The Death of the Tea Party

Today I have the difficult task of writing the obituary for the tea party movement.  Where do I begin?

Well, the tea party movement was an interesting adventure in American politics.  Chapters grew up seemingly organically around the nation; there was no central organization or leadership.  In the early days, they opposed the big government policies and politicians in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, treating both with suspicion.

For the last several years, the tea party movement has been in decline.  Although supposedly non-partisan, almost all have slipped quietly (or not-so-quietly) into the fold of the Republican Party.

10613072_10204123444679426_6712838461521736272_nAs one example, let’s consider the Hampton Roads Tea Party in Virginia.  On their Facebook page, they proudly declare that they are “A fiercely non-partisan group dedicated to the U.S. (and VA) Constitutions, free markets, community-based solutions, and creating a truth-fed fire for Liberty in future generations. Actus non Verbum (Actions not Words)!”

However, during the 2014 election cycle they posted numerous pieces urging their supporters to get behind Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, providing links to volunteer, and offered a Republican sample ballot created by a group called Friends of the Elephant.

HRTPToday, the Hampton Roads Tea Party took yet another step by encouraging members of their group to officially join the Republican Party of Virginia.  Because of these developments, one would be hard-pressed to call the group “non-partisan” any longer.

Now, this situation isn’t unique to Hampton Roads.  For example, in 2013, shortly before the Virginia Republican State Convention, the leader of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party announced that the group would support whichever candidates won that convention regardless of their political positions.  The next year, during the 2014 July 4th parade, one member created posters saying that everyone should vote Republican.  As I was helping them assemble the float, am a long-time member of the group, and was an independent candidate seeking local office, I was able to persuade them not to offer the citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham a message more or less shilling for a political party.

However, I suppose if we are going to look at the issue objectively, many tea parties these days are shells of their former selves, serving as little more than wings of their respective Republican units.  What a pity!  After all, wasn’t the original objective of the tea party to oppose the excesses of both the Democratic and Republican Parties?  Wasn’t the main purpose to adhere to constitutional limitations and fight against tax increases?

I remember back when I first started getting involved with our local tea party I noticed that the local Republican Party always sent a representative to every meeting, not sent to talk, but to observe what was going on.  But for the last several years they have not done so.  Why not?  Well, because there is no need; the tea party has become one of their closest allies.  As another example, the current leader of the Staunton Tea Party is married to the current leader of the Augusta County Republican Party.  The Republicans and tea party members have become pretty much indistinguishable.  And if the tea party’s mission now is strictly wed to the Republican Party mission, it has made itself both redundant and useless.  The tea party did not take over the Republican Party, the Republican Party took over the tea party.

Although there are likely tea parties that still adhere to the original mission, by in large I think it safe to say that the tea party movement has failed.  It had a good run, but the tea party is dead.

6 Replies to “The Death of the Tea Party”

  1. That is absurd, Rousseau. The Tea Party is not in decline. The are still out there, and still doing what they can to hold Republicans and Democrats accountable for their actions.

    You may have missed this, but there is a good reason why it might appear to the casual observer that the Party has absorbed them. The Tea Party is encouraging its members to join their local [R] units, so as to exert influence there, and push them in the right direction. Even I joined the RPVB for a time to help out with this effort, and I’m a staunch libertarian.

    As for elections, what do you expect them to do, advocate putting Democrats in power? Since we still have a Two Party system that very effectively excludes third parties (due to the spoiler effect), the Tea Party remains trapped at election time in the same vote-for-the-lesser-of-two-evils cage as everyone else. What you missed is the HRTP’s refusal to help any of this year’s Republican candidates in terms of the usual ground game efforts like phone banking, door knocking, etc. Their only active support went to John Moss for the VB City Council. This was their way of sending a message to certain politicians that they need to do better if they want to have the aid of Tea Party volunteers at election time.

    As much as the establishment wing of the Republican Party would love to get rid of the Tea Party, they haven’t, and they won’t. They are still alive and well, and really just getting started. Without getting too much into strategy that they might not want openly discussed, I can tell you that there are long-term plans for building farm teams and minor leagues, so as to avoid running inexperienced candidates who sometimes end up making themselves easy targets for Democrats and their friends in the old GOP. This fight is nowhere near over.

  2. The Republican Party of Virginia has a Creed. This Creed is very very much in line with the philosophy of the Tea Party. The Democrat Party apparently does not have a Creed other than Tax and Spend and Tax and Spend some more. By joining the Units of the Republican Party, Tea Party members can help move the Republicans toward living up the their Creed. The Creed reads as follows:

    The Republican Party of Virginia Creed

    We Believe:

    That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice

    That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society

    That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government

    That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing constitutional limitations

    That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense

    That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers, is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.

  3. Think again. You have no clue what the teaparty is – it’s inside of us and it isn’t going away. We will defend our constitution. Many teaparty people just won elections but because of the name and how the liberals have misused it and changed it’s meaning, they were not called teaparty but they are in their hearts. Their views haven’t changed and they’re values haven’t changed. Teaparty thinking isn’t going away. I’ve never been to a teaparty meeting but my views line up with them – i’m one of many

  4. As a board member of Manassas Tea Party, I can tell you from first-hand knowledge and experience that MTP stays true to its 501(c)(4) non-profit status requirements. MTP does NOT now (and has never) endorse any political party or politician. MTP purposefully conducts candidate forums where all contenders are quite welcome to promote themselves.
    I am also an active member of Prince William County GOP. I heartily supported Shak Hill (challenger to Sen Mark Warner) before Ed Gillespie announced his own candidacy. Once Ed Gillespie won the nomination at RPV’s June convention, I followed Shak Hill’s urging that we ALL unite to defeat Mark Warner. MY main goal was to sack Harry Reid. GOAL!!! on Tue, 4 Nov 2014…but, without a win for Ed Gillespie.
    My roles in MTP and PWC GOP don’t collide, and I won’t let them. I am honored to know MANY liberty-loving, CONSERVATIVE-minded folks at MTP and PWC GOP. I avoid those whom I consider to be conservative-lite.
    MTP wants to be a constant reminder to ALL elected officials that “We, the People” are NOT “stupid voters”.

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