When South Carolina senator Jim DeMint made the stunning announcement that he would resign from Congress to lead conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, it represented a major blow to the beleaguered Tea Party movement. Not long ago the dominant force in the Republican Party, the group now struggles both in the polls and at the ballot box. DeMint support every far out idea that the Tea Party wing of the GOP could fulminate. He has been a “birther” and a flat-earth thinker for years. He denies Darwin, he supports “Creationism” and has been at the forefront of anti-worker, anti-women and anti- minority rights. He’s the poster child for State’s Rights and Jim Crow.
But DeMint’s departure may be the least of the right wing’s problems. Here are five more signs that the Tea Party’s time may be up: The 2012 elections were tough on the Tea Party’s favorite congressmen. Although creative gerrymandering protected the GOP’s congressional majority, voters sent Allen West, Joe Walsh, and several other high-profile Tea Partiers packing on November 6th. Michelle Bachmann barely escaped being defeated and misogynist GOP candidates like Akins and Mourdock were soundly defeated.
Those Tea Partiers who survived the election may not like the Congress they return to. House Speaker John Boehner is consolidating his power by removing Tea Party favorites David Schweikert (R-AZ), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and Justin Amash (R-MI) from their plum committee assignments — and has also served notice that other Reps. who aren’t “team players” could suffer a similar fate. The GOP must make up its mind whether it wants to be a 19th Century party dominated by an anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-women, anti-education, anti-minority block of intolerant troglodytes. Can the GOP sustain itself, while active members of its right-wing bloc advocate: secession, impeachment of the president, bigotry, xenophobia and gun worship?
FreedomWorks — one of the largest and most influential Tea Party groups in the country — faces an uncertain future after its chairman, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, left the group due to a bitter dispute with its president, Matt Kibbe. When will the Tea Party understand that its far out issues are not really supported by the power brokers who fund GOP-leaning Super PACS. The billionaires support none of their social issues, but only want Congressional leverage for deregulation and low or no taxes. Armey will be fine — he is reportedly receiving an $8 million golden parachute on his way out — but after FreedomWorks’ highly unsuccessful 2012 results, the same can’t be said with certainty about the Tea Party PAC.
Without active promotion from Fox News, the Tea Party would literally not exist. After Fox and the rest of the right-wing media epically blew their electoral predictions, however, some Republicans — such as Bruce Bartlett and David Frum — have turned against the “conservative entertainment complex.”
As Bartlett wrote, “Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing [in 2012] or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.” If more Republicans figure out that they’ve been lied to, then the Tea Party will be dead in the water (maybe that’s why Fox banished failed pundits Dick Morris and Karl Rove).
The only factor more vital to the Tea Party’s success than Fox News is the financial backing of Charles and David Koch — and the billionaire brothers may be throttling back from the Tea Party movement. In an interview with Forbes, Charles Koch claimed that the brothers will spend the next year fighting against corporate welfare (hardly an issue that animates the Republican Party).
The Kochs have no intention of giving up the fight long term — David Koch told Forbes that “We’re going to fight the battle as long as we breathe” — but that may actually be a bad thing for the health of the Tea Party movement. After all, Koch-backed candidates failed miserably in the 2012 elections.
Remarkably, the Tea Party Republicans have now alienated their party’s most important constituency — the upper echelon of the business community. It is a profound irony that the issue raising friction between these politicians and their erstwhile backers is a fanatical partisan determination to defend the tax benefits enjoyed by those same wealthy executives.
The president’s opponents are backing themselves into a corner where even their own old friends cannot defend them. Meanwhile Obama may finally have learned that if he stands firm and refuses to negotiate with himself, he can win over public opinion and break the partisan obstructionism.