Remember those Congressional freshman and veteran lawmakers who were endorsed by Tea Party groups? The ones who pledged to change Washington from the status quo and vote independently? Well what happened to them? This is a very good question, and one that should be answered 2 years following those 2010 midterm elections. First of all, let me explain who the Tea partiers are and what the Tea Party movement is for those of you not unfamiliar.
Tea Partiers are conservative political advocates who form the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Partiers distinguish themselves from those establishment Republicans and other politicians in the mainstream over the basis of their belief in fiscal responsibility and the upholding of the constitution. Tea partiers insisted that their movement is purely grassroots, that it is a non-cohesive movement of different people of all back rounds. Essentially Tea partiers market themselves in the same way that Barack Obama did in 2008, you know, about “change” and restoring American and all that jazz. Tea Partiers claim that they are purely concerned with small government, fiscal restraint and the restoration of the American constitution. The Tea party movement only really became a nationwide movement after the election of Barack Obama in 2009 on Tax day, April 15th. However the movement can be traced back to before Barack Obama was elected, however prior to that it was a movement restricted to that of the Ron Paul Campaign of 2008 (2). You also had many tea partiers insist that their movement was not about the fact that Obama and the Democrats won the elections in 2008, but that it is purely about restoring the country supposedly to what the Founders intended it to be. So when the 2010 midterm elections came about, one would have really expected the Tea Party movement to change the old guard of congress as they so insisted was their intentions. It didn’t turn out that way.
To start, Tea party groups only really mounted support and endorsed Republican candidates in 2010. Many of these candidates were freshman politicians coming into congress for the first time and others were veterans, incumbents, riding the tea party movement for re-election. A total of 130 politicians running for the House of representatives were endorsed by the tea parties, but in the end only 40 tea party candidates were able to successfully win in their elections (1), all of them were Republican. Out of 10 Tea party United States Senate candidates endorsed by the tea parties, only 5 ended up winning those election seats. So the question is, what differences have those Tea Party endorsed politicians made in congress since coming off the wheels of “change” and the “constitution” in 2010? Did they really bring any change to Washington DC or within the Republican Party itself? Well the internet is a wonderful piece of technology and there is ample information to show the voting records of these politicians.
It will take a long time to go through voting records on all the bills introduced through congress since the beginning of session in 2011. Instead I have chosen to focus on three controversial bills and how each of these Tea Party politicians had voted on them. I chose to focus on the National Defence Authorization Act because of the additional powers it granted to the Federal government to indefinitely detain suspected American citizens (3). I also focused on the Patriot Act extension, because this bill continued the powers given to the government earlier during the Bush administration, powers to ease drop on suspected American citizens without much need for a warrant. Lastly I decided to trace the voting records of these politicians on their positions concerning military aid to Israel. Since 2001 the United States had spent more that $15 billion on military Aid to Israel (4), money that could have instead been spent on other costs concerning American citizens. There’s nothing fiscally responsible about sending billions of dollars to a country half way around the world for a military agenda, especially when that military agenda serves a country that does not abide by American law. So what did we find?
Overall, Tea Party politicians consistently vote by party lines on these bills. In fact there were more establishment Republicans that broke from party lines on these policies than that of Tea Party endorsed Republicans. This is evident from the chart and in many of the other bills voted on since the first session of congress for 2011 (5). For example, looking at the chart itself, when it came to the extension of the Patriot act, a total of 27 Republicans broke off party lines to vote against it (the Patriot act was initially introduced and staunchly supported by the GOP). Only 8 of those who voted against its extension were Tea Party endorsed Republicans, 8 out of 27 Republicans.
Aside from the fact that these Tea Party lawmakers have evidently continued the status quo in Washington through their voting records, other issues further illustrate that they offer little change. 10 Tea Party freshman were found to have benefited a total of $169,499 in lobbying from Political action groups (6). The $169,499 from these Political Action groups was sourced from bailed out banks like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, according to a report from the Financial Services Committee (6). According to the House of Representatives Statement of Disbursements, 7 Tea Party Freshman were recorded spending more than $100,000 on personal cars. Considering that the average salary for congressman is that of $174,000 (7), one would have to question why tax payer money needed to be spent for personal vehicles?
But they’ll just be voted out again anyway? Right?
Not necessarily. It is a reality that every once in a while politicians will fall back on most of what they initially promised on. However in these cases we expect their constituents to take the appropriate actions and voice their concerns (provided they are genuinely dissatisfied with their representatives). This is not the same case for Tea Parties and Tea Party groups. The fact these lawmakers voted to continue the Patriot act, the NDAA, is of little concern to the vast majority of Tea partiers and Tea Party groups. Why would that be? Well the simple answer is that most Tea Partiers are not all that concerned with the size of government, but rather with the fact that the Democrats are in power, and that Barack Obama is still president.
There’s a reason why the Tea party movement did not start during the Bush administration when record spending occurred, when laws the likes of the Patriot act were introduced, where 1000’s of soldiers were killed off in an unjustified war. So long as Republicans supported religious teachings in school, so long as non-white peoples were targeted as terrorists in other countries, there was little concern from self described conservatives. Any “concern” for government spending and responsibility came about when the Democrats came in power and when it became a reality that either *gasp* Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would become president. The Tea Party movement is an Astroturf campaign, it is a rebranding of the Republican Party. It is not a genuine movement and their lawmakers have no intention of bringing about true freedom and small government, as demonstrated by the examples above. The only things Tea Partiers are concerned about is as to how Barack Obama will be removed from the presidency, how the Democrats will be removed from power, and how prayer could be established in public schools. While there are a small minority of Tea Partiers out there were real concerns (I’ll credit some Ron Paul Supporters), the vast majority have purely partisan concerns as evident by their continued support of lawmakers who continue to vote the status quo.