Like the Drowning Pool song, “Bodies”, where the same angry line gets repeated over and over until it is finally screamed at the listener, the
Republican Tea Party continues to hold the country hostage while uttering the same line, “We have to learn to live within our means”, over and over again…regardless of the topic they are discussing…regardless of the importance of the vote…and regardless of whether they even understand what they are saying.
As a political moderate, I have always found it dangerous to sign on to pledges are claim absolutes on policy and philosophical issues. There are exceptions to every rule and in a legislative system, you have to work with other who disagree with you. In the end, it’s about creative sound public policy. In today’s end, it’s about winning. Both parties have platforms, but you can still get an endorsement for office or attend party meetings without signing on to every item. It is an ideological guide. In the last few generations, the platform has been replaced with the litmus test of pledges. This is most predominant on the Republican side, by far.
To understand the attitude and isolationist attitude of the Tea Party, you need just look toward their pledges and compare them to other iterations:
In 1994, the GOP created The Contract with America, this contract had 10 points, almost all became legislation. The contract focused on fiscal responsibility, tort reform, welfare reform, and family values.
In 2010, mainly in response to the popularity of the Tea Party movement, the GOP released A Pledge to America, which was a similar mix to the 1994 version, but was also seen as a more bold itinerary and much more partisan. Both agendas resulted in historic gains for the Republican Party.
Also, in 2010, the Tea Party conducted a grassroots call for reform, which resulted in over 1,000 reform suggestions from Tea Party members. The Party narrowed it down to 50, and then with help of an incumbent GOP house member brought it down further to 21. These ideas were brought to the 2010 CPAC and after almost 500,000 votes were cast in two months, The Contract from America was created.
There is odd level of authority in the Tea Party movement. While the idea was spurned because even the GOP relies on “Washington and pollsters”. The Tea Party expects you to simply bow to their demands. It is not a symbiotic relationship. They are only using the democratic system because they have to, not because they believe in it. The semantics here are interesting; while the GOP relies heavily on litmus tests, they still find it important to work for the people, contract “with”, Pledge “to” America…while the Tea Party uses “from” America, as if the problems with America stem directly from the people themselves.
In which case, what would happen if the Tea Party controlled the system, and 80% of the people wanted nationalized health care, increased taxes, or a larger budget. The impression we should get from the Tea Party is much like the relationship one has with the church. You can volunteer, you can sign, you can truly feel like a part of the movement…but if you disagree with us, you will be excommunicated. There is no option. Our way is simply the right way.
We have seen it across the country. With a massive increase in abortion legislation passed — 34 in 2010, 80 in 2011 (nowhere in the Tea Party platform, but all pushed by freshman legislators), a historic assault on unions in Wisconsin, a historic government shutdown in Minnesota, and a ludicrous hijacking of the federal debt ceiling vote. There is no compromise. There is no discussion. This is it.
Polling shows that the Tea Party is just as frustrated with the GOP as they are with Democrats. However, it is difficult to not see party politics playing the role here. The debt ceiling has been raised three times since Obama took office. The amount of House Republican votes: 0, 0, 0.
The debt ceiling was raised 5 times with Republicans in control of the House and Bush in the White House. The amount of House Republican votes: 193, 211, 214, 206, 214 — the consistency here is shocking.
Finally, the debt ceiling was raised 3 times once Democrats took control of the House in 2006, but Bush was still in the White House. The amount of House Republican votes: 0, 45, 91.
The Tea Party rhetoric sounds good in principle, and its advocates are passionate in their cause. But when political ideas are followed as religious dogma, it can cause destruction on an unknown level.