Republicans Should Pay Very Close Attention to the Tea Party
Columnist Ronnie Ellis details how powerful the tea party has become on the national political scene, citing several examples of how Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has worked with the Movement to push Tea-related issues.
By Ronnie Ellis CNHI News Service
If you wonder how influential the tea party is in Republican circles, you aren’t watching very closely.
David Brooks, the moderately conservative columnist for the New York Times and a protégé of modern conservatism’s founder, William F. Buckley, wrote a column this week in which he said the Republican Party “may no longer be a normal party” because it’s become “infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.”
Brooks’ point was that congressional Republicans have already won more concessions from Democrats than anyone could have expected just a year ago, yet they are afraid to budge on minor revenue increases in exchange for dramatic cuts in spending. He doesn’t mention the tea party, but who else is driving the debate?
If you don’t believe that, you also aren’t paying close enough attention to the Republican leader, Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell. The man who sees Henry Clay, the “Great Compromiser,” as a role model and who rounded up votes during the Bush administration for tax cuts, prescription drug plans and support for two unfunded wars is suddenly unwilling to compromise — not on tax rates but on relatively arcane tax loopholes benefiting only the very wealthy, at a time when the country approaches a crisis on the national debt limit — a decision some say could create worldwide economic havoc. Back home, McConnell’s field representatives reportedly now attend local tea party meetings.
After McConnell publicly endorsed Trey Grayson for the U.S. Senate last year and then watched tea party favorite Rand Paul swamp Grayson in the primary, McConnell quickly (though not effortlessly) allied himself with Paul. During the primary, some in the McConnell camp saw Paul as a certain loser in the general election and were amazed to see Paul cruise to victory and then move quickly into the national spotlight. Paul appears on television more often than the Republican leader. McConnell now must watch his conservative Republican flank in the Senate as closely as he watches Barack Obama and Harry Reid.
Read the rest of Ellis’ column here