Dave Brat’s historic upset of conservative-in-name-only (CINO) pro-amnesty Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor not only made the GOP establishment go temporarily insane, it showed, once again, that even after seven years, the Washington elites still have no concept of what the Tea Party really is.
One would think that a conservative publication like The Washington Examiner would have at least an inkling of an idea. But in his post-mortem of Cantor’s stunning defeat, The Examiner’s T. Beckett Adams showed that Washington, D.C., is so insular and so insulated that it is completely clueless about what is happening in America.
Exercising doublethink only a propagandist for the GOP establishment could employ, Adams wrote that Brat was a Tea Party candidate without Tea Party support who won because of a “strong, personalized ground game.” The Tea Party, Adams writes, “had nothing to do with Cantor’s defeat.”
Adams could not be more wrong. While it’s true that so-called Tea Party organizations like Club for Growth, Freedom Works and Tea Party Patriots sat on the sidelines in the Brat/Cantor Virginia primary, the real Tea Party was hard at work.
The idea of using the Boston Tea Party as the backdrop for a movement against ever-expanding government got its start in 2007 as a money bomb for Ron Paul on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Held on December 16, it was dubbed Boston Tea Party 07.
Two years later, from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli made a famous nationally televised rant against bailouts for underwater homeowners on February 19, 2009.
That week in February, President Barack Obama was busy crossing the country stumping for Federal bailouts and “stimulus” programs. Americans, fed up with both Republicans and Democrats and their bailouts for the crony corporations and banksters, began staging “raucous grassroots rebellions against Beltway spending binges,” as Michelle Malkin wrote at the time. “The new Boston Tea Party is here, baby,” she proclaimed.
No one covered and promoted the local grassroots, mom-and pop-inspired protests more than Malkin. In her column, Rebel yell: Taxpayers revolt against gimme-mania, she wrote:
The first revolt took place on President’s Day in Smurf-blue Seattle, where mom-blogger Keli Carender hastily organized a downtown demonstration to oppose what they called the “stimulus rip-off.” A motley band of nearly 100 protesters — moms and their kids, college students, libertarians, taxpayer groups, GOP activists — raised their voices and dined on pulled pork (donated by yours truly). They assailed both the substance of the overstuffed stimulus package and the short-circuited, non-transparent process by which it was passed.
Some wore pig noses. Others waved Old Glory and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. Their handmade signs read: “Say No to Generational Theft;” “Obama’$ Porkulu$ Wear$ Lip$tick;” and “I don’t want to pay for the SwindleUs! I’m only 10 years old!” The event was peaceful, save for an unhinged city-dweller who showed his tolerance by barging onto the speakers’ stage and giving a Nazi salute.
Carender, a newcomer to political activism, shared advice for other first-timers: “Basically everyone, you just have to do it. Call up your police station or parks department and ask how you can obtain a permit, and then just start advertising. The word will spread. I am only one person, but with a little hard work this protest has become the efforts of a lot of people.”
Why bother? It’s for posterity’s sake. For the historical record. And, hopefully, it will spur others to move from the phones and computers to the streets. For Carender, it’s just the beginning. She gathered all the attendees’ e-mail addresses and will keep up the pressure.
Similar protests, often promoted by local conservative talk radio stations and hosts, began springing up in cities and towns across the nation. Those people and groups weren’t the hated Koch brothers, nor were they inspired or funded by them, despite what the Washington establishment and their propagandists in mainstream media have told you. Many, if not most of those attending Tea Party gatherings, had never even heard of the Koch brothers.
These were owners of small businesses, homemakers, blue collar workers, college students, retirees and veterans who were uniting for a common purpose: To oppose big government, bailouts and increased taxes. The Tea in their adopted name was an acronym for taxed enough already.
The national Tea Party organizations sprang up in the aftermath of those grassroots protests when it became obvious the movement was taking off. While they share some ideas with the local groups—or at least claim to—they have little else in common with them. For instance, both Club for Growth and Freedom Works long ago promised to sit out the immigration battle. Yet Cantor’s pro-amnesty stance is one of the main factors in his defeat. Local Tea Party groups—and most conservatives and rank and file Republicans—staunchly oppose amnesty.
In Alabama’s June 2 primary for the State’s 6th Congressional District— which National Review declared the most important race in the country — national Tea Party groups sponsored and threw hundreds of thousands of dollars at a candidate: physician Chad Mathis. Mathis, a recent transplant to Alabama, had no ties to the State, was a poor public speaker, and in debates, he demonstrated no personality and little grasp of policy.
Local Tea Party groups backed State Senator Scott Beason, a longtime thorn in the side of the State’s Republican establishment who had advocated for pro-gun legislation and led a fight against Common Core.
Despite the heavy spending on mostly negative attack ads, Mathis finished fourth in the seven-man race. Beason, running an underfunded grassroots campaign in which he was outspent by four other candidates than nine to one each, finished third, narrowly missing the two-man runoff. Had he the funding poured into Mathis’ campaign, he likely would have led the field. He at least would have been in the runoff facing one of the two who finished ahead of him: the establishment, business-backed candidate or the policy wonk.
The national Tea party organizations are infiltrated with members of the GOP establishment and they represent various establishment wings. They are typically a little more conservative than, say, John McCain and his lapdog Lindsey Graham. But they aren’t necessarily representative of the grassroots and they are beholden to K-Street and crony corporations for funding—hence their decision to sit out the immigration debate being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The national media were premature in announcing the demise of the Tea Party last month after some of the candidates they backed lost their elections.
Despite the defeats, and many others that are sure to come, the Tea Party is far from dead. Otherwise, why would establishment warmongers like Representative Peter King (Sourpuss-N.Y.) lament in the aftermath of Cantor’s defeat that he wondered whether the GOP was crumbling as a whole. “I don’t know where we go now as a party,” he said in an interview. “I’m very concerned that we may go all the way to the right.”
That’s the point: Many real Tea Partiers hope the GOP moves “all the way to the right” or crumbles altogether.
The GOP, a party of mercantilism since its inception, has been gradually moving left for more than 100 years. It’s going to take more than seven years to move it far enough right to make it a party of the Constitution. The Tea Party is not an organization. It is an idea—a movement—and rumors of its impending demise are exaggerated. The GOP establishment would do well to figure that out sooner rather than later.