What’s Next for the Tea Party?

550px-Remove-a-Stuck-Tongue-from-a-Frozen-Surface-Step-3One might think the graphic accompanying this post was leaked from Sen. Ted Cruz’s political strategy playbook: the next chapter in The Tea Party’s Fight to Repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s not. Could be though, right? The metaphor holds of doing something foolish to gain popular attention and then suffering the individual consequences of that foolishness.

Of course, Tea Party advocates will no doubt claim I am being foolishly satirical and hypocritical for not recognizing my own ignorance in understanding the dramatic importance of standing up for liberty, fiscal responsibility and apple pie. If they truly believe those were Senator Cruz’s motivations, well then what can I say – they must see a political reality in this country different than the one I see.

Even if we were to believe the efforts of Senator Cruz and other Tea Party congressional enthusiasts – to hold the country fiscally hostage for over two weeks in an effort to defund the ACA – were nonpolitically motivated, the overall reaction of the American public can hardly be what they were hoping for. According to a Pew Research Center poll released yesterday, the Tea Party is less popular than ever, even among many Republicans, with nearly half (49%) of survey respondents having an unfavorable opinion. This is up from 37% in June of this year.

On the other hand, Senator Cruz’s popularity among Tea Party respondents has risen from 47% to 74% since July. I’m not sure how well that bodes for his future political aspirations (at least outside of Texas, if that was of interest), but I am being sincere when I say that I respect the all-in approach of any elected official because it represents a refreshing departure from governing by opinion polls.

My view of the Tea Party, for better or worse, is largely based on the individuals I know personally who are either sympathetic to, intellectually aligned with or proud to be members. I find them to be generally well informed on political issues and passionate about protecting individual liberties. Things go downhill when we start debating who gets to define which liberties should be protected and by whom, which I interpret as the Tea Party being discerningly different than many Libertarian viewpoints.

They are very concerned – and I think rightly so – with the economic future of our country and seem to understand more than most that both political parties are guilty of sustaining special-interest budgeting despite whatever expressions of concern we may hear to the contrary. That’s where a large part of the inherent challenge to the Tea Party’s future lies. As shown in the Pew Research poll, there is a lot of confusion, disagreement and debate over whether and how well the Tea Party “fits” within the Republican Party.

I personally hope it finds its national voice apart from the GOP. If it has something meaningful to offer in the nation’s political discourse – it could hardly do worse – then it should seek to do so through the existing construct of our democracy and not by resorting to Machiavellian tactics whereby it seeks to bend the will of a majority to its beliefs (again, I refer you to the Pew Research poll).

I admit, there is a real attraction to a grass roots political movement in an age where electoral helplessness – whether learned or systemic – has become anathema to a democratic form of government. But waxing nostalgic for the 18th century and expecting that same apathetic electorate to embrace the social and cultural norms of men in wigs and women in hoops is a very tough sell.

And that’s where I find the greatest difficulty in accepting my Tea Party colleagues’ personal political platform. To me it feels like hidden below the surface of, “strike a blow for liberty,” “defend the Constitution” and “balance the budget” is an observable pattern in their logic and debate that belies a commiserate longing for the good old days.

I think all of us over a certain age find ourselves quite often reflecting on a past that was less stressful, less fearful, less threatening and certainly less complicated. Today we live in a world of constant change that just one generation removed couldn’t possibly have imagined. In his book, Managing at the Speed of Change, Daryl Conner talks about the Beast: a metaphor of the challenge each of us faces in adapting to constant change in our environment. It takes incredible resiliency to maintain good mental health in the 21st century.

I do not believe effective public policy – including Healthcare policy – can or should be based on what worked in the good old days. As Don Henley wrote, “those days are gone forever – [we] should just let ‘em go but…” Today we live in a society that is aging at an accelerated rate, that is growing in ethnic and cultural diversity and is inundated on a 24-7 basis with technological advancements that introduce hope and terror in equal measures.

With that understanding of reality, my primary concern with the Tea Party is the perceived sense of moral intransigence and impractical political dogma that transcends their beliefs. We should be focusing our efforts on how best to practically adapt a constitutional style of government to the world we live in today – not expecting today’s society to mirror that of the 1700s. I think I share just as much angst and anxiety over our nation’s future as do my Tea Party colleagues. I just don’t believe that going backwards offers much hope in addressing the problems we face today and tomorrow.



  1. Ingrid Taylor Canterbury says:

    first i would like to thank you for quoting don Henley, then I would like to say as a whole our leaders need to stop looking behind and start looking forward to solutions to our problems. we have to let go of nostalgia and admit that it isn’t 1952 or even 1992 anymore. our economy has changed (from manufacturing based to service based), our population has changed, the source of income and cost of living have changed for everyone in this country, with no significant change in the standards by which we measure a “living wage” many bigshots of the past find themselves pumping gas part time at a fraction of their former pay and wondering where they are going to get benefits for their families. America is not the same, and we have to admit that and move on or we are going to find ourselves living in the third world. someone has pulled the wool over the eyes of many Americans. people who cannot even pay their bills each month are advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent, is it because they are ignorant? no its because tea partiers and extreme conservatives have convinced them they are indeed middle class with nowhere to go but up. Thus they fancy themselves members of the club, fine examples of living the American Dream, they look at the wealthy and actually believe they can attain that sort of financial security all it takes is a little bootstrapping. Nonsense. Congress doesn’t represent me or my interests at this point. They have no idea who I am, or what I want. I have no time to take my message to the streets though, I am busy working, so I can pay the IRS what I owe them, which apparently is more than Verizon, GE and several others paid last year…combined. Congress rallies around the “we have the best healthcare system in the world” slogan, yeah CONGRESS does have the best, I however pay out the ying yang every paycheck so that I can enjoy a copay at the emergency room and no “well care.” I don’t like the Affordable Care Act either, I think it doesn’t go far enough, but its a start, and a baby step in the right direction.

  2. Scot’s take on the TP: ” What’s Next for the Tea Party where I was snarky again, but intellectually honest. Unfortunately, my intellect largely reflects my own life’s experiences and is not necessarily based on facts.”

    If one doesn’t rely upon the facts is one intellectually honest? If one recognizes that the facts are out there, but doesn’t consider them does that make him intellectually lazy? If one’s own life experiences are the sum understanding of an individual where that individual bases all other life experiences does that make him egotistical or narcissistic? I don’t think you are any of these things Scot, so I think your above statement was merely a way of hiding feelings and protecting your ideology.

    “The metaphor holds of doing something foolish to gain popular attention and then suffering the individual consequences of that foolishness.”

    Sometimes it is important to gain attention. Consider a man screaming and waving his hands to gain attention and save a child from being hit by a car. In Cruz’s case it was to alert Americans to the fact that the nation has a major fiscal problem and a disaster for a health care program. The mainstream media where most at least in the past used to get its information is not looking both ways so someone has to warn the public. Thank goodness for Ted Cruz and people like him.

    Take a look at the ACORN scandal. The mainstream media attacked those that were demonstrating corruption that led all the way to the President. The mainstream media withheld information. It was a young guy without resources wearing a mink coat and a gal skimpily dressed that took ACORN down. ACORN and other revelations were so embarrassing to the power players that he, O’Keefe, got house arrest for embarrassing a governor where those committing actual crimes injuring society instead of helping it weren’t even considered for punishment. He was also demonized and branded a racist for almost the same reasons I brought up earlier in my comment about Greg’s paper. [This reply is a cross posting from Scot’s email list which is a continuation of a list called Healthre that has been in existence for far more than a decade. Scot was kind enough to continue hosting the list after the other server was taken down.]

    Re the Tea Party:
    “I personally hope it finds its national voice apart from the GOP.”

    Maybe we should separate Americans into three groups. The Tea Party folk and the group that plays the race card, demonizes others and claims victimhood every time someone is listening. The third group would be all the rest.

    “According to a Pew Research Center poll”

    Sparky’s Pub apparently likes polls so we now hear how the Tea Party has fallen in popularity. I would think that the demonization by the left and mainstream media could make one believe things that aren’t true. Stalin was a master at that and even made our leaders believe things they shouldn’t have. We have to remember that some of those that neither Sparky’s Pub nor I are likely to like are still Stalinists and still an activist portion that moves public policy in a leftward direction.

    OK so what do the polls show? 49% unfavorable rating from the Pew Poll which I don’t know if I should trust, but I won’t argue the number. Today I read that 50% of likely voters disapprove of the President’s job performance and 78% would like to throw all of Congress out. Consumer confidence is way down. I think I should buy Sparky a drink at his pub because all though government is tolerated it is not well liked, nor is ObamaCare well liked. But what about all those people that seemed to provide support for that program? They were bribed, but the word used by ObamaCare, ‘bribes’ is not a ‘bribe’ rather a ‘waiver’. So I guess we could say that a good deal of support for the President’s major initiative is due to bribery, a criminal offense when performed by ordinary people.

    You would like it for the Tea Party to find its own party because your hope is to divide the Republican Party (I don’t love it and never did. In fact until recently I was a registered Democrat that voted as an independent). I would like to see the same for the Democratic Party where it split into Democrats and those that support people like Stalin and a whole bunch of over-schooled and under-educated people that can’t figure out right from wrong. We need to get rid of those misguided folk that have turned the Democratic Party into something that would be unrecognizable to their hero JFK.
    Now attempting to artfully attack the Tea Party Scot writes:

    “that belies a commiserate longing for the good old days.”

    Yes, a balanced budget, independent minded folk not reliant upon government, and a respect for the Constitution. That is the good old days that the Tea Party folk agree upon.

    “But waxing nostalgic for the 18th century and expecting that same apathetic electorate to embrace the social and cultural norms of men in wigs and women in hoops is a very tough sell.”

    Tell us where the Tea Party movement was politically pushing wigs and hoops. You really have some messed up ideas. Next thing if you don’t get a hold of yourself you will be calling them racists, but that is an issue of both political parties especially the Democratic Party who had the Ku Klux Klan heavily represented at their convention in earlier years. Slavery is out, but slavery of the mind seems to still be in and a desirable thing as demonstrated by the apoplexy developed on the left should a black person hold conservative views.

    Talking about moving backwards is the direction many that believe in big government are engaging in. They may be blind to that fact, but it is a fact none the less. We have to take note how Presidential power has been increased something not thought to be desirable by our founding fathers for good reason. Many even look at our President as if he can do no wrong and Congress, at least the Democratic portion, seems lockstep behind him. He spends the public’s money as if it were his own for his own personal needs. I would say those that support him are moving backward from a democratically functioning constitutional republic where the marketplace prevails to a place where the President is now King and determines the economic fortunes of his subjects while he picks winners and losers.


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