Tea Party’s That Don’t Support GOP Nominee Run Risk
As former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has become the de facto leader of the Republican presidential field, there have been grumblings among some national and local tea parties that they might withhold their support should he become the nominee.
Their rationale that Romney’s conservative credentials are suspect is a valid one. He flip-flopped on abortion, gay rights, and guns, and was the architect of the Bay State’s mandatory healthcare law. Whether Romney’s recent about-face on issues of critical importance are due to true “epiphanies” or just non-ideological decisions made with political calculus, no one knows for sure.
So the time to question a candidate like Romney, with his considerable political baggage, is between now and the end of primary election season next year. The only certainty is that Mitt has quite a bit of explaining to do to the Republican electorate, and, specifically, the tea party.
That said, should Romney be the last candidate standing to challenge President Obama, in what will be an election of monumental significance, any conservative organization that chooses to withhold support by either A) sitting on its hands, or B) backing a third-party challenger, is simply dooming its credibility. And not just within the Movement itself, but in the eyes of those who always decide elections: The Great American Middle.
Obama’s slump in the polls aside, smart money is always on the incumbent, as it is a rare occasion when the occupant of the White House loses re-election. Therefore, it is imperative that the GOP nominee have across-the-board support to even entertain thoughts of victory.
If the Tea Party, or elements thereof, “sits this one out,” they will have effectively handed Obama the keys to the White House for another four years, and they will ultimately be blamed for that ill-fated decision. And deservedly so, for the simplest of reasons: it is a certainty that a Mitt Romney-type candidate, while far from a perfect conservative (is there one?), would be infinitely better for advancing the Tea’s agenda than Barack Obama, no matter how many congressional seats the Republicans may pick up.
Should this scenario transpire, one of two perceptions will rule the day regarding the tea party (and, with a hostile media, the whole Movement will be so painted):
1) The Movement is politically clueless, content to take three steps backward for every step forward, killing its chances for accomplishing its agenda because it naively holds out for perfect candidates (who simply do not exist), to the direct benefit of its opponents.
2) The Tea Party has been corrupted, deliberately sabotaging gains that would advance its ideas because it can raise more money and generate bolder headlines as an opposition movement. In no uncertain terms, this devolvement would place the Tea Party Movement in an untenable situation from which it would be nearly impossible to extricate itself. Becoming part of the very Establishment that it was dedicated to reforming would cause the rank-and-file to lose the faith and passion they once had for the Movement, and drop out of politics altogether.
Of course, neither one of these possibilities may occur; instead, the Tea Movement could well rally behind the GOP winner and thunder to victory in much the same way it took the nation’s political system by storm in 2010.
All eyes will be on the tea party over the next year to see what its next move will be.