The Tea Party, for all practical purposes, is the new GOP and that leaves a burning question unanswered. That question is – “is there room in the Tea Party for the Republican Party establishment?” Some political observers say no. In fact some are asking the real Republican Establishment to please stand up. In the four years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down fundraising regulations that effectively gave the Democratic and Republican parties a monopoly on large-scale political activity, a collection of Tea Party-affiliated organizations has arisen in Washington. They now compete with the GOP for campaign contributors, money and influence — and about what legislation to push and which candidates to nominate or defeat. The old-line GOP operatives have been constantly on the defensive.
The groups, including the “Club for Growth,” “FreedomWorks” and the “Senate Conservatives Fund,” have moved aggressively to kill legislation they oppose and to kick out incumbent Republicans they deem “insufficiently conservative.” Like the national Republican Party, which they deride as the “GOP Establishment,” the Tea Party has become an establishment of its own, a confederation of well-financed Tea Party groups that support a web of sister organizations and employ a legion of political professionals who live and work inside the Beltway. The infamous Koch Brothers are sort of like the Wizard of Oz, calling the shots for the Tea Party behind the scenes. The Tea Party is actually opposing the entrenched interests of a GOP elite mainly based in Washington.
The Tea Party showed its clout when it backed October’s government shutdown, encouraging the congressional Republicans who instigated the 16-day partial closure as a means to defund Obamacare. The Tea Party operatives showed no concern for either the American people or the GOP members of Congress.
The Tea Party’s exercise of its power on Capitol Hill has taken the form of numerous “key vote” alerts urging House and Senate Republicans to oppose legislation promoted by their caucus’ leadership. In the House, where Republicans hold the majority, the key votes have made it difficult for GOP leaders to pass legislation that isn’t conservative enough for the Tea Party. On the campaign trail, the competition has mainly threatened Senate Republicans.
Led by the Senate Conservatives Fund, the groups are mounting challenges in more than a half dozen Republican primaries, three of which feature senior GOP incumbents: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi and Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. It will be most interesting to see how the election – both in the GOP primaries and in the General Election – works out. Frankly, I am convinced that the vast majority of the American people – once they see what the Tea Party is really all about – will vote against Tea Party candidates.
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