Ezra Klein notes the irony of the Tea Party. They have helped the Democratic agenda in three ways.
First, they pushed Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party. And even though he was voted out of office soon after that, he was a Democrat long enough to stop the filibuster on the ACA. We would not have had healthcare reform without Specter. Thanks Tea Party!
Second, in 2010, they pushed unelectable candidates in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada. Klein states that these were more extreme candidates, but I don’t think that’s the case. The difference between the candidates that the Republican establishment wants versus those that the Tea Party wants are not so much policy. It is more attitude. It isn’t that Sharron Angle was more extreme than Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian. But they would not have called for armed revolt in the event of their losses. They would never have said that 12-year-old rape victims should “make lemonade.” They would never have called for the elimination of Social Security. But I feel pretty sure they were pretty much in agreement. So again: thanks Tea Party!
Third, we have today. A year ago, no one thought that the Democrats could maintain control of the Senate. In fact, the odds were better that the Democrats could take back the house. It was just a matter of math. There were 23 Democratic Senate seats up and only 10 Republicans. But now, thanks in no small part to Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, the Democrats are likely to lose only one seat—and may lose none at all. Thank you Tea Party!
What I find most interesting about the Tea Party is how their candidates never represent what the group supposedly stands for. They always talk about economic liberty. But their candidates seem far more interested in social issues—especially abortion. It really seems that the mainstream media were duped by the Tea Party. They certainly were never a non-partisan group, but even more telling, they were always just the extreme members of the party. If the true progressives in the Democratic Party started calling themselves the Trotskyites, the media would not start covering them as something new. In fact, Occupy Wall Street can at best be described as a splinter group from the Democratic Party. That’s a much bigger story that only got any kind of traction when police started pepper spraying kids.
So I’m grateful to the Tea Party. But I don’t want to hear about them any more. A bunch of old conservatives have banded together to vote Republican? Now that is a dog bites man story!