In 2010, Marco Rubio ran against sitting governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for US Senator from Florida. He was thus dubbed the “Tea Party” challenger. He won that primary and the general election, and he is now giving the official GOP response to the President Obama’s first second-term State of the Union next week.
Also in 2010, Rand Paul, son of long-time Congressman from Texas and occasional presidential candidate, Ron Paul, ran against a then Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the Republican primary for US Senator from that state. He was also dubbed the “Tea Party” challenger.” Grayson had been “recruited by GOP leaders” lost, Paul won, and he is now giving the “official unofficial” Tea Party response to the State of the Union immediately after Rubio’s response.
Both men were the “Tea Party” candidates in 2010, both won, both are now sitting US Senators, both are expected to run for President in 2016, and both are giving responses to the State of the Union, but one as the official party response, and one as the “Tea Party” response.
Quite simply, the term has lost its meaning. Why do we keep using it? It unnecessarily and counterproductively splinters the right.
The great Loren Heal has a more direct reason why:
Public support of the Tea Party brand has fallen sharply. Rasmussen polling finds that “only 30% of Likely U.S. Voters now have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party. Half (49%) of voters have an unfavorable view of the movement. ” Yet 62% favor smaller government.
That means it’s the label that is the problem, not the ideas behind it. We are not loyal to a label, but to a movement, and not to a movement, but to the ideas it represents.
It’s time to stop calling everything to the right of John McCain the “Tea Party”. That turns people off. We need to reinvigorate the real terms of the debate and get back to simple conservative, libertarian, and Republican branding.