Tea Party Purists?

Apparently, the national presidential election is over, there is no mandate, the whining and gloating has not stopped, and some conservative columnists are slamming the tea party movement for a big slice of the reason why Mitt Romney was defeated. Why?

Oh, sure, there are voting irregularities around, but that is not what cost Romney the election. First of all, only one time in recent memory has a challenger been able to unseat the incumbent, a monstrous task given the sitting candidate can spend much of the current term politicking, the opponent has to go through the primary wars, then, in only six weeks attempt to convince voters. Reagan did it against Jimmy Carter,  but that’s it insofar as modern times are concerned.

Look at some statistics just to demonstrate what it takes to win a partisan political battle. (Figures vary, depending upon source.) As of June 2012, about 207 million folks are eligible to vote in the United States. However, only about 169 million are actually registered, 86 million Democrats, 55 million Republicans, and 28 million others (independents, Libertarians, etc.). I don’t know how you calculate, but it looks to me like either major party MUST garner the support of the ‘other’ voters in order to win, even though, theoretically, the Democrats have 51% of the total registrations.

Everyone has a theory why Romney lost. “Romney was the perfect candidate, and he was the president this country needed right now”, said Ann Coulter in her November 9, 2012, column. In the same column, Coulter inferred conservative “purists” were a major stumbling block for the Republicans, causing Romney to lose. Coulter held up senate candidates Todd Akin, of Missouri, and Richard Mourdock, of Indiana, as examples of “purist grand-standers [who] came along and announced insane positions with no practical purpose whatsoever, other than showing off”, inferring they set back the pro-life movement with their comments. “In order to be pro-life badassses, they [Adkin and Mourdock] gave up two easy-win Republican Senate seats. No law is ever going to require a woman to bear the child of her rapist…but, sentient human beings are capable of drawing gradations along a line,” Coulter wrote. She, however, agrees abortion should be illegal, except in the cases of rape, etc.

Clearly the point of Coulter’s column is simply: You cannot win the support of others to your candidate with hard lines drawn in the sand, or with single causes.

Another conservative columnist friend of mine, Gary Gerard, Warsaw (IN) Times-Union, said this: “The Tea Party wants to shrink the tent. Nobody left of hard right gets in. And if you don’t like it, too damn bad. That’s no way to run a party. And, that’s no way to win elections.”  ( Find it here:  http://www.timesuniononline.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=69846&SectionID=76&SubSectionID=339&S=1  ) “The burning question: Why in the world would voters think the status quo is better than the alternative? I think a significant part of the answer involves the Tea Party.” Gerard clearly blames strident tea party folks for voters retaining Obama in the oval office, the House with a GOP majority, and the Senate with a lock-jawed Democrat majority = Stalemate.

“Polling shows the Tea Party already has lost half its followers because of its incessant demands for conservative ideological purity among Republicans. It seems the Tea Party spends more time and effort targeting Republicans than Democrats in their quest to hold politicians accountable,” Gerard contends.

These two columnists, who write for broad consumption rather than for a conservative publication or electronic media, plainly believe narrowly defined conservative ‘purity’ rather than striking a more palatable position somewhere center right is the reason the tea party movement could not win the “big one”. Neither of these writers suggest the grassroots folks in the tea party should abandon principles, but need to work as groups of inclusion rather than exclusion. Like it or not, politics is not fashioned from strident or unyielding positions. In the two examples above (Akin and Mourdock) the men would have been better served to simply keep their collective mouths closed, other than to say they agreed with the vast majority of Americans that abortion should be outlawed except in the instances of rape, incest, or, to save the life of the mother. That could have resulted in their election to the Senate without abandoning principles.

Perhaps American voters feared unbending, intolerance more than keeping the same occupant in the White House and the deadlocked Congress. Additionally, tea party leaders may need to read up on basic public relations techniques if they intend to win elections in the future.

It is import to remember America’s demographics are rapidly changing, regardless if you think that is good or bad. Waging a successful political campaign must change as well…but, that’s just one opinion.