THE BLOG

The Two-Party System vs. the Tea Party

03/18/2015 02:10 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015
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Does the Tea Party, like the Emperor, have no clothes?

It's so plain, really, that even a child can see it. When it comes to the American political system we have always been reliant on a two-party system -- casting aspersions and denigrating third party adherents as interlopers out to wreck the system. If the current Tea Party has learned anything, they've learned it is to be better to be part of one of the existing parties, than off on its own. And that is their biggest achievement.

Republicans may not want to admit it, but in being the most vulnerable and unsettled group, they became a prime target for such infiltration -- and in their lust for re-gaining political control, unsuspectingly welcome of the political gain no matter the deferred cost. Well, that cost is coming due.

Benefitting from the Tea Party voters' largesse, the Republicans are now in control of both houses of Congress. Or are they? If it were a traditional two-party system, say the one that existed even as far back as the turn of this century, then perhaps Capitol Hill would not be as dysfunctional as it is today. But in essence there is a three-party system currently operating -- the Democrats, who are the largest minority; the traditional Republicans, who are in the majority but in reality are the second largest minority, and the Tea Party, who hold just enough sway and votes to remind the traditional Republicans that they'd not be in power without them. So who really is in control of Congress?

Why, it's the Democrats, of course. The rules of filibuster and cloture allow them to counter punch their way through legislation, seemingly always after the traditional Republican leadership has managed to smear egg over their own faces. It happens time and again, and there is no indication that the cycle is about to undo itself. Unless...

...Unless the traditional Republicans decide that they are going to act like the majority party and pass what a majority of its members propose, leaving the Tea Party outliers to fend for themselves, ultimately forcing them to declare themselves their own party. And when that happens, the Republicans will be able to restore order to their ranks, from the voters up to their elected officials.

It takes a far-sighted and bold leadership to make this happen, of course. It takes strong-willed and determined individuals to sever ties with those that seemingly are your allies, but who are in effect your biggest naysayers. For years, Republicans and Democrats co-existed, for the most part cordially, with their biggest prize, the Presidency going back and forth between the parties. One thing is probably for sure -- there will be no Republican President as long as the Tea Party is part of the Republican Party. As soon as their leadership recognizes this, and comes to this conclusion, the Tea Party's days of de facto importance in American politics will become a footnote, however lengthy.

Perhaps the Republicans will discover that naked ambition never wins in the end and they will come to realize that the day that they can clothe themselves in traditional Republican values can't get here soon enough.