Widgets Magazine


More tea, anyone?

News anchors and political cartoonists have made absolute hay of the results of the Republican primary elections in various states throughout the nation. As GOP “establishment” candidates such as Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn coasted to victory, many smugly concluded that the Tea Party had officially run dry, with nothing but the dregs of a would-be movement for consolation.

But people like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were declaring the Tea Party “dead” in 2012, and though they may be re-energized by the results at the polls, they are just as wrong now as they were then.

For one, it is the general consensus that the GOP as a whole has been forced to the right by the Tea Party. Gone, reports The Wall Street Journal, are the days when “compromise with Democrats wasn’t viewed with such deep suspicion.” No, a quick return to unabashed Bush-era government spending and growth would not go unnoticed, and it would be foolish for the Republican Party to forget that it was only by voting down debt ceilings that they were able to satiate the Tea Party’s thirst for principled conservatism—a thirst that, I contend, reflects the views of the Republican base.

In reality, this shift could be considered the Tea Party’s greatest victory of all. While it’s all good and fun to be the ideological purists on the fringe, the goal of any national movement is to garner popular support and enact lasting change. What many forget is that the Tea Party is a revival of conservative ideology, not an actual party. The establishment can only gloat so much when they are being stiff-armed into adopting their opponents’ positions.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that the Republican Civil War is far from over. Tea Party favorite Ben Sasse easily won the nomination to represent Nebraska in the U.S. Senate, as did House candidate Alex Mooney of West Virginia. In Mississippi last week, a poll showed Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel (who had been trailing his opponent just weeks before) leading 36-year incumbent Thad Cochran.

Last night in Texas, the core of any Republican Electoral College majority, the Tea Party had something of a sweep, defeating establishment candidates in House, lieutenant governor and attorney general races.

Even the American public seems at least open to the possibility of more Tea. Senator Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling who consistently wins or ties for first in polls predicting the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has already shown he can give Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Paul beats the ex-Secretary of State in hypothetical setups in battleground states such as Colorado and New Hampshire, and in his own home state of Kentucky garners a surprisingly large 29 percent of the African American vote.

Granted, Hillary currently trounces Paul 50-41 in nationwide polls, but this is hardly compelling evidence of a declining Tea Party. Even Ted Cruz, who takes a softer stance on some of the more libertarian positions of his Kentucky counterpart, scrapes together 38 percent of the vote to Hillary’s 52 percent. Fringe movements can only be considered so fringe when they have the potential to garner nearly half of the nation’s support.

The next few weeks and months will tell whether the movement is truly losing steam, as Tea Party heroes such as Justin Amash and Kerry Bentivolio face the wrath of a well-funded, organized Republican establishment. For now, the options before the GOP are clear: Drink the tea or make way for someone who will. Simply ignoring the elephant in the room is just as dangerous an option now as it ever has been.

Josh Jones, incidentally, does not drink tea. But if you think he’s drinking the Kool-Aid, shoot him an email at jjones5@stanford.edu.

About Josh Jones

Josh Jones is a libertarian-leaning columnist for The Stanford Daily and serves as Executive Editor of The Stanford Review. The son of a Marine, Josh has lived in various places around the globe, but usually identifies as a Southern Californian. While he enjoys reading, writing, and exercising, he believes that God and family are the true sources of happiness in his life. He plans to major in Public Policy and attend law school.
  • It is a delight for anyone who is invited for a tea party.