Well there you have it, another onetime Tea Party favorite has dropped out of the 2012 race to be America’s president thereby shrinking the field of “viable” candidates that a Tea Party true believer could vote for this coming November. In fact one should even ask the question of whether or not there is a candidate still in the race that a true Tea Party member could legitimately support. Political columnist E.J. Dionne, to some degree, asked a similar question in: “Where are the Republican populists?” Quoting Dionne: “Members of the Tea Party insisted they were turning the GOP into a populist, anti-establishment bastion. Social conservatives have long argued that values and morals matter more than money. Yet in the end, the corporate and economically conservative wing of the Republican Party always seems to win.” That will leave members of the movement with a truly tough choice this November: Is there any candidate left in the race for which a real Tea Party supporter could vote without a compromising of one’s principles? Unless a third party candidate favorable to the Tea Party emerges, not exactly a development that would guarantee victory, the choices available to Tea Party members will be reduced to voting for a moderate Republican in Mitt Romney, not voting, giving up on the presidency and hoping that a rear guard electoral effort will maintain the House Tea Party Caucus or voting for Obama as a protest. The last choice is something the true believers would never do.
Presently it appears that rank and file Tea Party members have already started to compromise their principles. A recent Boston Globe article, “Tea Party’s opposition to Romney weakens” states: “The Tea Party and its dislike of the Massachusetts health care plan and Romney’s moderate record as Bay State governor were considerable impediments to his candidacy throughout 2011. But none of the Tea Party’s darlings – Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, or Gingrich – has been able to sustain a surge, highlighting limitations of a nascent movement that couldn’t extend its 2010 congressional successes onto the presidential stage…The latest polls suggest a good number of Tea Party supporters are getting behind the party’s most likely nominee [Romney], despite qualms about his record, because their overriding goal is removing Obama from the White House.” Likewise, just as the G.O.P.’s 2012 field is unsettled so are members of the Tea Party when it comes to who they currently support: “CBS reports that voters who identify with the Tea Party movement are similarly divided, with 29 percent supporting Romney, 28 percent supporting Gingrich, 18 percent supporting Santorum, and 12 percent supporting Paul.”
The fact that almost one third of the Tea Party members are backing Romney shows just how far principles on the hard right have eroded at this point in time. Likewise real conservatives would take umbrage with Newt Gingrich’s claim that he is the only true conservative in the race. Gingrich has a track record of clashing with conservatives on many issues. He called Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget reform ideas “right-wing social engineering”, has supported health care insurance mandates, been rather liberal in his views on accommodating illegal immigrants, admitted that climate change is real and needs to be addressed and even criticized the far right publicly on the issue of ideological purity saying: “You can have a very, very intense movement at 20 percent. You can’t govern. To govern, you’ve got to get 50 percent plus one after the recount.” And now in what could be a Herman Cain like moment Gingrich’s second wife is going public in her criticism of him in an expose that is hardly flattering and which will do nothing to endear him to social conservatives, particularly women.
Thus for the Tea Partiers we’re down to just two alternatives, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. If Ron Paul is anything it’s unelectable. His isolationist stance on foreign involvement and libertarian views on drug use are an anathema to the Republican establishment and most likely to the majority of the electorate as well. Paul’s libertarian views can be summarized as follows: “Paul believes: Gays should be allowed to marry; America’s foreign policy contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks; U.S. defence spending should be slashed by 15%; Drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine should be decriminalized, and the United States should not come to Israel’s aid if it starts a shooting war with Iran.” With views like these we can effectively dismiss Ron Paul as a serious candidate for president.
That leaves us with Santorum and his acceptability to the Tea Party. One problem Santorum has always had is that he’s been a one trick pony, his overarching theme has been one of social values, something that helped him tremendously in Iowa. “CBS News entrance polling showed that Tea Party conservatives who participated in the caucuses largely supported Santorum. Among those who said they support the Tea Party movement, 29 percent caucused for him, compared with 19 percent for Paul and 19 percent for Mitt Romney.” But Iowa is atypical of the larger political landscape, its whiter, more evangelical, less urban and less affected by the Great Recession due to a strong demand for its agricultural produce. Just how well do the Tea Partiers know Rick Santorum? Since Iowa it’s come out that he was a master at earmarking federal largesse for western Pennsylvania, supported Medicare Part D, was a regular supporter of foreign aid and voted for No Child Left Behind, a federal program that “greatly expanded the federal government’s role in education.” Referencing a Ron Paul advertisement, Santorum is “another serial hypocrite who can’t be trusted.” It targets Santorum for voting five times to raise the debt ceiling, voting in favor of the notorious “bridge to nowhere,” and taking lobbyist cash, among other things.”
A good synopsis of Rick Santorum’s career on Capitol Hill can be found in Sheryl Stolberg’s recent article “Santorum Rose Quickly From Reformer to Insider” Quoting Stolberg: “But a look at the arc of Mr. Santorum’s political career, from his days as a fresh-faced College Republican to his bruising defeat for a third term in 2006, reveals a side of Mr. Santorum beyond that of reformer and abortion foe. He emerges as a savvy operator and sharp tactician, a climber who became a member of the Washington establishment that he had once railed against.” Thus can any true believer in the principles of the Tea Party movement consider Rick Santorum to be a bona fide upholder of the movement’s agenda? Not really. Does Santorum fit the description of a Beltway outsider who can be trusted to champion the agenda of the Tea Party movement? Not in the least, that is, if you want to be honest about whom Santorum is and what his past track record is all about. Once you peel the onion down a few layers past the exterior of standing up for family values what you’re left with is a professional politician and that’s hardly in line with the general tenor of the Tea Party movement.
Conservative columnist David Brooks points out much of what comprises Santorum’s world view is not exactly congruent with Tea Party principles. ”His worldview is not individualistic. His book, “It Takes a Family,” was infused with the conservative wing of Catholic social teaching. It was a broadside against Barry Goldwater-style conservatism in favor of one that emphasized family and social solidarity. While in Congress, he was a leader in nearly every serious piece of antipoverty legislation…He is not a representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party. Santorum certainly wants to reduce government spending. He certainly wants tax reform. But he goes out of his way in his speeches to pick fights with the “supply-siders.” Now many on the far right consider Brooks a “progressive” Republican but few would say the same of Erick Erickson who runs the ultra-conservative political blog RedState and who’s article “What a Big Government Conservative Looks Like” states: “Rick Santorum is a pro-life statist. He is. You will have to deal with it. He is a big government conservative. Santorum is right on social issues, but has never let his love of social issues stand in the way of the creeping expansion of the welfare state. In fact, he has been complicit in the expansion of the welfare state… Santorum is a conservative. He is. But his conservatism is largely defined by his social positions and the ends to which government would be deployed. But he has chosen as the means to those conservative ends bigger government. We see big government conservatives most clearly when they deviate from the tireless efforts of people like Mike Pence and Jim DeMint and the others who were willing to oppose George W. Bush’s expansion of the welfare state. Rick Santorum was not among them.”
So with the abovementioned in mind, am I going out on a limb in pointing out that the Tea Party movement is effectively without a viable candidate for 2012? I don’t thinks so, not if by “viable” you mean a candidate that will put the principles of limiting big government’s influence in our daily lives at the forefront of their policy agenda and who actually has a chance at appealing to that vast raft of independent voters and being elected. If the CBS poll numbers are indicative of anything they show that three quarters of the Tea Party movement’s respondents are supporting a candidate other than one who espouses true Tea Party principles in either positions taken on past policy or personal behavior. Which get us back to E.J. Dionne: “Think about Romney’s rise in light of the overheated political analysis of 2010 that saw a Republican Party as being transformed by the Tea Party legions who, in alliance with an overlapping group of social and religious conservatives, would take the party away from the establishmentarians.
Certainly some of the movement’s failures can be attributed to a flawed set of competitors and the split on the right, especially Paul’s ability to siphon off a significant share of the Tea Party vote. That has made a consolidation of its forces impossible…But there is another possibility: that the GOP never was and never can be a populist party, that the term was always being misapplied, and that enough Republicans are quite comfortable with a Harvard-educated private-equity specialist.” If E.J. Dionne is correct, and I believe he is, then the members of the Tea Party movement have a rendevous with reality in Novemeber that will leave then feeling jilted with regard to having a true candidate in the race and, if a Republican wins the presidency, with having that old sinking feeling of having been used for their votes with little propsect of seeing their agenda advanced by the professional politicians who run the Republican Party.
Steven J. Gulitti
Perry suspends campaign, endorses Gingrich; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdvje9Fr-uY
What doomed Rick Perry’s campaign; http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/19/politics/perry-rise-fall/index.html
Where are the Republican populists; http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/romneys-rise-puts-the-lie-to-a-populist-gop/2012/01/18/gIQAoPqG9P_story.html
Tea Party’s opposition to Romney weakens; http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/01/19/opposition-from-tea-party-begins-fade-mitt-romney-gains-support-more-conservatives/JrU4fS9Gy5BF44dEfEkQoM/story.html
GOP Race Remains Fractured, Tea Party Supporters Divided: http://www.decodedscience.com/gop-race-remains-fractured-tea-party-supporters-divided/9673
Gingrich Has Record Of Clashing With The Right; http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/142868567/gingrich-has-record-of-clashing-with-the-right
Newt Gingrich wanted ‘open marriage,’ ex-wife says; http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/19/politics/gingrich-wife/index.html
Paul’s candidacy thrives on the unconventional; http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Paul+candidacy+thrives+unconventional/5776016/story.html
Can Rick Santorum claim the Tea Party mantle?; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57354522-503544/can-rick-santorum-claim-the-tea-party-mantle/
Santorum Rose Quickly From Reformer to Insider; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/us/politics/santorum-rose-quickly-from-reformer-to-insider.html?_r=1&hp
Workers of the World, Unite! http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/opinion/workers-of-the-world-unite.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
What a Big Government Conservative Looks Like; http://www.redstate.com/erick/2012/01/09/what-a-big-government-conservative-looks-like-2/
Rick Santorum and the Tea Party; http://thepoliticalzealot.com/2012/01/09/rick-santorum-and-the-tea-party/