The Tea Party movement is a major force in American politics because people are sick and tired of the tax-and-spend policies and crony capitalism of both political parties. Now we learn of the newly launched Conservative Victory Project that wants to push the Tea Party out and replace them with the failed strategies of 2008 and 2012.
After Election Night 2012, even some Tea Party members bought into the false narrative of devastating losses in the Tea Party’s conservative ranks. However, the Tea Party grew in Congress with the election of 27 new Tea Party conservatives to the House and three new Tea Party Senators. The movement again exhibited electoral strength even while the GOP establishment stumbled badly.
If the inappropriately named Conservative Victory Project were actually interested in victories and in conservatives, they would be pushing Republicans to embrace the pro-growth, fiscally economic messages of Tea Party leaders like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and others, who not only won impressive election victories, but also continue to articulate a conservative message that appeals to all Americans. The Conservative Victory Project would have likely supported the opponents of all of these great U.S. Senators.
If these establishment big donors want to see a real disaster, then all they have to do is push Tea Party conservatives into supporting alternative third candidates in competitive races or even tempt them to form a third party. In the general elections, responsible Tea Party leaders have supported establishment Republicans consistently after primaries, while moderates have been spotty at best in being loyal to conservative primary victors.
Establishment Republicans seem to prefer candidates like Florida’s ex-Governor who ran as an independent when he lost the primary. They thought highly of former Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana who refused to support the Republican nominee that defeated him. These are the same big donors in 1980 who rejected Ronald Reagan as a loser, while they supported John Connally, George H.W. Bush and Howard Baker instead. When Reagan won the nomination, many then supported third party candidate, liberal Republican Congressman John Anderson. Reagan defeated Anderson along with President Jimmy Carter in a landslide election.
They just need to look at the record in 2012 and see where their problems really reside. In the Senate, the Republicans drastically underperformed, even though eight of the nine new Senate Democrats faced the establishment-anointed candidates. In comparison, the three incoming Republicans – Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, and Deb Fischer - are not only strong fiscal conservatives, they are Tea Party darlings that have garnered national attention. So while the Republicans squandered an opportunity for a majority, the Tea Party amplified its voice and influence in the Upper Chamber.
What these big donors are unable to realize is that the people elect the candidates, not their flashy million dollar television advertisements. They wasted money on million dollar advertisements without resulting in a single noteworthy victory. If you don’t have a candidate that represents the electorate with a strong Tea Party message of economic growth and fiscal responsibility, it won’t matter how much you have to spend, because they won’t win.
Just look at the 2012 results in the House of Representatives we see an overwhelming success for Tea Party-backed candidates. The incoming freshman class includes 35 republicans, 27 of which are Tea Party conservatives. Though five replaced outgoing Tea Party members like Mike Pence and Ron Paul, the other 21 are brand new additions to the lower chamber’s Tea Party members.
The Tea Party movement’s success continues because it has been clear in its desire to restore economic sanity by curbing excessive spending and encouraging economic growth. Some Republicans, notably newly elected Senator Ted Cruz and 2010-elected Senator Marco Rubio, have been admirably trying to yank the Republican Party to a more inclusive political posture that is consistent with Tea Party ideas.
GOP insiders should stop pointing the finger at the Tea Party movement for the Republican’s own shortcomings, and instead listen to the likes of Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for a message that will appeal to 100% of Americans – instead of just 53% that were targeted in 2012. Not only will their message continue to see success at the ballot box, but their policies will move the country in the right direction.
Sal Russo is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee.