The Tea Party Movement: Republicans’ Weak Spot

These political cells have sprung up all over the country to condemn government excess, threatening to throw their support behind challengers to the Republican Party, which has been deemed too centrist. All this, despite the possibility of a Democratic victory.

On April 15, John and Caroline — both engineers from Detroit, ages 51 and 42 — stood on the Mall, wearing shorts and caps, with several thousand other protestors. “We are worried patriots, and we want the government to stop overburdening us with taxes to support unemployed single mothers,” they explain without a shred of guilt. “A country that no longer produces anything is destined to become a nation of beggars,” added John.

John and Caroline do not belong to an established political organization, but just a group on the Meetup website. This is a typical reality of the Tea Party movement, a loose collection of political cells that have sprung up across America to condemn government excess and indiscriminately criticize Obama and Congress.

Without a doubt, the highly individualistic character of John and Caroline’s approach explains the hard line they take when asked about the Tea Party strategy for the November 2010 elections. “We should support candidates who will truly defend our ideals, not centrist and discredited Republicans,” they respond without hesitation. Even if this will ultimately divide the conservative camp and prevent it from winning the vote? “Absolutely. Too bad if the Democrats profit from this situation. The longer they remain in power, the more aware Americans will become of the catastrophe. The Tea Party movement continues to grow, and one must look at the long term and not sacrifice our ideals for short term success. That is exactly what the Republicans have done, and that is the reason why this country is stuck in a rut,” continues John.

Among the protestors, the engineer from Detroit was far from being alone in his line of thinking. Judging by the indecision of the other protesters, however, this debate divides the ranks of a movement torn between its desire for purism and its ambition to save conservatism.

An Awkward Partner

During the primaries, the radical candidates supported by the Tea Party threaten to defeat certain outgoing Republicans who are too centrist. For example, in Florida, the young Tea Party candidate Mark Rubio has far more support than outgoing Republican Governor Charlie Crist.

The danger lies in candidates who are too extreme to garner the centrist independent vote, handing the Democrats an electoral victory.

In any case, the Tea Party movement is the Achilles’ heel of the Republican Party, which will attempt to accommodate its new, awkward partner by way of the party machine. How can one convince a revolutionary and spontaneous force to negotiate compromises?

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