I led the discussion this week on Vanessa Williamson’s article, “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.” As an individual that has been around the Tea Party, I was happy to see the article stress the point the Tea Party is about reducing government spending. That’s its main goal.
I asked the class before I dove into discussion of the article what their thoughts on the Tea Party were before and after reading the article. The majority were surprised it wasn’t concerned with pushing a conservative social agenda. Most indicated the media caricaturizes the Tea Party negatively and harps it’s very socially conservative. Reading the article provided a new insight that they would not have otherwise obtained.
However, there is a tension that exists when dealing with the Tea Party, and we briefly touched on it. Though the group doesn’t espouse a conservative social agenda, most Tea Partiers are socially conservative. This presents a difficult situation.
The group focuses on reducing government spending and stands firm on an anti-regulation position. But what happens if a Tea Party candidate is elected to office? Take David Brat for example, the Tea Party supported candidate who ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor this past summer and won the general election last week. Brat claims he stands for the Republican, “creed – free markets, equal protection under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional restraint, strong military and belief in God (“Meet’).” Brat campaigned on economic freedom, but will his religious views have an effect on his policy decisions? This is where the tension lies.
There are institutions, Williams identifies, like FreedomWorks that focus solely on promoting economic freedom. But when the Tea Party helps get candidates elected to office, are they really separate from social issues? Will the Tea Party back a candidate that is for economic freedom, but also socially liberal or believes in social freedom? I think these are questions that have not yet been answered, because we haven’t really seen the Tea Party operate on a national scale.
And will the Tea Party even get a chance to operate on a greater scale? Given last week’s election, I think it’s safe to say the Tea Party is not fading away. The exit polls indicate the economy is the biggest issue on voter’s minds with 45% of the poll (“Exit Polls”). And David Brat winning was a huge success for the group, and evidence that the rest of the Republican Party needs to take notice.
The next decade is going to be very interesting as the tension with the Tea Party, and the tension between the Tea Party and the Republican Party comes to a head.
“Exit Polls.” The Washington Post. 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2014-midterms/exit-polls/
James, Frank. “Meet David Brat, The Giant Killer Who Knocked Off Eric Cantor.” NPR. 11 June 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
Williamson, Vanessa, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin. “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.” Perspectives on Politics 9.1 (2011): 25-43.