups, all with slightly different agendas, guiding it. Freedom Works, dontGO, and Americans for Prosperity. All are quick to tell you that the movement is a bottom-up affair and that its grassroots cred is real. All three groups vehemently deny that the movement is a product of AstroTurfing–fake grassroots activism organized from the top down.

  10. Heh! Lizzie made a neologism: “Discecting it all.”


    Made me snort my orange juice–you have any idea how badly orange juice up the nose burns? I am making a note of that fabulized combination. It fits their movement so well. Can’t spell, have no idea of the meaning of words and just make up stuff.

    You seem to be lost. Here’s your sign:

  11. Mark,

    This is something that I head today….That most of the folks that voted for the “Tea Party: are having buyers remorse….I listened to Sister Sarah’s speech on the radio and was like…..WT hell…people are still buying this stuff….well….I suppose there are ideological idiots in everything that goes on….or else we’d all be communist….We do at least have the appearance of a two party system….even if the are called RINO’s…..Republican In Name Only….

  12. Mike S., Frankly and Tony (or is it Victor T de Almeida? same post, close in time, two names) had it right. The Tea Party as a movement died out because it was always a front group, the usual very wealthy GOP/conservative suspects whipping up fear. The movement accomplished its goals, however — let us not forget that. The political debate in this country lurched to the right, the GOP took over the House, is within striking distance of the Senate, and has a enough of a critical mass of support on Capitol Hill to frustrate Obama’s political agenda. By any standards the Tea Party was a successful political movement — outrage translated into action (more precisely, perhaps — inaction). Of course, one reason that people might be keeping the Tea Party at arm’s length now is that the approval rating for Congress since the Tea Party sent its members there is 10%.

    Two corrections to what Mark wrote — first, Santorum is not fourth in recent Michigan polls, he is neck and neck:

    And I don’t know what political news Mark reads, but I see frequent mentions of Rand Paul and, especially, Marco Rubio, who will likely be the GOP VP selection. Additionally, Mike Lee, the Tea Party Senator from Utah, has been very effective — if you like what he stands for.

    So while the Tea Party groups on the ground may be wistful and unfocussed, that is because they were always a faux-movement, an army that served its purpose, and whose soldiers are now cast to the winds. All of the money that went into underwriting the Tea Party now flows into Super PACs and the like.

  13. Izzy, The progressives aren’t hiding- we are simply being ignored by the DNC, as usual. The TB’s are likewise being ignored by the RNC and only an RNC blessed candidate will be on the ticket in November no matter what the polls say or the far. far, right wants.

  14. Professor have you heard that Oprah is going to interview hassidim? Specifically Messianic Lubavitch hassidim,I see a totally bizarre and uninformative series coming up.

  15. the enthusiasm may not be there but the money that brought them together is.
    get ready for “tea party two” the sequel.

    hope it wasn’t the kind with extra pulp

  16. The polling data at the link provided is all polling before the Feb 7th votes. Every poll done since then has shown Santorum closing the gap with Romney.

  17. Alive and well is the Southern Strategy which was first rolled out by Nixon and then Reagan and every RepubliCon since then. It is a nationwide policy. The tactic is to divide the poor white trash from the poor African American folks and pit them against each other and insure that the whole white population votes for Repubs. Now they work the baby boomers who were democrats until the retired and moved to the retirement community and have their old prejudices aroused by folks that rant about Obama care. Schmucks like that Bachmann overdrive woman from Minnessota. They want the guy who has a few hundred grand in the pension, house and stock market to think he is in the top 1% ers and a special guy. Pit him against the welfare cheats. The RepubliCons urge the wife to think the same way and validate the smart hubby. Read up on Lee Atwater on Google. Tea Party, Pee Party was just a temporay sctick. Live Free or Die and all that. Be a chump folks, be a bigot, vote with the One percenters and against your own interests. Nixon, Reagan, Bushie, Bushie, McCain and now Romney and SantoRum. Code words wedge issues. Dont believe me, read up on Lee Atwater on Google. His script is still being followed. Dont plead the schmuks with the N word, use little code words like welfare cheat, etc.

  18. @ Tony 1, February 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    x2 – The way people believe the tea party is a populist movement, the way the media portrays it as such is false propaganda put out by Dick Armey’s, The Koch Bros., et al’s (astroturf)’s p.r. dept.

  19. eniobob,

    That is scary….. VF is usually balanced…..seems like she is not much different than your regular folks that may have some degree of education but seem to have forgot the part about wisdom….

    I think there are a lot of RINO’s and DINO’s out there…..

    Thank you.

  20. I think the tea party will continue to control government in about ten states for a number of years. Arizona is the model for them. Probably, they will still have considerable influence in the house of representatives for a time to come as they elected so many in 2010.

  21. It doesn’t really matter. The teabagger agenda is the standard GOP candidate platform. In much the same way, the supposedly marginalized social conservatives dominate platforms as well. the real problem are the money guys behind all of this as well as ALEC, etc. The GOP as a party no longer operates as parties have in the past. In part, its the old Southern politics of inciting a mob while remaining in the background, but it’s also robber barons who feel entitled to everything.

  22. Gene,

    The “Gubinator” Rage LePage is the reason TPs stayed away in droves and went walking for gas for their snowmobiles.

  23. The Tea Party’s war on mass transit
    House Republicans try to gut federal funds for subways as they extend the culture wars to urban policy issues
    By Will Doig

    In the week since House Republicans introduced their proposed transportation bill, one thing has become clear: It has virtually nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.

    The Tea Party soared to power on the notion that it was the antidote to wasteful government spending. It’s now clear that reigniting the culture wars was a top priority, too. From guns to abortion, the extremist wing of the Republican Party has fought to turn back the clock on many socially progressive ideals.

    Mass transit is its newest target.

    “Federal transportation and infrastructure policy has traditionally been an area of strong bipartisan agreement,” says Aaron Naparstek, a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and founder of “Now, it seems, Republicans want to turn cities into a part of the culture wars. Now it’s abortion, gay marriage and subways.”

    House Republicans seek to eliminate the Mass Transit Account from the federal Highway Trust Fund. The Mass Transit Account is where public transportation programs get their steady source of funding. Without it, transit would be devastated, and urban life as we know it could become untenable.

    And there’s the rub. “The Tea Party leaders and the Republicans who pander to them do not care about cost-effectiveness in the slightest,” wrote blogger Alon Levy in a comment about the bill on the Transport Politic. “They dislike transit for purely cultural and ideological reasons.” To the Tea Party, transit smacks of the public sector, social engineering and alternative lifestyles.

    How do we know this is a cultural battle and not an economic one? Because transit spending is far more fiscally fair than spending on roads and highways. Transit riders subsidize roads to a greater degree than drivers subsidize transit. And cities, which are the chief engines behind the American economy, rely on buses and trains to function. “The economic future for states hinges largely on the performance of their metropolitan economies,” determined a recent Brookings Institution study.

    Tea Party leaders know all of this. But they also knew that defunding NPR wouldn’t help balance the budget, and they voted to do it anyway. They knew that by law no federal money can go toward abortion services, yet they voted to defund Planned Parenthood too. The Tea Party is superb at disguising cultural battles as the pursuit of responsible thrift. And mass transit exists at the vortex of many of their No. 1 ideological targets. It’s brilliant, when you think about it.

  24. Mitt Romney now has a Google problem. If you Google “Romney” about the fourth page down in the listing is this:

    This had its beginning when Mitt strapped Shamus, the family Irish Sitter dog, to the roof of his vehicle when the family started out on a family road trip in 1983. According to a 2007 Boston Globe profile of the candidate, Romney’s oldest son, Tagg, yelled, “Gross!” as he noticed a brown liquid flowing down the back window. Poor Shamus had “romney” all over the top of the car.

  25. I wonder since Obama is requiring all of us to purchase health insurance if he will also require Illegal Immigrants to be turned in when they go to the hospital so that they do not get FREE Healthcare. What a tragedy, Americans have to pay and illegals get it for free. This why the Tea Party is not over. Once Americans find out things like this, It won’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat.

  26. Jim:

    “What a tragedy, Americans have to pay and illegals get it for free.”


    Actually undocumented workers pay into the system for benefits they cannot access. They paid an estimated $11.2 Billion in taxes last year while GE got a $3.2 Billion in tax credits paid by teh duped Tea Partiers and the rest of us citizens and … guess who else? Those undocumented workers. By the way your zenphobia is showing.

  27. mespo,

    I have learned stupidity knows no bounds……even the so called intellects have varying degrees of bias that correlate to some form of so called racism…. Jim’s is clearly showing….

  28. Mespo,

    I pay taxes to and will be required to buy health insurance. Illegal immigrants currently can go to the hospital and federal law prevents the hospital from checking their citizenship status. As a result, they will end up getting free healthcare while Americans will not. That is not racism but reality. Also, GE is a big supporter of Obama so that is not a good piece of evidence. Also, most illegals are paid in cash and therefore are paying any federal income, social security, or medicare taxes. They pay sales taxes in the states they reside in but nowhere near what law-abiding citizens pay. So, why don’t you check your facts or do like I do and live on the border for over 40 years and really understand the issue.

  29. Jim:

    ” Illegal immigrants currently can go to the hospital and federal law prevents the hospital from checking their citizenship status. … So, why don’t you check your facts or do like I do and live on the border for over 40 years and really understand the issue.


    Why of course, Jim, we should let them die in the streets. Also we should have ambulance drivers check the tax rolls before agreeing to pick up citizens, too. If they are in arrears, let them writhe away on the pavement also. That’s the loving “Christian” society you Tea Partiers want and thankfully it’s still just the lunatic fringe. As to your comment about living on the border, I have no doubt about that. The border between reality and delusion is way too easy for you to cross.

  30. Mespo:

    I dont think Jim said that. I think what he would like to do is close the borders, although I say the more the merrier and give them a foreclosed house if they agree to fix it up, and figure out a way to have the undocumented pay their fair share. I doubt he or other Tea Party members are for wholesale dying in the streets.

    Isnt that what socialized medicine and the federal mandate is all about? Everybody pays their fair share. So why shouldnt illegal immigrants pay for their health care? Right now it probably costs most of us $500 to $1,000 per month and we are carrying those people so they dont die in the streets.

    What is wrong with them paying more than a $50 to $100 emergency room fee? Or making state health insurance available to them for $200 per month with the provisio that if they dont buy it, they will not be admitted to the emergency room? If they cannot pay, then have an uninsured pool from which to pay for health care.

  31. Mespo,

    I never said deny them care. I am simply saying it is not right that non-citizens get a break over those who are. Since you called me a Christian, then God is no respector of persons and we are all treated equally. Where is the equality in giving breaks to illegal immigrants over citizens?

  32. Swarthmore mom
    The race is state by state. Obama’s approval rating is now in the 40s and in some polls at 43. If that trend continues Obama loses. Also, once we get into the general election and Obama begins getting attacked it will hurt him. 18-24 year old will vote less in this election and that too will have a great impact on Obama. Also, The republicans were not that enthused about McCain but are so upset with Obama that they will vote in higher numbers. Just look in the battleground states at the number of new registwered republicans and you will see this fact. Santorum would love to talk about his view on women.

  33. swarthmore mom:

    the democrats are going to go all out and do as much as possible to re-elect the president. this a must do for them. they are close to having their vision/version of America and they are going to pull out all the stops to make it a reality. I dont believe a thing polls are saying. People I talk to even liberals are disgusted with him. his main support is with the poor and the very far left. even blacks are abandoning him, not in large numbers but enough.

    I could beat Obama just for the simple reason I am not him.

  34. Bron,

    That is exactly what I hear all the time to. I live in a very heavy Democrat county and many of them are upset with Obama which is not being reflected in the polls.

  35. Bron:

    “I dont think Jim said that.”

    If not to deny care, then why would Jim lament that hospitals don’t have the right to “check citizenship status.”* Words do mean things you know. In this case Jim’s words add up to zenophobia which, when he was called on it, resulted in soem serious backstroking to stiffer border enforcement. Who’s not for that? Any other analysis is intellectually dishonest.

    Jim’s concerned about illegals getting a break over citizens. How come he’s not concerned about them paying taxes for services that cannot legally obtain? Sorry but that zenphobe slip is still showing.

    * Here’s Jim’s exact quote: “Illegal immigrants currently can go to the hospital and federal law prevents the hospital from checking their citizenship status. As a result, they will end up getting free healthcare while Americans will not.”

  36. Jim:

    Just so you know, if nationwide unemployement dips below 7.4 % before the election, Obama wins even in the Republicans run Abraham Lincoln. Ooops, they didn’t really like him very much either did they? All that emanicpation talk and all.

  37. mespo…..I think there’d be some validity to that….ok….a lot….and no one would still care today who was buried in Grant’s Tomb…..That was funny….

  38. “We have seen throughout the campaign that if you are willing to say really outrageous things that are accusative and attacking of President Obama, that you are going to jump up in the polls,” Romney said. “You know, I am not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am.”

    The foregoing might well be the epitaph of the Tea Party Movement. Popular among some but futile in the last.

  39. But, sadly, this is a typical Romney statement — he has shown he will say anything, reverse any position, to get elected — and, proving him a complete hypocrite, Romney persists in using virtually every Tea Party meme to bash Obama (un-American, dangerous to the nation, etc., etc.). He also has Donald Trump as one of his biggest backers. Come one — you are really taking Romney’s comment seriously?

    I maintain that the Tea Party was not futile — it shifted the nation’s politics to the right, shifted the entire national conversation to the right, and their rhetoric and tactics are now embedded in the GOP, and will be at least through November — quite possibly longer, depending on the outcome of the election.

  40. In the March5/12 issue of The Nation, there’s an interesting article called “The Treason of the Senate” (“A famous indictment from a century ago aptly describes today’s legislative body”)…

  41. DHMCarver:

    Not seriously just looking at it for what it is: An attempt to distance himself from their rhetoric in the General Election.

    Do you think the Tea Party’s excesses might have backfired on the Movement?

  42. I have long thought the so-called movement was a front for far more powerful interests to insert their policy positions into the debate, and to insert their people into government. That was a wild success — not simply at the national level, but even more so at the state level with state legislatures lurching rightwards after the 2010 elections. The “movement” floundered because Dick Armey and his allies are now spending their money elsewhere, the astro-turfing of the folks in tri-cornered hats having done its job.

    I think Romney in his statement was not trying to distance himself from the Tea Party, but from Santorum’s more over the top statements. Trust me, he will fully embrace the Tea Party as the general election rolls around — he will need their fire (if there is any left). And his rhetoric is identical to all but the most wild of the Tea Party folks.

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