When the Tea Party-fueled GOP took over the House by storm in January of 2010 there was high talk of huge change. Exactly a year later, there are signs that the underlying political force behind the House flipping in 2010, the Tea Party, is all but dead.
Need evidence the Tea Party is all but dead? The polls and the vote counts keep rolling in. In politics, winning and votes are what measure influence and power. When applied today, those measuring sticks reveal a weak if not dead political movement that hit its height during the summer of 2009. Today the loud “in your face” town halls are gone. More importantly: So are the candidates.
Ten Signs the Tea Party Is dead:
1. Disappearing Heroes: In 2010, Tea heroine Christine O’Donnell lost 56% to 40% to Sen. Chris Coons — then swiftly disappeared … and then endorsed Mitt Romney. What’s Sarah Palin up to now? Does her endorsement matter? Where are Joe Miller and Sharron Angle?
2. Tea Party Gov. Scott Walker Faces Recall: Those wishing to recall Tea Party Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker needed 700,000 signatures to put the recall in play. They collected over a million.
Walker rode the Tea Party wave into the Governor’s mansion in 2010, the same year the Tea Party driven GOP took over the House. Now Gov. Walker is staring straight into the face of political headwinds blowing hard in the opposite direction. Other Tea Governors continue to impress with historically low approval numbers. Swing state Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio are examples.
3. Congressional approval ratings: As the polls roll in it is crystal clear: the House is in the throes of their most unpopular period in at least 50 years. Congressional approval numbers were never anything to brag about. But when did they freefall to historic lows? In the eighth months the GOP Tea Party filled House fought over the debt ceiling. Everyone knows Congress is broken in an endless get-nothing-done cycle of gridlock. But the polls indicate who the public specifically blames: House Republicans. It was after the GOP won the majority in the House that congressional approval ratings hit their lowest point in American history.
4. Tea Candidates for the White House Tank: House Tea Party Caucus founder and Chair Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) only received 5% of the vote in Iowa and received 23,934 votes less than a Senator who lost his seat 6 years ago by 708,000 votes. The other Tea Party candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, received 92,000 votes less than Mitt Romney and 40,000 less than moderate Jon Huntsman in the “live free or die” state.
5. Florida Tea Party Convention No-Shows : Not even Tea Party Florida Gov. Rick Scott attended the Florida Tea Party Convention in November 2011 — he cancelled last minute. Florida Tea Party hero Sen. Marco Rubio did the same. The 3-day convention had no high profile conservatives in attendance. Could this have happened in early 2010?
6. Capitulation and Defeat: Has “ObamaCare” been repealed? No. Did the Balance Budget Amendment pass? No. Did the Ryan Budget pass? No. In the midst of the payroll tax fight, the talking-loud-and-passing-nothing-into-law Tea Party members released statements like: “I am disappointed that our Republican leadership in both the House and Senate chose a course of political expediency rather than standing on conservative principle.” More importantly: The Tea Party has failed to find a way to leverage power and move legislation through both the House and the Senate and onto the President’s desk. Even Newt Gingrich figured out a way to do that with a Democrat in the White House.
7. GOP Town Halls Disappear: In September 2011 there may have been more cops than constituents at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) Richmond town hall. That town hall required an “invite.” Two hundred “uninvited” protesters appeared outside. Last April, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) discovered he couldn’t hold a town hall without police protection. A few cops by the door is one thing. Having to leave through a back door and being driven in a police car is another. That’s what happened to Ryan in April 2011 almost exactly a year after Congressional Democrats pushed through Health Care reform legislation. All the Tea Talk demanding public officials “listening to the people” has vanished.
8. Ohio voters repeal measure to stifle collective bargaining for public employees: Last November a move made by yet another over-reaching Tea Party governor, Ohio’s John Kasich, was repealed. Seven hundred thousand signatures were collected to get the measure on the ballot. Four hundred thousand public employees would have been denied the right to strike and collectively bargain had the measure become law.
9. Remember all those big rallies? September 12, 2009 anyone? The massive November 5, 2009 rally in Washington D.C. to protest the health care bill? The people around the Capitol the week of March 14th during the final week of debate on health care reform? Where is all that now?
10. The House Tea Party “One and Done” List Lengthens: Remember the names of Reps. Blake Farenthold, Joe Walsh, Robert Dold, Bobby Schilling, Adam Kinzinger and Allen West. Refer back to this list again in January 2013 and ask yourself: How many of these people are still in Congress.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can follow her on twitter at @crewof42