Tea Party insurgency marches into key states
But will Tea Party protest energy help or hobble the Republican Party? They're challenging some GOP candidates and could split the vote in those races.
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“The American people are finally standing up and saying no to political correctness and no to the hijacking of our freedoms, liberty and our culture,” says Tea Party activist Lloyd Marcus. “It’s not about Republican or Democrat any more. It’s about character and principle.”Skip to next paragraph
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In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader John Boehner have both egged on the Tea Party activists, trying to “align the GOP with the protesters’ frustrations,” says the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s really interesting to see how the Republican party and its various entities try to sort of harness [the Tea Party movement],” says Andrew Moylan, government affairs manager at the National Taxpayers Union, which helped organize the 9/12 Tea Party protests in Washington. “The fact is it’s really grown and become an incredible force that we’re only now beginning to see the practical effects of.”
To be sure, some, moderate Republicans have started calling out their Tea Party wing (see Monitor writer Brad Knickerbocker’s take here) -- epitomized by Fox News’ Glenn Beck and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin -- as ultimately deleterious to the party’s chances to grab hold of key independent voters in swing states.
Risking the alienation of divided partisans is commonplace, history shows, when a particular party has suffered heavy defeat
“The people that get knocked off are your moderates and you become smaller and more ideologically extreme,” says Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the liberal New America Foundation and a Daily Beast columnist. “The Republicans are still early on in that process. They’re in a ditch, but they haven’t stopped digging yet.”
Pollsters say many Democratic lawmakers -- especially in blue states where Democrats made dramatic inroads last year -- are likely to be vulnerable in next year’s elections because of the growing deficit, unemployment, healthcare votes, and other hot-button issues facing the country.
Yet even six months ago, few political observers could have intuited the prairie fire speed and ferocity of the Tea Party movement -- or its already considerable impact on the national political debate and looming political races.
The 9/12 event in Washington, in particular, “was a landmark event,” says Mr. Moylan at the NTU.
Like the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, he says, “Here was this outgrowth of frustration about policies in the country and problems that were going on, a huge outpouring of people, and then they translated it into action. That’s going to be the measure of the Tea Party movement: How it can translate [protests] into action.”
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