Tea partiers hope to make impact in 2013

Tea party presses on after election losses

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Despite a drop in popularity since its high point in the 2010 midterm elections, the tea party has stood by their policies and hopes to make an impact in the 113th Congress. (Source: GRU) Despite a drop in popularity since its high point in the 2010 midterm elections, the tea party has stood by their policies and hopes to make an impact in the 113th Congress. (Source: GRU)
Dr. Oliver McGee is the author of 'Jumping the Aisle: How I Became a Republican in the Age of Obama.' (Source: Oliver McGee) Dr. Oliver McGee is the author of 'Jumping the Aisle: How I Became a Republican in the Age of Obama.' (Source: Oliver McGee)

(RNN) - It's not surprising the political pendulum has swung back and forth between the two major parties during the past few election cycles.

Democrats had considerable momentum after the 2008 election, but conservatism curtailed that political energy soon after President Barack Obama took his oath of office in 2009.

The "tea party" was at the forefront of this new conservative surge. Supporters of the movement defined it as a "reaction of the American people to fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government, misguided stimulus spending, bailouts and takeovers of private industry."

Its prestige on the national stage, along with its candidates, took a hit in 2012. But members still have a focused message as Obama starts his second term and Congress marks its 113th session.

Although the tea party is not an independent political party, many of the movement's characteristics are based on Republican and Libertarian ideals. Most tea party candidates appear on ballots as Republicans.

"The tea party raises the conversation about smaller, less bureaucratic, and entrepreneurial-minded government," said Republican commentator and author Oliver McGee. "They simply don't want the federal government running like the post office."

McGee is the author of Jumping the Aisle: How I Became a Black Republican in the Age of Obama.

According to McGee, many of the tea party's primary goals deal with lower taxes, reduced spending and debt reduction. It has also caused others to focus on their interpretation of certain American rights.

"The Constitutional principles are alive and well, from gun control to states rights to the Grand Old Party principles of low government and low taxes," McGee said. "More people are carrying the Constitution with them as a result of the tea party movement."

McGee added the tea party also continues to make national security one of its major legislative interests, supporting legislation that prioritizes a strong national defense.

"This also involves creating a new supply of education capable of managing a strong defense, particularly in the advances of technology, engineering and mathematics," McGee said.

However, the tea party's taxation and budgeting goals have met their fair share of opposition.

A number of political action committees and liberal groups have been established to combat tea party goals. One of the most notable during the 2012 election season was Take Down the Tea Party Ten, a campaign spearheaded by CREDO SuperPAC.

"Two years ago, we witnessed the tea party's rise to power; the disturbing and misguided anger, the assault on the middle class badly masquerading as economic populism, and an alarming anti-woman sentiment that we literally could not believe was being so actively expressed in the year 2012," Take Down the Tea Party Ten said in a statement.

"We could not let this toxic ideology persist in our Congress. And on election night we dealt it a major blow."

Another complaint about the tea party is its set of 15 "non-negotiable core beliefs," a list of bullet points rounding up of the group's ideologies. Examples include "illegal aliens are here illegally," "gun ownership is sacred," and "English as our core language is required."

Take Down the Tea Party Ten had a simple goal: defeat 10 of the most "dangerous" tea party members of Congress. The group raised almost $3.5 million towards that campaign effort.

Five out of the 10 targeted congressmen were voted out of office on Election Day, including Rep. Alan West (FL-18), Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1), Rep. Chip Cravaack (MN-8), Rep. Joe Walsh (IL-8) and Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-3).

Take Down the Tea Party Ten was unable to unseat one of its most high profile targets - Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN-6). However, she won her bid for reelection against Democrat and hotel executive Jim Graves by slightly more than a percentage point, despite outspending him 12-to-1.

"Bachmann has worked to put Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block, but she and her husband operate a 'Christian counseling clinic' that has received more than $137,000 in federal Medicaid funds while practicing controversial and medically unsound ex-gay conversion therapy," Take Down the Tea Party Ten claimed.

The 10 targeted representatives were considered major players in the group, but the tea party leadership is decentralized.

"The tea party is not necessarily looking for one key leader like [Rep. John] Boehner or Obama," McGee said. "They have distributive leadership because freedom and independence themselves are decentralized."

Negative publicity became one of the largest hurdles for the tea party to overcome, as left-leaning super PACs, special interest groups and politicians publicly denounced its politicians' platforms.

Some members of the tea party had problems communicating their message effectively to the public as well. However, McGee said this is a struggle that many movements have faced.

"What [the tea party] is learning is the power of mass communication," he said. "America is ultimately about storytelling and how the message is being communicated. And [struggles] always happen when you look at movements."

Despite the loss of some of its most notable representatives, returning tea party members targeted by the liberal super PAC included Rep. Steve King (IA-4), Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-6), Rep. Jim Renacci (OH-16), Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-7), and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8).

These congressmen, joined by other lawmakers who share the tea party's ideologies, will likely push for legislation that embodies their values in the 113th Congress.

Several tea party congressmen did not return requests for an interview, including Rep. Bill Cassidy (LA-6) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-1).

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