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Michael Keegan Headshot

Goodbye to the Tea Party? Not So Fast

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To those who say that the Republican establishment is successfully quashing the tea party insurgency within its ranks in 2014, I have three words: Meet Glenn Grothman.

Glenn Grothman is a member of the Republican leadership in the Wisconsin state senate, and has served as a state legislator for over 20 years. In those two decades, he has developed a national reputation as the uncensored id of what is now called the tea party.

He combines a hostility to the social safety net and basic health and safety regulations with an evident disgust for the lives of LGBT people and many women.

He thinks that equal pay laws are unnecessary because "money is more important for men" and that protections for working women, or "gals" to him, constitute a "war on men." Yes, that's a quote. He has worked hard to bring down Wisconsin's exceptionally high voter participation rate, succeeding in ending weekend voting in the state, all while working to weaken disclosure requirements for people bankrolling elections. He wants to allow seven-day workweeks. He felt the need during a recent holiday season to issue a press release condemning Kwanzaa. Oh, and he thought it would be a good idea to do away with municipal water sanitation.

We're likely to start hearing more about Grothman in the coming months. That's because he launched a primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, a relatively moderate Republican... and then Petri dropped out of the race, leaving Grothman in an unexpectedly strong position to take his seat.

Even if establishment Republicans and their corporate allies can outspend and defeat their tea Party challengers in high-profile races, the party will never be able to shake its Glenn Grothmans. The movement that Grothman represents is a core constituency of the Republican Party. And rhetoric aside, Grothman's agenda isn't all that different from the one being pushed by "mainstream" Republicans in Congress. Opposition to equal pay, voter suppression, fewer protections for workers: that's the platform of a major party, not just one fringe politician's wish list.

The Republican Party may try to play down Grothman's words, but his ideas are right there in their own policies.