Lose the Tea Party

As the fight for our future rages on, a number of people have come to think political success lies further to the right, that ‘becoming’ more conservative — or libertarian — is the key to a Republican resurgence. I could not disagree more. In my humble opinion, the Tea Party and its far-right companions are the bane of the conservative movement, no-nonsense, uncompromising organizations that care more about ideology than governing. To ensure long-term ‘winnability’, the GOP must cut the Tea Party loose.

The Tea Party, which emerged in the wake of President Obama’s disastrous first year, has consistently dogged Republicans and done everything it can to ruin our chances of electoral victory. In 2010, the GOP was poised to seize both the Senate and the House. Well-known establishment figures, such as Mike Castle (Delaware) and Sue Lowden (Nevada), were polling exceptionally well against their Democratic counterparts; Harry Reid was all but gone. Enter the Tea Party.

Polarizing fringe candidates like Sharron Angle (Nevada), Ken Buck (Colorado), and Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), who admitted to having “dabbled” in witchcraft, destroyed any possibility of taking the Senate. Galvanized by a wave of grassroots support, all three lost races that were winnable just months before. This unfortunate situation produced a gain of 6 Republican seats when 10 were needed for a majority. The three seats I mentioned, plus one toss-up, could have given us the Senate. By nominating some of the worst political candidates in recent history, the Tea Party made sure that didn’t happen.

I share these examples because they prove the point I’m trying to make: for the past 4 years, the Tea Party has used its influence to force Republicans to the far-right. If a candidate refuses to change, activists simply endorse the most conservative, least electable alternative they can find. In doing so, the Tea Party has made the GOP an incredibly toxic brand in the political arena. Voters looking for candidates who want to work with the other side and get things done won’t find them in the Tea Party; there is little, if any, compromise to be had. Unfortunately, because Tea Party candidates track ‘right’ and are often elected as Republicans, their views are conflated with those of the establishment. In fact, the two parties — Republican and Tea — could not be more different.

The Tea Party, broadly speaking, cares most about taxes and spending. In general, I agree with its politics — taxes are too high and Congress spends like a drunken sailor (or worse). At that point, our similarities disappear. I am willing to compromise on these issues in order to achieve a greater good: perhaps we raise taxes a bit to decrease spending, or maybe increase spending when a sound investment opportunity comes our way. Unlike the fringe, I understand that Congress is no place for ideologues. Government requires compromise, a fact the Tea Party seems loath to accept. This headline from the Tea Party Tribune says it all: “Our Moment: No Compromise. No Surrender. Total Victory.”

The Tea Party and its rigid, ideological obsession with cutting taxes and reducing spending, though laudable goals in and of themselves, flies in the face of common sense. The term RINO (Republican in Name Only), used frequently during the 2010 midterms, ridiculed Republicans who had the gall to “reach across the aisle.” It clearly has not occurred to the far-right fringe that RINOs make government run. While the Tea Party pledges “total victory” and “no surrender,” real leaders sit down and try to find viable solutions. Screaming may feel good, but it doesn’t get us anywhere.

The Tea Party’s attitude can be summed up in a warning activists sent to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “…our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship.” They’re wrong. Our nation can afford compromise; in fact, we need it. It’s high-time the establishment told the Tea Party to go away; it doesn’t belong in a movement that wishes to govern.

Fellow Republicans, heed my words: the Tea Party will be the end of us if we do not act. I urge the establishment to disown this movement, as I have here. Ideology is fruitless if it cannot be implemented; the Tea Party’s polarizing, unpopular message will ensure we never win another general election.

It’s time to tell the Tea Party enough is enough. My way or the highway, they ask? I choose the highway, and so should you.