The Five Major Accomplishments Of The Tea Party

The Five Major Accomplishments Of The Tea Party

On the bloody battlefields of World War II, soldiers would refer to a confusing, messy, and all-out hopeless situation as a “clusterfuck“. It is perhaps appropriate then that this word has become the most apt in describing modern American politics—the only difference is the House of Representatives doesn’t get as bloody as we might like it to. So it was something of a relief when the Tea Party showed up.

Regardless of one’s political affiliations, at least here was a pure, grass roots (cough) manifestation of the people’s frustration at their cynical, self-serving representatives. For a while leading up to the 2010 midterm elections, it seemed as if something akin to a third political party had finally emerged in American politics. Of course, everyone regarded this as more of a schism in the Republican Party than a legitimate uprising, but actions speak louder than Reuters’ polls, so why don’t we look at what the improbably-elected “Tea Party Candidates” have managed to accomplish.

Accomplishment Number One: Nothing. (No, Seriously).

It’s astounding how similar the Tea Party revolution is to the phenomenon of Republican schizophrenia manifesting as inaction. But if you’re a politician who rode to prominence on the back of a mantra of “as little government as possible and probably even less than that” this is actually quite a victory. In the past decade, the US government has begun one of the most expensive and protracted military campaigns in recent history, spent billions under both Democrats and Republicans to fund healthcare, both parties have signed off on sweeping encroachments of civil liberties, and the Supreme Court recently decided the sound of a toilet flushing is just cause for cops to search your house.

If you’re a normal, jaded person who thinks our politicians are less evil, conniving masterminds, and more greedy, incompetent or blindly ideological, this phenomenon has a pretty logical explanation: In an environment where you have to prove to an incredibly fickle and vindictive boss (i.e. the American People) that you’re doing your job well, it’s easier to pass some ham-fisted legislation than argue the sociological, economic, and, not to mention, Constitutional implications of legislation. You just want to have the shiniest gold star come Election Day, even if it’s built on the corpses of citizens’ privacies or Iraqi civilians. Granted there are still a multitude of problems out there that the government is uniquely suited to ameliorate, but viewed in the context of the past decade maybe the American government could afford to take five.

Maybe we can all take the possible impending government shut down as a breather and calmly discuss the nuances of some of our more intractable social ills right guys? … guys?

Accomplishment Number Two: Increasing Government Power

Tea Party Protest 1984

Of the many baffling political mantras that have been bandied about recently, one that still rings true was uttered by Lord Acton more than a century ago: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” So it should come as no surprise that—after an election season of blood-curdling screams to keep the government out of everything—members of both parties, and several prominent Tea Party politicians, sat down and quietly voted to renew the Patriot Act.

Accomplishment Number Three: Pressuring Republicans to do Some Crazy and Not-So-Crazy Things

As much as Democrats get pigeon-holed as tax-and-spend libertines and Republicans get cast as war-mongering budget-be-damned-let’s-bomb-that-country, let’s be honest for a second: neither party is serious about reducing the budget deficit. Neither party will touch entitlements, Republicans think everything can be solved with tax cuts, Democrats think everything can be solved by taxing the rich, and Libertarians are off in some fantasy land where you can slash Medicare and still get elected. But the heavily Tea Party-influenced Paul Ryan budget (as flawed as it was) was one of the first serious moves to address the astronomical growth in Medicare in decades, and it would have never come about without the libertarian shift the Tea Party has brought to the Republican Party.

That’s enough of the sanity, let’s get to the crazy: the Tea Party is one of the biggest Republican constituencies behind the move to not raise the debt ceiling. There is an argument that not raising the debt ceiling will force Washington to get serious about getting the federal budget under control. The people that argue this have apparently never bothered to talk to a single economist or anyone in the financial industry. The truth is, as politically attractive as this option sounds, it is difficult to express how absolutely catastrophic it would be for the American, and the world, economy. In a word: great for business.

To put it mildly, in 2008 Republicans were suffering from something of an image problem. They were viewed as having started an expensive, unnecessary war and also there was something about the global economy collapsing to a degree not seen for almost a century (though to be fair, that was kind of everyone’s fault). To Republican analysts, the Tea Party was a much-needed rebranding that energized the base and allowed them to comfortably disown all that pesky deficit growing they did in the Aughts.

In 2010, Democrats were suffering from the “honeymoon is over we need to decide who takes out the garbage” phase of election cycles. Hope and Change have this annoying semantic quality that they’re incredibly useless once you actually have to solve legislative problems. But then the Tea Party came along, and they got the chance to have yet another Hope and Change hater to demonize. Not only that, but (depending on which analyst you ask) the Tea Party prevented the inevitable midterm incumbent backlash from overtaking the Senate by nominating candidates who disliked down-home American values like Baseball, Apple Pie, and, of course, Reality.

Accomplishment Number Five: Being Amusingly Insane

Let’s start this one by dealing with two issues. First, politicians are often portrayed as bumbling morons, but most of them are relatively savvy, intelligent individuals dealing with incredibly fickle politics and the complexity of the American political/media establishment (we hope). As much as Americans like to think that anyone could be President, and that you could pluck someone off the street and make them a Senator, the reality is we’re all human, and good politicians are just especially proficient at manipulating peoples’ perception of them.

Second, and more importantly, an individual citizen one has little to no ability to influence the course of politics (unless you’re fabulously wealthy). Let’s face it, most political arguments are an exercise in self-indulgence; we talk about “insane” politicians in the same way that we talk about “those crazy people on reality shows that make us feel better about ourselves”. So to most people, politics is a source of entertainment, and in that vein, the Tea Party delivers in spades. Whether you’re a fan of Christine O’Donnell’s Troll Face and her hilarious crusade against masturbation, or the endless litany of amateurish Tea Party politician gaffes, there’s no denying that comparing abortion to making lemonade out of lemons as Sharron Angle did or saying that black people underperform in school because they know the government will take care of them like Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern. is a hilarious exercise in black humor and also a depressing, crushing example of both why we feel like the change that the Tea Party represents is necessary to American politics and why Lord Acton was so right and maybe we should just watch Jersey Shore instead of C-SPAN.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Counting to 5. You can’t do it.

  2. Aaron says:

    Did you intentionally skip #4?

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  13. Aaron says:

    Hahaha oh man what an idiot. So now a vet doesn’t deserve his benefits for serving his country? Ungrateful man. Disgusting. How does a milti year unemployment recipient deserve healthcare, and a retired patron is put on the same level? He talks about people being ignorant, but he doesn’t pay attention to the things coming out of his own mouth. Not saying all tea party people are perfect, but hey, their principles are right, and this free roller coaster for poor people needs to end. The debt that this loved Obama care incurs will be devastating. The stupid small fee and tax taken out will never make up for the actual cost of this damned bill, and it will become a money pit that spirals out of control. But hey, free stuff, yay for free stuff right?? We should just deport all the stupid lazy people in the country and be done with it.

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