For all of the misunderstandings, missteps, and missed opportunities of the Tea Party since 2009, their demise only leaves us status quo politics
Some of you are excited because of the recent results from the primary elections going on around the country. With high-profile losses of many Tea Party favorites through 2014 coming on the heels of 2012’s Republican woes, you believe that it may be finally be happening:
The Tea Party is going away.
To many of you, you’re saying it’s finally going away…and good riddance.
However, I ask you to think about what that means, even if you don’t want to think about the Tea Party message or movement.
Even with Tea Party-generated excitement, only 60% of America was willing to vote in the November 2012 election (down from just 4 years prior) and usually only 20% of Americans willing to participate in primary elections on average. One could argue that the Tea Party Movement and the involvement it triggered highlighted our pride in getting people invested in politics as a nation. The “return of normalcy” in American politics may actually do just the opposite of what we need today in the absence of the Tea Party Movement.
For all of the disdain that is directed at the Tea Party Movement and for all of its merits and misgivings, its existence since 2009 prompted many more Americans to get involved, challenge the status quo, and make a notable difference in the political discussions about American civics today. The movement came into existence as a result of the pre-2009 political landscape, complete with government failings at all levels that made us cringe on a regular basis. Both liberals and conservatives alike responded to the surge prompted by Tea Party-led protests and comments throughout the nation. People re-engaged politics as a result, leading to big victories for sides in 2010 (for conservatives) and 2012 (for liberals).
Further, with every questionable law presented by this new movement of lawmakers (e.g., vaginal ultrasounds for pre-abortion screenings), there has also been a noteworthy re-focus on meaningful issues (e.g,, reduction of the excessive taxation and deficit spending).
And, yes, before the Tea Party became a big-ticket item, it was a true grassroots movement that drove the apathetic to the polls for the first time in decades – on both sides of the aisle. In many ways, that grassroots feel is still around, although it has clearly been trumped in many ways bybig organizations and big rhetoric from the right-wing.
The 5-year run of the Tea Party element within American politics has had a measure of success not captured by the political left, Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement, or any other major political up-swell in quite some time. The failure of having a Tea Party-modeled movement in America – one that is centered around a common set of principles versus just a one-issue push – only leaves us with the same stale model of politics where decades-tenured politicians bequeath their offices to relatives and long-time loyalists through the power of incumbency, voter apathy, and lack of term limits. That model of politics brought us to the birth of the Tea Party by way of a cronyism-fueled financial crash and decades of political corruption ranging from small-town councilmen to mayors and Speakers of the House.
Granted, we do not need any more comments concerning “legitimate rape” or the occasional racism found by some within the once-huge crowds at Tea Party rallies. That said, we do need to continue the bottom-up approach to political activism, engagement, education, and participation that the Tea Party Movement brought out of many of us nationally – both those within the conservative movement as well as those viewing things from a different perspective through our agreement or opposition to this movement. Ruing the Tea Party to the point of celebrating its apparent demise may leave us all ruing the day that this movement faded for good – especially if the void is filled by the previous levels of voter apathy, political oligarchy, and government ineffectiveness that brought us to this point in the first place.
Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit hosts and produces NightTalk: Get to the Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel on Friday nights. He is also a host at Newsradio 1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh. You can follow the former WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM host on Twitter and Facebook.