Why the Tea Party’s Hold Persiststags: Tea Party
Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and the Director of the Scholars Strategy Network, a federated membership association for civically engaged scholars at colleges and universities across the United States.
The demise of the Tea Party was loudly announced right after Congress voted on October 16 to lift the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government. “Finally! The Republican Fever Is Broken,” exulted Jamelle Bouie at The Daily Beast, while Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson proclaimed President Obama’s “victory” over the Tea Party just as “devastating as Sherman’s march through the South.” With most Americans telling pollsters they do not like the Tea Party and its tactics, the GOP will eventually have to pivot back to the median voter, explained Noah Feldman in his Bloomberg column, “How the Tea Party Will Die.”
Other optimists placed greater emphasis on the supposed new will of business interests and Republican Party elders to recapture party control. Offering reassurance, supporters of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner told the pre-eminent inside-the-Beltway gossip site Politico that their guy was more effectively in charge of his raucous GOP caucus following the shutdown debacle. Karl Rove vowed to block far-right Tea Party challengers in GOP primaries, and the Chamber of Commerce started to make noises about supporting some supposed “moderates” against Tea Party candidates in 2014 GOP primaries.
But we have heard all this before. The Tea Party was supposed to be dead and the GOP on the way to moderate repositioning after Obama’s victory and Democratic congressional gains in November 2012. Yet less than a year after post-election GOP soul searching supposedly occurred, radical forces pulled almost all GOP House and Senate members into at least going along with more than two weeks of extortion tactics to try to force President Obama and Senate Democrats to gut the Affordable Care Act and grant a long laundry list of other GOP priorities suspiciously similar to the platform on which the party had run and lost in 2012. The Tea Party’s hold on the GOP persists beyond each burial ceremony....
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