Is the Tea Party losing influence? Do they matter anymore? After the 2012 election results were in, I was curious about how the Tea Party candidates fared. I wondered if Tea Party members of Congress did better or worse in their 2012 elections compared to 2010. I’m happy (and sad) to report that the results were good (and bad) for Democrats.
Personally, I’m hoping they’ll just fade away.
More below the iron-oxide rusty orange fleur-de-progressiveness…
What Happened to Tea Party Candidates in 2012?
A quick Google search found this HuffPost article: Tea Party Election Results: Conservative Movement Of 2010 Takes Pounding In 2012, which pointed out that of 16 U.S. Senate candidates endorsed by the Tea Party in 2012, only four won. The Tea Party candidates for Senate were not very successful:
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) seemed poised to defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) until his comments regarding "legitimate rape" tanked his campaign. Additionally, Tea Party backed candidate Richard Mourdock enjoyed a narrow lead over Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) until a debate last month in which Mourdock said that pregnancies resulting from rape are something that "God intended to happen."Google also led me to this article from CBS: Dick Armey: Tea party candidates lost because they "did dumb things":
Similarly, Tea Party favorites Christine O'Donnell of Delaware and Sharron Angle of Nevada squandered 2010 chances to pick up Senate seats for Republicans.
(CBS News) Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey blamed GOP leadership for the loss of campaigns of Republicans across the country in 2012.
"I don't think the Republican Party schooled their candidates very well or supported their candidates very well," Armey said on "CBS This Morning."
Armey left the House in 2003 and went on to run FreedomWorks, an organization that became instrumental in the rise of the tea party movement. FreedomWorks spent $40 million in 2012 to elect tea party candidates but only one-quarter of the candidates they endorsed won.
The Tea Party is Amorphous and Hard to Define
The Tea Party doesn’t exist as a monolithic entity. There are super-rich people like The Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson who hate paying taxes and don’t like government regulations. They have funded various super-PACs and astroturf groups with Tea Party labels. Then there are people like Ron Paul and various other libertarians who run Tea Parties here and there (and they may or may not favor things like marriage equality or legalizing marijuana or abortion rights). A third group is the evangelicals who want to ban things like abortion and LGBT marriage and birth control and shariah law (WTF?) and so on. They’re the exact opposite of libertarians. Not that I sympathize with libertarians or evangelicals (or ultra-rich guys, for that matter). There are four or more national tea party groups, including one that was founded as a for-profit organization by a shady Tennessee lawyer. I think the Tennessee guy’s group went out of business after getting slapped by Friedman’s invisible hand).
Calling it THE Tea party – using the definite article – makes it sounds like it’s a single political party or a single legitimate group. It’s not. It’s just a label used by Republicans who think it will help them get elected. Basically it’s an unorganized group of people who want to be elected to government positions so they can shut down most government services and lower taxes to nearly zero.
Which members of Congress (the House of Representatives) claim to espouse Tea Party values?
I found different lists from different sources on the internet, so I decided to base this DKos diary on the official Tea Party Caucus page from www.house.gov. Here’s the web page: House of Representatives Membership (of Tea Party Caucus). This web page will probably change soon, so here’s the list of current members of the TP Caucus in the House (when I started writing this a few weeks ago), in alphabetical order:
The 59 Tea Party Caucus Members Before the 2012 ElectionLet’s consider this the official list of Tea Partiers in the House. Before I tell you what happened to those 59 Tea Party Caucus Members of Congress, I need to mention this…
Sandy Adams (FL-24) , Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Todd Akin (MO-02) , Rodney Alexander (LA-05), Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06) , Joe Barton (TX-06), Gus Bilirakis (FL-09) (FL-12), Rob Bishop (UT-01), Diane Black (TN-06),
Paul Broun (GA-10), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Dan Burton (IN-05) , John Carter (TX-31), Bill Cassidy (LA-06), Howard Coble (NC-06), Ander Crenshaw (FL-04), John Culberson (TX-07), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Blake Farenthold (TX-27)
Stephen Lee Fincher (TN-08), John Fleming (LA-04), Trent Franks (AZ-02)(AZ-08), Phil Gingrey (GA-11), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Wally Herger (CA-02) , Tim Huelskamp (KS-01), Lynn Jenkins (KS-02), Steve King (IA-05) (IA-04)
Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Jeff Landry (LA-03) , Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-09) (MO-03), Kenny Marchant (TX-24), Tom McClintock (CA-04), David McKinley (WV-01), Gary Miller (CA-42)(CA-31), Mick Mulvaney (SC-05), Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), Rich Nugent (FL-05) (FL-11)
Steven Palazzo (MS-04), Steve Pearce (NM-02), Mike Pence (IN-06) , Ted Poe (TX-02), Tom Price (GA-06), Denny Rehberg (MT-AL) , David "Phil" Roe (TN-01), Dennis Ross (FL-12) (FL-15), Edward Royce (CA-40)(CA-39), Steve Scalise (LA-01)
Pete Sessions (TX-32), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Cliff Stearns (FL-06) , Tim Walberg (MI-07), Joe Walsh (IL-08) , Allen West (FL-22) (FL-18) , Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03), Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Note 1: Eleven Congresspersons (whose names I bolded) won’t be returning to the House next year. 11 of 59 members are gone, which is 19%. That leaves 48 current members (plus whoever joins next year after the swearing in ceremony).
Note 2: If a name is followed by two Congressional districts, the second is their new district number after redistricting.
I Am Ignoring the Following Politicians
Tea Party Senators
The Tea Party caucus in the Senate currently consists of Jim DeMint (South Carolina), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kansas), and Rand Paul (Kentucky). DeMint resigned from the Senate, so there are three left. Some candidates for Senate – Akin, Mourdock, O’Donnell, and Angle (and others, like the jerk In Alaska) – might have joined the Senate TP caucus, but those assholes lost their elections in 2010 or 2012. The Tea Party doesn’t have a significant presence in the Senate – at least not an organized caucus presence.
Representatives Who Left the Tea Party Caucus (or Never Joined) or Left Congress
Tom Graves (GA), Ralph Hall (TX), Walter Jones (NC), Cynthia Lummis (WY), and Sue Myrick (NC) were once listed as members of the TP caucus, but they apparently left the caucus. Or whatever. Maybe they never joined. I’m not sure about Tim Scott (SC) and Mike Coffman (CO) – they might have had tea party leanings but they’re not listed on the Tea Party Caucus page.
Parker Griffith, Pete Hoekstra, John Shadegg, Todd Tiahrt, and Zach Wamp might have been members of the TP caucus at one time, but I think all of them have left Congress.
So I’m ignoring those people.
First a Note About Finding Election Results
For this project I decided I wanted the official results. Not results from Yahoo or CNN or the New York Times or some blog. So I visited a lot of websites sponsored by state governments. Almost all of the 50 states have a secretary of state (SOS) whose website gives you the official election results. Sometimes you have to download a PDF, sometimes not.
Utah doesn’t have a SOS. In Utah, the Lieutenant Governor’s office publishes the election results (which is fine, once you figure out that’s where you have to look). Virginia and another state (NC, maybe?) have a secretary of state, but they don’t do elections results. There’s a separate office called something like the elections bureau or election commission that handles elections. West Virginia had by far the messiest, hardest-to-navigate website. I was shouting at the screen, “I don’t care about the precincts and counties! I just want to know the fucking results for the congressional districts. Who won the election?” What? Do they use a Commodore 64 or a Timex-Sinclair to upload the results? Several states provide only raw numbers, and I had to figure out the percentages on my computer.
The 2012 Election Results – 11 Tea Party Reps are Gone
Remember that I said there were 59 Representatives in the Tea Party Caucus? Here’s how they did in the 2012 elections:
5 Retired or Didn’t Run for Re-election
Dan Burton (IN-05) retired, citing health issues in his family.
Wally Herger (CA-02) retired, to spend more time with his family.
Mike Pence (IN-06) left Congress, ran for Governor of IN and won (the only Tea Party politician who sought another office and won the election).
Todd Akin (MO-02) ran for Senate and lost. Yay!
Denny Rehberg (MT-AL) ran for Senate and lost. Another yay!
2 Lost in the Primary
I guess the voters didn’t like Sandy Adams (FL-24) or Cliff Stearns (FL-06).
4 Lost in the General Election
Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06): in 2010 he had 61.45%, in 2012 voters gave him 37.90% (a net loss of -23.55).
Jeff Landry (LA-03): in 2010 he had 63.77%, in 2012 39.20% (-24.57) . He lost in the second round runoff (runoff elections are a peculiar element of elections in Louisiana).
Joe Walsh (IL-08): in 2010 he won with 48.47%, in 2012 he lost with 45.26% (-3.21). Good Riddance!
Allen West (FL-22) (FL-18): in 2012 got 54.40%, in 2012 49.70% (-4.70) Good Riddance to him, too.
48 Tea Partiers Were Re-Elected
Here’s the problem: A lot of them live in really, really Republican districts. They live in the Red Lands.
I had to split them into several categories. Some of them didn’t have a Democratic opponent (in 2010 or 2012). That means maybe they had an opponent from the Libertarian Party or Constitutional Party or Green Party or Socialist Party. Some ran unopposed (in 2010 or 2012) so they got 100% or close to 100% (after write-in votes).
Of the 28 who ran against a Democrat both years, 15 got a smaller percentage of votes in 2012 than 2010. 13 got more.
Here’s the list of the 48 Tea Party Congress Critters who were re-elected in 2012:
Yes, I know that presidential year elections are different from off-year elections. I also know that every state got redistricted (so it's not really fair to compare 2010 to 2012). And, yes, each congressional race is unique. But what the heck. 20% (actually 19%) of the Tea Party Reps are gone.