Ted Cruz and Tea Party Wag Republican Dog

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Talk about a Faustian bargain.  

Not long ago, Republicans heralded the Tea Party movement that was born out of the February 2009 rant of CNBC's Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and which quickly aligned itself with the Republican party.  The movement helped Republicans score big wins in the November 2010 mid-term elections and seemed to set them up for bigger and more victories.

To see what happened, read below. But now familiarity seems to have bred contempt, and it seems that the mainline Republican party is looking at the Tea Party much the way the Jets looked at Tim Tebow – until this morning.

Abby Rapoport writes in The American Prospect today that a new, 43-page study out of the College of William and Mary, Republican Factionalism and Tea Party Activists, shows that “the constituency isn't going away any time soon-and Republicans hoping the activists will begin to moderate their stances should prepare for disappointment.”

Summarizing the study, Rapoport makes three core points:

1. Tea Party activists are not Republicans.

2. Tea Party activists aren't nearly as concerned about winning.

3. Attempts to bridge the gap between establishment Republicans and the Tea Party are doomed to fail.

Further, early in her piece, Rapoport notes that “Republicans are now reliant on the Tea Party.”  Bolstering this point, The New York Times today reported  that Texas Senator Ted Cruz had “shown little regard for long-standing rules of decorum,” “publicly discussed the closed-door dealings of the Senate Republican Conference [a big taboo],” and “trashed his colleagues in the process.”  

Normally, an article like this would seem to signal the death knell of a politician (he did call his colleagues “squishes”), but the second point in Rapoport's article should indicate why this isn't the case: Tea Party activists aren't nearly as concerned about winning.  This is Cruz's base. He's playing to them.  

For the time being, then, it looks like the tail will keep wagging the dog.  This should be cause for concern for mainline Republicans in the party; it should not worry Democrats when it comes to onerous, reactionary legislation getting passed. However, as we have seen as recently as this month with gun safety legislation, it should worry all Americans when it comes to stopping dead any sort of sensible legislation that most Americans support and need.  

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