GOP must cut ties with the Tea Party

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Texas state Senator Ted Cruz and the GOP have been widely condemned by the media and the public over the government shutdown. Surprisingly, much of that criticism has come from within the GOP itself.

The GOP has always prided itself on its strong political unity, as characterized by former President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment — thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. However, over the past few years, deep fissures appeared between the radical Tea Party and moderate Republican wings, and these fissures have only become deeper with the debt limit debacle.

The marriage between the Republican Party and the Tea Party was once fruitful. Some say that politics are about winning over powerful minorities to sway elections; the Tea Party can be considered such a minority. The energetic party has enough electoral power to change elections; in many ways, the Tea Party has reinvigorated the Republicans. However, there are signs that the honeymoon is ending, and once it is over, the GOP will realize that the Tea Party is a political dead end. To retain political relevance and the moderate majority, the GOP needs to divorce itself from the Tea Party.

The fact is, the GOP can survive without the Tea Party, but the Tea Party cannot survive without the GOP. As one of the two major parties in America’s political system, the GOP lends an air of legitimacy to the Tea Party. It brought prominent Tea Party members — such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Ted Cruz — into the national spotlight and gave them the funding, coverage, and connections to further their political careers.

The problem with Tea Party members, as evidenced by the debt limit situation, is that they are best suited as ideologues and should not actually be given legislative authority. Tea Party members want the kind of radical, sweeping social and political change that a democratic government is simply unable to realistically deliver. When they don’t get their way, even the dullest of political minutiae must become a Braveheart-esque last stand against the forces of big government.

The radical conservatism they espouse and the theatrical tactics they employ do not resonate with much of the American population. A Gallup poll conducted this year shows that only 22 percent of Americans support the Tea Party. In contrast, Occupy Wall Street, a more liberal movement, had twice the support from the general public, according to the New York Daily News. However, the movement was never fully accepted by the Democratic Party the same way the Tea Party was incorporated into the Republican Party; eventually, Occupy Wall Street faltered. More likely than not, the Tea Party’s fate would be the same if it were cut off from the Republican Party.

In the long term, the GOP needs to move toward greater inclusiveness so that it can willingly accommodate the diverse American public. If not, it will be dragged down by the Tea Party when it eventually sinks.