If you haven’t been paying attention the last month or so, then you won’t know that the government was shut down. As in, “we are Congress, hear us roar,” shut down. Now if that alarms you, please don’t worry about it! Congress, led by senators from both sides of the aisle, agreed on a budget solution and a deal to raise the debt ceiling. But wait, is this a moment for celebration? Isn’t this compromising, hard bargaining, “get-stuff-done” attitude supposed to be what Congress should be doing in the first place?
I would argue that it does not seem unreasonable to expect congresspeople, both Democrats and Republicans, to be unhappy about a deal that is ultimately about compromise. The individuals of the Tea Party movement, however, are more than unhappy. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Oh boy, a college student is going to bash the Tea Party for being too conservative to function, how original.” I will be the first to say that I disagree with the Tea Party’s positions on almost every issue. That is, however, not my point in this column.
The fact that there is a subset of senators, representatives, lobbyists and strategists in Washington, D.C. that is actively attempting to work against functioning government sickens me. As a movement, the Tea Party is extremely popular with those whose voice often gets lost in the shuffle of the rank and file Republican party. They also are a group that utilizes the American people’s fear and distrust of their government to gain political power and throw useless attempts a jerry-rigged government shutdown for example to get their name out and, frankly, showboat.
Literally minutes after the Senate passed the deal to reopen the government, Chris McDaniel, a Mississippi Republican state senator, announced his candidacy against veteran Republican Thad Cochran. He states in his email to supporters and potential donors that Cochran’s vote on a deal to open up the government was “more of a surrender than a compromise.” Which is, in his eyes, technically true.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is another establishment Republican in the cross hairs of Tea Party activists and strategists, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, strategist Jim DeMint or Iowa’s Representative Steve King.
The goal, as illustrated by DeMint in an interview with New York Times, is to unseat those who are willing to compromise in Washington. This is a nightmare for Republican party strategists like Karl Rove who see their establishment candidates unseated by far-right Tea Party candidates, only to be knocked off by center-left Democrats. As of Oct. 28, Rove has not pledged any money from his Super PAC American Crossroads to any Tea Party candidates.
If the Republican party is going to survive the Tea Party, veteran leaders are going to have to be on top form, or it is going to cost the party the 2016 election. Certain members of Congress have even flirted with the idea of breaking off from the Republican party.
Though third parties have only a small significance in most elections, the percentage of those not voting Republican could tip the balance of power in favor of the Democrats by essentially splitting the Republican party. Compromise isn’t sexy, compromise isn’t fun, and compromise isn’t easy – but it’s what needs to happen in Washington. Obstructionism, on either side of the aisle, does a great disservice to democracy everywhere. Bold statements for a big problem.