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Not since the Know-Nothings faction emerged within the Whigs, has a political movement been so aptly named as the Tea Party.

While some may associate the name with Bostonians protesting tax policies, I suspect more people think of the wonder scene in "Alice in Wonderland":  A simple, naive person steps through the looking glass and ends up in the company of a bunch of colorful nutjobs, consisting of two rodents and a blue collar white guy. Its always the same time of day, right around early bird specials aimed at seniors in inexpensive restaurants. The Queen of Hearts makes a crazy accusation of running death panels committing an absurd murder. You get the idea.

The election results have some declaring the tea party is done, and that may be true - we'll need one more cycle to really tell. They do seem to be following the arc of Ross Perot's Reform Party, good for a couple of cycles and then largely irrelevant.

But I think the results show something much more interesting.  When you look at which tea partiers won, and which lost, you see a consistent pattern: You could call it a glass ceiling, framed in terms of success. But if you look at in purely in terms of campaign money, its a game of Whack-A-Mole. And it doesn't bode well for the "we're not really a party" party.

Let's begin by making a distinction: there are actual tea party candidates, i.e. their success is largely a product of the movement, and then there are candidates who the tea party likes, but were around long before Rick Santelli's Chicago Tea Rap

The latter would be someone like Jeff Flake, who just won a Senate seat in Arizona. He's been around since long before the tea party, he hasn't particularly embraced it - but he'll be friendly enough to rake in some cash and votes.  Marco Rubio shrewdly did the same thing in 2010. Or there's Steve King, who has kept his mouth firmly attached to the collective buttocks of the tea party. But he was the poster boy for stupid before there was a tea party.

In terms of useful analysis, it also makes sense to set aside the Texas Senate victory of Ted Cruz. Make no mistake, the tea party got him through the primary; but we're concerned with the faction's impact on the general election. And Texas provides no instruction there. The Lone Star state hasn't sent a Democratic freshman Senator to Washington since Mitt Romney was a toddler.

Of the remainder, divide them in to two tiers: nationally known by most people who follow politics (say, your average kossack or freeper or those degenerates on fark). And relatively unknown.

Note I say "relatively unknown" and while this is subjective, I mean it in terms of fundraising by an opponent. While people who really follow the tea party might know who, say, Mike Pence is, I doubt even most kossacks would recognize the name. While on the other hand, the likes of Michelle Bachmann and Allen West and Todd Akin are recognizable.

That's where the glass ceiling comes in. A list of nationally known tea party candidates this cycle would be:

Michelle Bachmann
Allen West
Todd Akin
Richard Mourdock

Bachmann won, but just barely, even after outspending her opponent 12 to 1. Seems something was underestimate: Jim Graves, Obama's coattails, how repellent Michelle Bachmann is. A little more money and ding, dong, the witch would have been dead.

The rest lost.  They all stuck their heads up, getting huge amounts of attention, whether wanted (West) or otherwise (Akin, Mourdock). Big money poured in from outside. They were toast.

(Arguably, Joe Wilson might fit on this list. In case you're wondering, he won, by a wide margin)

Meanwhile, dozens of tea partiers you never heard of were re-elected. In blue Michigan, two cleared the hurde, Justin Amash and Dan Benishek.

That's your glass ceiling.  When one of these extremists runs state-wide, they get enough attention to put a spotlight on every ridiculous thing they say. When they try to become a national figure from a House seat, like West, serious money can pour in to their opponent.

While they may be tempted throw incediary rhetorical bombs* to get attention, that negative attention generates opposition money.

If this effect holds, this means the tea party, even if it does retain members and enthusiasm for years to come (something I highly doubt, but that's another diary for another day), they will never be a substantial force in national politics. Because they'll never have a leader who is in Congress, and will never have more than a handful of Senators.

Any of them dumb enough (I know, I know) to stick their heads up will get Whack-A-Moled by heaping amounts of cash.  Perhaps even in the primary, as party stalwarts remember the debacle of 2010's Sharron "Obtuse" Angle and Witchy McDonnell.

Without a leader, a political faction doesn't turn in to a movement. With a leader who isn't in office, the cult of personality effect can't be effectively harnessed for statewide elections.

That's the box the tea party will always be in. Unlike your first college apartment, this time it really does make sense to squash the biggest cockroaches first.

*Using generally accepted methods of measurement, incendiary rhetorical bombs are measured on a scale delineated in Coulters. One Coulter = the volume of nastiness in denigrating a 9/11 firefighter's widow.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like your analysis but I'm not sure I agree with (3+ / 0-)

    it.  (BTW, you forgot Joe Deadbeat Dad Walsh who got beaten, too.)

    If enough state seats are taken by these asshats, there could be too many who try to go farther to whack a mole them all.  Furthermore, their idiocy becomes more and more acceptable, the more people hear it.  In fact, that's long been a GOP strategy,  I believe.  Take as many local positions as position to "sell" themselves as  legit and train them to move on up.

    I think where they've failed is in taking how they've allowed their extreme positions to be seen.  Some of them actually convinced themselves that the majority of people shared their ideas and were just hesitant to say so.  Had Akin and Mourdock not made the idiotic statements they did, they could now be senators.  

    My opinion is that we have to stay very alert and fight these folks at every level possible.  The Kock brothers will be right in there, pouring their billions into inserting these asshats wherever they can, confident it will pay off for them in the long run.

    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

    by gustynpip on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 02:53:08 PM PST

  •  Whack A Mole (0+ / 0-)

    Agreed at national level.  Issue with tea fools is that at state level office level, not enuff press/$ to counteract the 'roach' problem so eradicating the infestation is challenging.

    •  The failure of the local press (0+ / 0-)

      For state level offices, you'd expect the local press to act as sunlight and disinfectant, to kill the crazy.

      But who still subscribes to actual physical newspapers, delivered every day?  Who still gets their news from their local 5 pm network affiliate broadcast?

      Old white people.

      So you can see the dilemma

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