Updated: October 21, 2013 2:12PM
For months the Tea Party was viewed by America as a victim of harassment from the Internal Revenue Service. Now it’s seen as a gang of extremists shooting for a government shutdown. IRS honcho Lois Lerner, a prime suspect in the IRS persecution, must be celebrating while on her extended paid vacation, er, administrative leave.
ObamaCare is imploding with evidence mounting daily that it’s destroying jobs, turning full-time work into part-time labor and threatening millions of Americans’ current health coverage, so much so that it’s provoked a revolt among the big labor unions. Tea Party members of Congress push an ObamaCare defunding measure sure to fail in the Senate and move the spotlight to the odds of closing down Washington. The White House must be chortling.
An election cycle is looming where Democrats have to defend more U.S. Senate seats than Republicans, raising GOP hopes of winning a majority and taking control of Capitol Hill. Rather than aim for that, the Tea Party backs 2014 primary challenges to incumbents who fail its purity test such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander. There and elsewhere prospects are ripe for nomination of candidates like the former witch and “legitimate rape” fringe figures who doomed previous GOP majority hopes and even turned over seats to Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a beneficiary of that kind of candidate in his last re-election, can only marvel at his luck.
Approval ratings of the Republican Party are on the rise. Yet, every gauge of public opinion points to a disaster from a government shutdown to GOP standing, even raising the prospects of Republicans losing the House next year. President Barack Obama must be rubbing his hands in glee at the chance of united Democratic rule on Capitol Hill passing his left-wing agenda of social justice and economic redistributive legislation.
The Tea Party has brought to the GOP energy, enthusiasm, a focus on fundamental principles and a commitment to liberty. What it hasn’t learned is that those attributes aren’t enough to change fundamentally the leftward course Obama is charting for America. While the Tea Party caucus can block bad legislation, it can’t pass good laws without majorities on both sides of the Hill. That requires building coalitions with moderates like Graham and Alexander and even liberal GOP voters who share its conservative economic goals but not all its social values.
The IRS persecution of conservatives should serve as a warning to the Tea Party of the danger of the left-wing dominance of the permanent government of tax collectors and regulators. Only the strong counter-balance of a conservative majority in Congress can challenge this threat to free political discourse. American liberalism, after initial feints at outrage, views the IRS offenses as a “phony scandal,” exposing as hollow the left’s commitment to civil rights beyond its allegiance to identity politics.
The Tea Party base applauds suicide missions like a government shutdown over ObamaCare. Now that the IRS has given them a taste of the stakes involved, Tea Party leaders need to persuade their followers of the need to find a path to being part of a governing majority.