Begun as a loosely affiliated groundswell of Constitution-waving protesters in tri-cornered hats, the Tea Party movement is now starting to rock the political establishment in key arenas.
The growing numbers of Americans coming out to the Tax Day Tea Party, the Fourth of July Tea Parties, and then the 9/12 Tea Party march on Washington are going back to their home districts and keeping up — even intensifying — the fight for smaller government and more transparency on spending and taxation.
In places like New York, Florida, California, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, local, state, congressional, and gubernatorial seats are suddenly being tugged to-and-fro by the new and unruly political force.
The street energy is welcome for an otherwise moribund Republican party looking for new moorings amid a tumultuous electorate.
The downside is that early examples shows that, in the short run, Tea Party-sponsored candidates could make it more difficult for Republicans as they — Ross Perot-like — split races as they target both “tax and spend” Democrats and those they like to call RINOs, or “Republicans-in-name-only.”
There will be a few Democrats out there who catch on and realize that a pledge against taxes and for a balanced budget will bring them TEA Party support against any RINO who happens to garner a GOP nomination next year. There will be a lot more Republicans who figure this out. But there will be enough GOPers (and a vast number of Democrats) to remain clueless to make 2010 an interesting and impossible to predict year. I was figuring on a 30 seat GOP House gain – now, I haven’t a clue. Who knows whom the TEA Party will propel to the polls? I figure the GOP will still gain seats (more Democrats on the chopping block, mid-term of a new Presidency, economy shaky, etc), but my prediction now is an absurd 1 to 100…and 1 to 10 Senate Seats.
While some in the establishment wring their hands and worry that these TEA Partiers – who lack proper, professional, elite leadership – simply won’t know that they are not smart enough to influence politics, I’m delighted with it. It’ll be one heck of a rollicking, seat-of-the-pants political year…and we’ll be changed as a nation, after it.