Christopher Hitchens got a chance to analyze the Tea Party in 2011, the same year cancer took his life. In a Vanity Fair article titled "Tea'd Off," the great polemicist explains that populist movements like the Tea Party are a reaction to social and political change. Hitchens writes that before the Revolutionary War costumes, America had seen a somewhat similar phenomenon with the John Birch Society:
The John Birch Society possessed such a mainstream message--the existence of a Communist world system with tentacles in the United States--that it had a potent influence over whole sections of the Republican Party. It managed this even after its leader and founder, Robert Welch, had denounced President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a "dedicated, conscious agent" of that same Communist apparatus. Right up to the defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, and despite the efforts of such conservatives as William F. Buckley Jr. to dislodge them, the Birchers were a feature of conservative politics well beyond the crackpot fringe...
... A large, volatile constituency has been created that believes darkly in betrayal and conspiracy. A mass "literature" has been disseminated, to push the mad ideas of exploded crackpots and bigots.
... Some of the gun brandishing next time might be for real. There was no need for this offense to come, but woe all the same to those by whom it came, and woe above all to those who whitewashed and rationalized it.
Would staunch conservatives in this day and age ever accuse Eisenhower of being Communist? Probably not, but the rhetoric from Tea Party politicians bemoaning everything from Obamacare to gay marriage indicates that America is moving more to the left than to the right. While William F. Buckley Jr. was prescient enough to know that the John Birch Society wasn't good for Republicans, Eric Cantor found out too late (with the Tea Party he helped create) to keep his seat in Congress.
The Tea Party miraculously began its existence when Barrack Obama was elected president, but remained oddly quiet when George Bush started the bank bailouts and racked up his own debt prior to the Wall Street collapse. Since then, its rhetoric has been polarizing and meant to speak primarily to a staunchly conservative base. The more people like Sen. Marco Rubio say, "I do not believe human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate" (contradicting 97 percent of climate scientists), Americans who care about science question their motives. The more politicians like Michele Bachmann evoke the Republican in Heaven by claiming, "I believe God is going to answer our prayers and we'll be freed from the yoke of Obamacare," Americans who don't have knowledge of God's political views simply roll their eyes.
As for Obamacare, the good Lord didn't listen to Michele Bachmann's prayers and the Supreme Court upheld the health care law as constitutional. A 2012 New York Times article explained how the ruling legitimized the most controversial law of the Obama administration:
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Obama's health care overhaul law, saying its requirement that most Americans obtain insurance or pay a penalty was authorized by Congress's power to levy taxes. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court's four more liberal members...
The decision was a victory for Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats, affirming the central legislative achievement of Mr. Obama's presidency...
Justice Ginsburg, speaking to a crowded courtroom that sat rapt for the better part of an hour, drew a different conclusion.
"In the end," she said, "the Affordable Care Act survives largely unscathed."
Despite all the effort put forth by the Tea Party, including trying 40 times to repeal the law, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land-socialist or not.
In addition, Ted Cruz can make statements like, "Judicial activism is judges imposing their policy preferences on the words of the Constitution" and the Supreme Court (and lower courts) can completely disregard his analysis. In America, politicians pretend to speak for the founders and interpret the Constitution based on the beliefs of their constituents. A New York Times article in 2013 explained that two landmark Supreme Court rulings have paved the way for an eventual federal case that could make gay marriage legal in the U.S.:
In a pair of major victories for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there...
Chief Justice Roberts said that he "would not tar the political branches with the brush of bigotry"
With these decisions, the road is paved towards a potential Supreme Court decision on gay marriage throughout the nation.
Ted Cruz can claim "marriage is under assault" and whatever else he wants to express about gay marriage. Gov. Rick Perry is also free to express his knowledge of genetics by saying, "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way." What counts in this country is what the Supreme Court says and from recent rulings, this country is becoming more liberal.
As for how Americans feel about gay marriage, the Pew Research Center confirms that the majority of citizens don't share the Tea Party viewpoint. According to the Pew Research Center, more Americans now support same-sex marriage than ever before:
In Pew Research polling in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. Since then, support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown. Today, a majority of Americans (54%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it.
Furthermore, Pew Research finds that, "among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly six-in-ten now express support for same-sex marriage"
Finally, the Tea Party has become a wing of the GOP that Republicans never envisioned in 2008. Perhaps nothing illustrates this dilemma better than the words of Chris McDaniel after losing the Mississippi Senate race to Thad Cochran:
"So much for bold colors," McDaniel said. "So much for principle. I guess they can take some consolation in the fact that they did something tonight by once again compromising, by once again reaching across the aisle, by once again abandoning the conservative movement. I would like to know which part of that strategy today our Republican friends endorse. I would like to know which part of that strategy today our statewide officials endorse. This is not the party of Reagan, but we're not done fighting and when we're done it will be."
... conservative movement took a backseat to liberal Democrats...
When "reaching across the aisle" is a bad thing, you know a political party has become extreme in its views. Chris McDaniel's belief that voters "abandoned the conservative movement" simply because they voted for another conservative illustrates the Pandora's Box opened by Republicans as a result of President Obama's first election victory.
When 73 percent of Americans today believe that illegal immigrants should be able to legally stay in the U.S. and 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare, all the loud pontificating by Ted Cruz and other "real" conservatives can't deny one simple fact. The angrier and more vocal the Tea Party gets, the more we know that issues like gay marriage and Obamacare are becoming not only mainstream, but protected under the Constitution. Even if they break away from the GOP and form their own party (which would help liberals immensely), the Tea Party won't be able to stop the country from becoming more liberal with every generation.
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