The extreme rhetoric and politics of many Tea Party candidates for the upcoming Midterm elections have alarmed many Democrats, liberals and moderates. They are not alone. The statements and disclosures of many Republican Tea Party candidates in recent weeks have also caused many GOP leaders to be extremely leery as well. High ranking Republicans, including former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani and George W. Bush‘s speech writer David Frum, have repudiated and have denounced many Tea Party candidates running for their party. The RNC (Republican National Committee) has been forced to distance, and in some instances, withdraw support from congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Many of these Republicans fear that the Tea Party movement is damaging the Republican brand. While the party expects and hopes to win big in the upcoming elections, some are apprehensive about the long term prospects for the party, particularly the Presidential race in 2012. They fear that the Tea Party is to the extreme right of the electorate and will alienate moderates as well as independents alike.
Already in this election, two of the most prominent Tea Party candidates in the Northeast are almost certain to go down in flames. Carl Paladino, the Tea Party gubernatorial candidate for New York State, has all but been abandoned by that state’s GOP organisation. There are fears that Paladino will not only get crushed at the polls but that his crash will smash the entire Republican ticket in New York State, possibly sabotaging the party’s prospect of regaining control of the State Senate which had almost seemed certain at the beginning of the year. After Paladino’s remarkable homophobic outburst, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani denounced Paladino’s statements has “highly offensive”. Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s Tea Party Senatorial candidate looks well on her way to get laughed out of the First State. Her stunning ignorance of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which enshrines the principle of the separation of church and state, as well as her agenda to replace scientific Evolution with Creationist teaching in public schools has all but guaranteed that her opponent, Democrat Chris Coons, will wipe her out with a near 20 point landslide. The Tea Party is certain to get crashed on the shores off the Chesapeake Bay. Truthfully, the Tea Party didn’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance in Hell to succeed in the most liberal region of the country.
The most venomous denunciation of the Tea Party came from the most unexpected corner. David Frum, the speech writer of former President George W. Bush, has launched devastating broadsides into the Tea Party movement. In an extraordinary interview with the BBC, Frum castigated the GOP for even letting Tea Party candidates win the Primary elections. Frum is worried that the Tea Party will tarnish the Republican party as a bastion of bigotry, exclusion and intolerance. He has called out and derided the racism of the Tea Party movement and its candidates. Frum didn’t mince his words. “We are offering a politics of cultural protest at a time when Americans need a politics of economic leadership…. We have nothing to say to the unemployed, except that we will balance the budget very fast, even though we have no plan to balance the budget very fast.” Frum went on dismiss the economic platform of his party’s Pledge to America as nonsense. “None of these plans work,” he said with an air of annoyed vexation. Frum went further: “We are offering racially coded appeals that are going to define the Republican party for a generation of young voters as a party that attacked President Obama, not because he spent too much and regulated too much, but as some Kenyan interloper who was trying to impose an alien ideology on his own country.” Frum then launched a cruise missile attack and declared war on Sarah Palin, the Vice Presidential candidate in the the 2008 election and former Governor of Alaska, who has since become the self anointed leader of the Tea Party movement. He flatly declared that Palin “has irretrievably proven she’s not up to the job of being president of the United States.”
What is one to make of these developments? First of all it’s clear that much of the GOP establishment fears being taken over and ousted by the Tea Party movement. The second point is that many older Republican Party members find themselves as Dr. Frankenstein. Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, the Republican Party has never hesitated to employ race bating tatics against the Democrats. In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign took off after campaigning at a segregationist festival in Philadelphia, Mississippi. George H.W. Bush infamously won the 1988 Presidential campaign with the Willie Horton ad, by scaring white Americans into believing that if Michael Dukakis were elected, he would have emptied the prisons allowing Black men to rape and kill white women. His son went on to steal the 2000 election by preventing thousands of Blacks from voting and throwing out the ballots of those who actually managed to vote. Hence, Frum is not being completely honest with his criticisms. Paul Craig Roberts, the father of Reaganomics and Assistant Treasury Secretary under Reagan, has written a series of essays repenting for the economic and social policies that he and his party have implemented over the past of 30 years.
There are objective political factors with which the GOP establishment have come to terms with. Though the George W. Bush administration was the most right wing and reactionary administration in nearly a century, it was the first administration that reflected the contemporary demographics of the country. Bush appointed Colin Powell, the first Black Secretary of State. He also appointed Condoleezza Rice, the first Black and woman as National Security Advisor who was subsequently promoted to Secretary of State. Bush also appointed Alberto Gonzalez, the first Latino Attorney General. While many believed that these appointments were merely cynical and opportunistic, if not hypocritical window dressing, there were in fact, real political calculations behind them. The Republican Party suffers from a gender and racial gap vis-a-vis the Democrats. Women have been, generally speaking, alienated by the Republican party’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and the right of reproductive choice. George W. Bush barely received 10% of the Black vote. On the evening of the 2002 Midterm elections, one prominent South Carolina Republican politician noted his party’s failure to win 10% of the Black vote in a state where they comprise 30% of the population. He warned that the GOP had to attract Black voters or else the party would vanish within 20 years. Moreover, the Latino vote, particularly in Florida and Texas, had boosted the fortunes of the party during the Bush years, only to abandon it in droves in 2008. The lost of that vote was, in large measure, due to the party’s scapegoating of and criminalization of Latinos as illegal immigrants and unwelcome in the country.
The Tea Party movement foreshadows ominous political developments for the Republican Party as well as for the country as a whole. The statements of Frum and other senior GOP figures signify the coming division and possible break up of the party. The Tea Party may propel the GOP to to victory this year but the battle lines are being drawn. What is certain, however, is that the United States is fast approaching political turbulence which will have unknown knock on effects for both the Democrats and Republicans.