19 July 2016

Trumping the Tea Party

As the Republican Party National Convention begins, a reflection on how the nomination of Donald Trump came to pass.

Everyone is aware by now of how Trump divided the party. Establishment “caretakers” of conservatism consider Trump's nomination to be The-End-Of-The-Republican-Party-As-We-Know-It. They disagree about which scenario would be worse in November—a Trump loss or a Trump victory. Many “establishment” party members have vowed “Never Trump” in the name of their own personal integrity. Others still harbor delusions of a third party candidate that might tilt the election to Hillary.

Trump has also split an influential constituency of the conservatism--the tea party. In fact, Trump's ability to capture the support of self-identified tea party members contributed significantly to the success of his candidacy. Although he garners more support from moderate Republicans, polls indicate Trump somehow has won over large number of tea party members and sympathizers, who are usually considered unrealistic purists when it comes to supporting candidates for any office. This support came at the expense of his chief rival--Ted Cruz.

This split in the tea party movement is best symbolized by the divergence of the two tea party movement's founders, Jenny Beth Martin and Amy Kremer. In 2009 Martin and Kremer organized some of the earliest tea party rallies in the Atlanta area. Their groups soon joined with hundreds of other grass roots tea party groups around the country to form the Tea Party Patriots. Martin remains President of the Tea Party Patriots and the Chair of the Tea Party Patriots Campaign Fund.

The group's core values famously include fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. To those ends, the tea party movement engineered a stunning reversal of the Democrat triumph of 2008. The Republican Party captured the House of Representatives and the Senate during the off year elections of 2010 and 2014.

And in 2016, the tea party purists finally found their Presidential candidate—Senator Ted Cruz. In February 2016 the Tea Party Patriots Campaign Fund endorsed Cruz for President. Since that time, Martin has played the role of conservative Casandra in the pages of the Washington Times, advocating for Cruz and futilely warning readers about the “narcissistic” Donald Trump and the threat he poses to conservatism.

Politics has led Amy Kremer down a different path. She left the Tea Party Patriots and briefly led another tea party organization called the Tea Party Express. Although it grass roots are shallower than those of the Tea Party Patriots, the Express has profited from more high profile supporters such as Sarah Palin. Kremer resigned her post in 2014 and now leads the Great American PAC, supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump.

So how did this come about?

First, the tea party fueled triumphs failed to yield political results. The Republicans controlled Congress but--either through lack of will or lack of ability--proved ineffectual at stopping President Obama's progressive agenda. The belief that winning elections would bring fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets to Washington D. C. proved to be a chimera.

Second, while the core economic goals seemed to recede further and further out of reach, issue of illegal immigration advanced to the forefront. President Obama failed in the most fundamental duty of sovereign authority: securing the borders. Moreover, he exhibits incredible duplicity regarding the treatment of state and local authorities when it comes to illegal immigration. When Arizona attempted to enforce federal immigration laws, it brought down the ire of the federal government. When so-called sanctuary cities flaunt immigration law, they operate with impunity. Finally, he blatantly disregards federal laws through his executive orders that for all intents and purposes revise federal statutes without the approval of Congress.

Enter Donald Trump.

He offers no delicate and nuanced pronouncements about the need for “common sense immigration reform.” For better or worse, he calls it as he sees it.

He knows that it is not our immigration system that is broken.

Mexico is broken.

El Salvador is broken is broken.

Guatemala is broken

And in his mind we stupidly serve as the safety valve for releasing all the potential social and political problems for the benefit of the elites of Latin America.

And one more thing. When attacked by the left and its fluffers in the liberal mainstream media, Trump pushes back. The tea party emerged as a fundamentally decent, middle-class reform movement. Alarmed by government excesses, average citizens took time out of their personal private lives to exercise a little civic virtue. For this they found themselves savaged by the left as racists and bigots. Sadly, many establishment conservatives stood by silently. They, like the left, saw the the tea party as a problem.

Now Trump has emerged as an anti-establishment leader whose following includes a huge throng of working class Americans. They see jobs shipped abroad and American workers displaced at home by immigrants. Trump may not be able to boast of the conservative credentials like Ted Cruz. He cannot even claim consistency. For better or for worse, however, he now represents conservatism--or at least a kind of conservatism--and the Republican Party.

Only time will tell if the remaining skeptics in the tea party, as well as the establishment opponents of Donald Trump, eventually come around and vote for him—even as they hold their noses.  

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