Death of the Tea Party imminent
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives did something it hasn’t done in over two years: it increased the debt ceiling without a crisis. While this is a major success in and of itself, what it says about the state of the Tea Party is even more remarkable.
For the last few years, the die-hard conservative Tea Party movement has stymied the American legislative process with its love for filibusters and hatred for an efficient federal government.
However, the successful passage of a “clean” debt ceiling bill — one that raises the debt ceiling without any further conditions — despite opposition from the Tea Party, represents a tipping point for the Tea Party’s success. In fact, the passage of this bill may be the start of the end for the Tea Party, considering a number of larger forces behind its decline.
For one thing, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is going into effect. Although the Tea Party dedicated a major part of its platform to repealing it, Obamacare is becoming more of a reality by the day. States have already set up exchanges, millions of people have already signed up, and major businesses have adapted to the new rules. Repealing it at this point would do more harm than good, adding $109 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Furthermore, people are getting tired of the Tea Party’s obstructive politics, especially from within the Republican Party. Prominent Republicans, including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and U.S. Senator John McCain (R–Ariz), have publicly criticized the Tea Party’s tactics. According to The Wall Street Journal, House Republican leaders and various conservative groups have been aiming to weaken the power of the Tea Party caucus.
Some Republicans are working with allies outside the GOP establishment to fight Tea Party Republicans. More moderate Republicans have even teamed up with labor unions, according to The Daily Caller.
Finally, new political concerns, beyond the scope of Tea Party demands, are now being addressed. The Tea Party came into prominence 2008–2012, during the post-President George W. Bush crises. This era was one of economic downturn, bank bailouts, continued war in the Middle East, and increased government deficits and debt that spurred popular anger against the establishment.
However, in 2014, six years after the recession began in 2008, much of the hysteria about national debt and high taxes has settled down. Now, issues such as long-term unemployment and income inequality have begun to capture the national consciousness. While there remains a powerful sentiment against increased government power, the government shutdown last year proved that the Tea Party’s vision of lax governance was not a viable alternative.
Although the Tea Party will likely still be around for the next few years, it is unlikely that it will ever have the amount of influence it did prior to 2013.