Where The Party At?

America is inching closer to having a Republican nominee for President. Unlike in 2010, the Tea Party seems to have had little impact on the GOP choice.

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American Tea: Weak with no flavour.
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Raheem Kassam
On 30 October 2011 14:59

Tea Partiers and Ron Paul fans will already be greeting this article with guttural utterances of disgust, their eyes rolling as far up to the sky as humanly possible.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow; that a movement whose Kool-Aid they gulped down with all the enthusiasm of a dehydrated, hung-over undergraduate has now lost the momentum which it promised to never give up.

To be fair, it wasn’t really their choice.

It’s not uncommon to hear a Tea Partier quoting Ayn Rand at you. While I am also a fan of much of the work of the objectivist Russian-American philosopher, there is a certain satisfaction in that much like the locomotives she used endlessly as metaphors in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, the Tea Party train is running out of steam.

That is not to say that it hasn’t served a purpose. Which is, for all intents and purposes, the patellar reflex argument you’ll hear from Tea-Partiers across the board.

But when the non-Tea Party aligned Mitt Romney still leads in the polls and both Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul remain as palatable to the left-leaning independents as a kick in the knackers; you know it might be time to lower that Gadsden flag to half-mast.

Bachmann, the head of the Tea Party caucus in the US Congress had a predictable rise-and-fall in this GOP nomination cycle. Much like Pawlenty, Perry and soon-to-be-has-been Herman Cain, the uber-religious Bachmann simply could not hold the attention of the middle ground – she was far too extreme.

THE MESSIAH

Paul’s seductive message of classical liberalism (read: libertarianism) has indeed resonated across the centre-ground of US politics. But his disingenuity is beginning to show through as people realise that while his foreign policy stances chime well with fiscal conservatives and the anti-War crowd – they don’t play well with exceptionalists and those who want America to stay safe i.e. a heck of a lot of people.

The argument will forever be had as to whether interventionism or a more isolationist approach keeps America safe – but regardless of that, these are the challenges he faces.

Paul is also socially conservative. The congressman from Texas’ 14th district describes himself as ‘pro-life’ and while he states that the federal government has no right to legislate on gay marriage, he is personally opposed to such an idea.

While poll figures of course are not reflecting a decline in his support, the Real Clear Politics poll averages show him moving less that one point since March 2010.

This is not a success story, nor is this zero-sum for Paul. Considering how much his supporters talk about a nationwide ‘revolution’ led by their gargantuan grassroots and enviable financial position, this is a failing campaign.

INFLUENCE

The Tea Party will tell you that they’ve made Romney think twice about socialised healthcare, that they’ve led the charge on a ‘flat tax’ that is being championed by Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman. Also that Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 simplification was directly a result of their lobbying for an overhaul in the tax system. And many more claims to success. But they’re just not true.

What marginal influence they claim to have had can actually be explained in much more reasonable terms. Romney has had to alter his approach to healthcare after Obama distorted and confused what state-funded healthcare was or should be.

The flat tax idea has been around way longer than the Tea Party and was actually implemented by in Utah by Jon Huntsman, not exactly a Tea Party darling.

If the Tea Party also wants to take credit for the 9-9-9 plan then so be it. Experts across the board have debunked Cain’s maths and the plan now looks like a centrally driven and one that will increase taxes on low, middle-earners and families – not exactly the stuff of dreams for the middle-earners who tend to make up the Tea Party grassroots.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

On a local level, the movement is still organising and getting out the vote for some of its more fringe principles. The Tea Party in New York or DC may not back such a project, but in Mississippi they’re gearing up to redefine ‘personhood’ and put the kibosh on abortions all round – a harrowing prospect.

They’ll also weigh in heavily on the ground in New Hampshire and at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February next year, but this is slowing momentum and in a general election they’ll be met on the street by their counterparts, the ‘Occupy’ movements who still, awkwardly support Barack Obama.

The party may still be chugging along, but it seems that just minutes before midnight, it’s losing the initiative its most ardent supporters thought would last forever (or at least long enough to kick Obama out of the White House).

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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