Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hijackers Getting Hijacked

It's hard to argue with the initial mantra of the Tea Partiers: cut govenment spending.  But somewhere along the way their message was translated into: just say "No" to anything supported by the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.  How it happened is anyone's guess, but I suspect in the Tea Party's campaign to control the Republican Party - which it has succeeded in doing to this point - found its only target was the White House and anyone aligned with the President.  And it found a willing, albiet weak, co-conspirator in House Speaker John Boehner.  The staid old Republican Party had been hijacked.

Now, Boehner is a nice enough fellow, but it is obvious the overt threat of ouster from individuals behind the resulting Tea Party movement has diminished his ability to seek compromise, which has long been the basis of good government.  The late Republican President Ronald Reagan knew about the art of compromise and was successful largely because of his ability to work with the powerful House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Democrat of Massachusetts.

The Tea Party masterminds have now found themselves facing a dilemma that they could not have predicted: their own hijacking.

When the whacky season known as the presidential nomination process began, the Tea Party GOP believed it had the ideal candidate in U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann.  She had the looks, was a woman running for an office held until now only by men, and was not afraid to air her ultra conservative views, including:
  • The movie The Lion King should be considered gay propaganda.
  • If the minimum wage were abolished, jobs would be created.
  • A visit to Iraq was not unlike a trip to the Mall of America.
Those are only a few, which now have her on the verge of elimination from consideration, even from those within the Tea Party leadership who initially supported her candidacy.  In the interim, it had a second candidate it could wrap its arms around: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Then came Herman Cain, the outspoken former CEO of a pizza chain and a proponent of most things Tea Party.  Things were beginning to look up again when Cain emerged from Florida the winner of a straw poll among GOP attendees at a September gathering.  Bingo!  The Tea Party had two potential saviours, particularly with its most active supporter, Sarah Palin, opting to sit out the campaign.

Now the story comes out that Cain was involved in a sexual harassment suit.  His attempts to distance himself from the story have not gone well, tripping over his explanations on more than one occasion.  And revelations of this sort cannot set well with those who were eager to jump onto his bandwagon.

So where to turn for the Tea Party?  It would seem Perry is the party's only hope of taking on President Barack Obama, dim as that prospect seems.  Former Massachusetts Gov. Willard Mitt Romney?  There is no chance the perceived architect of a health care policy that is universally despised by the ruling body of the Tea Party can obtain their blessing.

Perry has a long uphill battle to upend Romney's campaign for the nomination.  The true test will be New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential preference primary.  And Romney is viewed as a favorite son of the Granite State because of his summer home on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, in addition to the fact that none of the other candidates have resonated with the voters of that state.  He's as well known in New Hampshire as in Massachusetts where he lives.  There's a lot to be said for familiarity.

Romney is clearly the only choice of GOP traditionalists, many of whom are eager to reclaim the party that they saw hijacked in the off-season elections of 2010.  Speaker Boehner seems to be considering a more moderate stance, as evidenced by a reported unofficial agreement with Minority Leader Nancy Peolsi on deficit reduction.

As noble as the Tea Party experiment might have been in the beginning, the party of  "No" might just have worn out its welcome.  At the very least, perhaps it will re-examine itself and consider a less threatening, more moderate approach.

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