The Tea Party was not a flash in the pan, and as more time goes by it’s starting to look like a lasting political influence. At the beginning of this year I commented that the Tea Party was in “hibernation,” but now that election season is upon us the resurgence I predicted has come full force. (Yes, I’m aware that was far from a risky conjecture.) And the Occupy movement? Well, it has certainly moved—into irrelevance.
Nationally, Ted Cruz’s victory last week in the Texas Republican primary for United States Senator against GOP favorite David Dewhurst was what our Vice President would eloquently term a “big [stinking] deal” (were he of the liberty persuasion, of course). At the state level two months ago, Scott Walker’s re-election in Wisconsin in a recall vote with a slightly larger margin than his initial 2010 victory marked a turn in the tide of public sector largesse, buttressed by a mostly failed a series of recall votes against Republican legislators in the same state. In both Texas and Wisconsin, the Tea Party played a major role against the Democratic Party and, more tellingly, the Republican establishment.
And then last night.
In Kansas, seven (possibly eight) moderate Republicans were ousted in the state senate primary: “If Republicans keep the seats they now have, conservatives would have 27 in the 40-member Senate. Elections in 2010 . . . left the House with a conservative GOP majority.” In Missouri, Tea Party favorite Todd Akin will now face off against Senator Claire McCaskill in the general election after winning a three-candidate primary. It is true that Akin garnered some Democratic support since he is considered the weakest opponent against McCaskill, but given McCaskill’s popularity as of late and Missouri’s conservative shift over the past few years, this is a risky bet.
Last night was not a nationwide sweep. In Michigan, Pete Hoekstra, an establishment Republican, soundly beat Tea Party insurgent Clark Durant for Republican Senate candidacy. Furthermore, the largest point against the Tea Party’s influence still casts a long shadow: Mitt Romney is all but guaranteed the Republican nomination for President, having beaten out Tea Party favorites (at different times and in different segments) Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. (I must of course include Gary Johnson, but he is still running, now on the Libertarian ticket.) However, since becoming the de facto Republican nominee Romney has worked diligently to court the Tea Party, utilizing a lot of free market rhetoric. He continues to carefully weigh who he will pick as his Vice President running mate, and I’m willing to bet it will be someone with a far more encouraging record than Romney’s own.
Wyoming’s primary is less than two weeks away on August 21, and things are looking very interesting indeed. While we remain a GOP-dominated state, a number of Republican legislators are facing primary challenges, and the rhetoric focuses on just who has the most liberty-oriented principles. To this blogger / attorney / occasional bloviator (but I repeat myself), nothing could be a better prediction for a pending shake-up than certain figures decrying this as “a symptom of what has gone wrong in American politics.” Hardly. For the second election season in a row, the Tea Party is ensuring that individual liberty and responsibility has a place in the political discussion, and voting accordingly. This is as “right” as American politics can get.