Last night the "establishment" won and the tea party lost, for the most part. There were some primaries for house seats were tea party candidates won the nominations, but tea party candidates lost the big races. Mitch McConnell won handily in Kentucky beating Matt Bevin by 25 points. In Georgia, tea party favored candidate Karen Handel did not make it into the run-off. In Oregon, Monica Wehby took 51 percent
of the vote to defeat tea party favored candidate Rep. Jason Conger. In Idaho, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson easily defeated primary challenger Bryan Smith who was backed by The Club for Growth and other tea party PAC's.
I don't know enough about these races to know how I would have voted in each of them. In Oregon, I would have had a difficult time voting for a pro-abortion candidate. In Idaho, if Smith was a sensible conservative Republican, I would have probably supported him over Simpson who has a score of 46 from the American Conservative Union. However, without knowing more about each of the races, I don't know how I would have voted. Pundits this morning are saying that the more electable Republicans won and the Party is poised to have a good shot at picking up the six seats they need to take the Senate. I assume that is true and that is good news.
One thing that is a factor in how I vote and would be a factor if I resided in one of the state with a primary last night, is "electability." I would vote for a moderate Republican over a more conservative Republican if I was convinced the more moderate Republican had a considerably greater chance of winning the general election. I think there is nothing wrong with casting a strategic vote. Even a liberal Republican is a vote to replace Harry Reid, is a vote for all committees of the Senate to be controlled by Republicans, and even the most liberal Republican votes with the Party most of the time. Even a pro-abortion Republican puts Republicans in charge of the Senate and the Judiciary Committee, which advances the pro-life cause. It matter not only who serves, but which party governs.
Quite frankly, I think way to much is being made about a civil war in the Republican Party between "establishment" Republicans and "tea party Republican." When tea party favorite Rand Paul endorses Mitch McConnell, then it is time to bury the hatchet and end the civil war. The tea party has succeeding in electing some Republicans who were more conservative and in pushing some incumbent Republicans into taking more conservative positions and showing more backbone. Many of the "establishment Republicans" are now "tea party Republicans" and many tea party Republicans are now establishment Republicans.
I think there are some tea party organization who are in the battle to give themselves a job and stroke there own ego and would never be satisfied. There are some Republicans who so self righteous they think they are the only real Republicans and everyone else is a RINO. They are sort of like Christians counting angels on the head of a pin. Any deviation from their view of orthodoxy is heresy. They think all winners must be sell-outs. Their whole purpose for existence is to cast stones at the establishment and tout their purity. As the Party moves right, they move further right until they fall off the cliff. I think the more conservative the establishment Republicans become, the more fringe many of those who call themselves "tea party" become.
Not all by any means, but some in the tea party are so far outside the mainstream that they are a footnote in the political spectrum. There are the libertarians who have attached themselves to the tea party. Now, all conservative Republicans have some libertarian leanings. Libertarianism is a key component of the modern conservative movement, but there are those who are almost anarchist who believe in almost no government. These extreme libertarians have found a home in the tea party. Also, you have the conspiracy nuts and the tin foil hat crowd who believe that a cabal of "insiders" control everything and they worry excessively about FEMA concentration camps, and the NAFTA superhighway, and Agenda 21. The conspiracy of the month dominates their concern.
And, then you have a small faction that are the populist who hate big government, and big corporations, and big unions, and foreigners, and anything that smacks of being big, successful, or popular. They are the "anti's" and feel the world is passing them by and everyone else is getting a better deal than they. They are swayed by the politics of resentment. I suspect some of these people would be on the far left if they were not on the far right. They want to be part of a movement to make things right. They are not well grounded in what they believe and are low information voters and a nudge this way or that and they could be "occupy" rather than "tea party."
So, what will happen to the tea party movement? I don't think it will completely disappear anytime soon. However, it will become less and less significant. Here in Tennessee, the tea party challenger to Lamar Alexander believes in the discredited theory of nullification, believes the First Amendment does not apply to Muslims and believes the Second Amendment gives you the right to carry guns onto the private property of another who prefers a "no-guns" policy. Most conservatives do not believe those things. Sensible, intelligent conservatives will distance themselves from those who hold those views. Also, at some point those who believe in limited government and a strong national defense will distance themselves from those who believe in less than limited government and isolationism (or non-interventionist foreign policy, as the libertarian prefer to call it). Also, sensible conservatives will distance themselves from the John Birch Society and the nutty conspiracy theorist as happened once before in the conservative movement in the 60's.
Maybe some will still claim the name "tea party," but more and more, I suspect they will drop that label of identification. Those tea party organizations that were more mainstream conservative will survive but less and less will they attach the name "tea party" to their identity. There was a dynamic conservative movement before there was "tea party" and there will continue to be. The American Conservative Union, Heritage Foundation and National Review and dozens of others were active prior to the tea party. Some of the "tea party" groups that have sprouted up, such as Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity and others, will continue to be a healthy force contributing to the marketplace of ideas. They are not dependent upon their "tea party" label to stay viable. In essence, I think the "brand" tea party has been damaged and will slowly fade. Unless the label can be reclaimed, it will become something with which no responsible conservative wants to be associated.