Alas, Tea Party, we knew ye well

Author: Barrett Rainey

The announcement of a death is not always a bad thing. The demise of Osama bin Laden for example. In my social circle that was greeted as good news. Some of us even hoisted a few to the anonymous members of Seal Team Six. And to the guy who said “go.”

Now, comes news of the death – or impending death – of another terrorist disorganization: the Tea Party. With the backing of a few billionaires out to redesign our nation to their own warped views, a lot of frustrated, angry and mostly innocent citizens were led into a dead end. Now, like stampeded cattle in a box canyon after a storm, they’ve no place to go but back to the main herd.

You say you want proof – evidence that the T-P is on life support? You say you want to know the exact moment of initial death throes and the weapon that laid ‘em low?

Well, it came about a few days back in the plush office suite of House Speaker John Boehner. Actually, it was Boehner himself who administered the coup de grace. The weapon was his appointment of a special committee to bring back – wait for it – earmarks. For T-Pers, that strikes the death blow. It’s just that most of them haven’t heard about it. Yet. They will.

Earmarks – allowing members of congress to personally scoop up billions of our tax dollars for favored projects in home districts. The re-election milk-and-honey is coming back! Oh, Boehner’s “special committee” may find a new name for the legalized graft. Might even design a new way to get it attached to otherwise proper legislation without exposure in the committee process. May create a separate conduit so members can shovel more and do it quieter. But earmarks are coming back. Tea Party be damned! The straw that apparently broke the camel’s back was when Boehner couldn’t get enough votes to pass the massive transportation bill with billions in pork attached.

Boehner’s decision to again spread the oil of our tax dollars on the troubled waters of his caucus is the bluntest of warnings to the recalcitrant therein that obstructionism by T-P-supported members is over. He knows full well that cutting dollars rather than adding is what those folks have been screaming about – why many of his own leadership efforts have been torpedoed by a loud minority. He’s tried dealing with them. He’s tried letting them have their say about some things – no matter how screwy. He’s put a few on select committees. He’s tried about everything to get their cooperation and that other T-P anathema – compromise.

The fact that he’s now resurrecting the dreaded earmarks is a sign he’s going back to what works and the dissidents are going to be ignored. He knows, when it comes to pork, most members of his party will scratch each other’s backs and run right over the outliers.

While I agree with some others that Boehner is not good at his job, he’s no fool. He may not be the effective leader he’d like to be, but he’s a political pro who can read polls, count noses, read votes and accurately judge which way the electoral winds are blowing. The strident, uninformed and often ignorant opposition by a few of his 2010 class has eroded not only public support for the GOP that we’re seeing in national polling, but also angered the traditional corporate base. Not all corporate voices have the same goals as the Koch brothers and their ilk. Boehner’s been reading the tea leaves. And – my guess – getting pounded by some major voices in his party for failing to produce. Especially those desiring incumbency.

I haven’t been a Tea Party supporter from the get-go. While I share some of the tenets – debt reduction, reduced spending, slower growth, etc. – it’s been clear from the outset the group was being funded and used as a Trojan horse by people with their own quite different agendas. Once those people and corporations behind the curtain were exposed, a lot of folks dropped out. If such be the case with the Occupy movement, it’ll die on the vine, too.

National policy is very, very hard to direct from the streets. Only twice in my lifetime has it been done: the civil rights and anti-Viet Nam marches and demonstrations of the 60’s and 70’s. Goals and messages were few and simple to understand. And the numbers became overwhelming.

Aside from the decay in Tea Party support when the Koch brothers and other billionaires were exposed, the group lacked focus. It needed one goal. Maybe two. But, like its noisy, undisciplined – and often race-tinged – public persona, the T-P charged off in too many directions with no simple, definitive message around which folks could coalesce. The Occupy folks appear headed for the same fate. Oh, you’ll hear about them locally from time to time. But effective? Make more significant inroads at the polls, No. Not any more.

The elections of 2012 may be more game-changing than our national trip to the polls in 2010. The T-P folk have had their turn at bat and stuck out. Some of their goals for the original movement are still with us. But we’ve learned their approach doesn’t work in achieving them.

I’m hearing other, mostly younger bi-partisan voices – more moderate, more focused on fewer and more definable goals. Reduce national debt. Honest efforts to create jobs. Meaningful finance reform. Less talk of wholesale changes in this and that with more discussion about what and where. And how.

Republicans, as a body, don’t represent all the loud, ineffective and destructive voices in our politics. While leadership of the national GOP and many state committees is currently in the hands of the far right fringe, there are far more out there who still subscribe to the old party basics: thrift, honest government and compromise to achieve common goals. If, like Boehner, they’ve had enough of the temper tantrums and intransigence of the far right and – like Boehner – decide to reassert leadership, we’ll all win in November.

Seems to me we’re standing by the open grave of the Tea Party crowd. And I don’t sense a lot of grief.

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