The original Tea Party movement was composed of individuals fed up with federal overspending and fiscal irresponsibility. That common theme is able to convert a number of individuals from a diversity of political backgrounds (including sane Democrats). In fact, is anybody besides the democrats really standing up in favor of the reckless spending by our federal government?
However, the solidarity within the movement started to show fractures as the Tea Party began taking on other issues wherein the strength in the diversity of its members took a toll. In the state of Utah, that issue was immigration.
While I believe that the original message of the Tea Party is valid, the Tea Party’s strength has waivered somewhat as of late. Regardless, they are force to be reckoned with if one chooses to do so.
When that message has gone off course, the tea party has left itself open to criticism of being too extreme and out of step with even conservative republicans.
For instance, two Tea Party members were recently elected in leadership roles within the state party. They ran on an anti-establishment campaign against incumbent Republican Party leaders.
In winning the vice chair and secretary positions at the state level, they then went on a media binge with varying results. Although they attempted to clarify that they were speaking for themselves, they advocated for some extreme positions such as the elimination of our public education system. This is a position that is far outside of even the very conservative Republican platform.
While they claimed they were not speaking for the party, by virtue of their elected positions, they were harming the party. The media took advantage of their naivety. While they were not officially censured, at least the vice chair recognized the error of his ways and apologized to party members for his actions.
These recent events have hurt the party. However, when the Tea Party is on their core message, they continue to be a great and effective advocate for smaller government and fiscal sanity.
Anyone who diminishes their efforts or influence will be sorely mistaken. For example, it was the Tea Party that was the driving opposition behind the recent tax increase by the Davis School District. Their ability to organize and rally behind such causes cannot be ignored.
Additionally, Peter Cannon, an active Tea Party leader and the lone school board member to vote nay vote on that tax increase, was also a candidate for Representative Julie Fisher’s vacant seat in legislative district 17. He came within one vote of winning that seat in last Thursday’s special election. A 49 percent showing among delegates shows continued strength by Tea Party activists within all levels of political circles throughout the state.
Look for Tea Party members to take on the school board again with their elections next year. With Chaffetz no longer attempting to challenge Senator Hatch, I suspect this tax increase vote will not be forgotten and that is where local Tea Party members will focus their efforts with the 2012 election cycle.
Most Utahns, including myself, will continue to stand with the Tea Party on such fiscal issues as a balanced budget amendment and the reduction of our national debt. Outside of that core message, support for the Tea Party dwindles significantly.