There is nothing new about the Tea Party giving their own response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Rep. Michele Bachmann gave the Tea Party answer in 2011 and Herman Cain spoke after last year’s SOTU. Both speakers followed the “official” GOP response, differing more in tone and style than in substance.
But things are just a tiny bit different this year.
Tea party leaders are turning to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, to deliver their message following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, a speech that will compete with the official Republican response.
Paul will make his remarks soon after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, wraps up the GOP response Tuesday night, a Paul spokeswoman confirms to CNN.
“We are giving a voice to the tea party movement when the mainstream media and the Republican establishment wants to write us off as dead,” said Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express. This is the third year in a row that Kremer’s organization has sponsored the tea party response.
The dueling GOP speeches come at a time when a very public rift is developing between the Republican establishment and conservative activists over the direction of the party. Some grassroots activists are specifically angry at Karl Rove and other Republicans for stating that they will choose sides in upcoming Republican primaries and only financially help candidates who have a chance of winning in the general election.
In Paul, tea party leaders have chosen a nationally known senator, who is identified more for his embrace of a libertarian ideology than aligning himself with his own political party’s leaders.
The back-to-back addresses Tuesday night also features two young stars in the GOP, each of whom are expected to seriously consider running for the White House in 2016.
Paul will deliver his remarks before an audience at the National Press Club, which is located just a stones throw away from the White House.
“We expect many of our supporters and many of Rand Paul’s supporters, freedom loving, liberty loving Americans to be there because this is our time to be heard,” Kremer said. “We are proud that Marco Rubio is giving the official Republican Party response because he is a tea party conservative and one of our own. But the Republican Party doesn’t necessarily speak for all conservatives and the tea party movement has its own voice and this is our chance to be heard.”
It is doubtful that Rubio will refer directly to the Rove controversy. There may be soothing words about “unity” and peace from the Florida Senator, but no specifics. Republicans are not eager to hang their dirty laundry out for voters to see.
But we should expect Senator Paul to have a few well chosen words where he alludes to the effort by GOP money men to intervene directly in Republican primaries. That’s why he has been tapped to make the speech in the first place. Paul has never been reluctant to criticize the establishment, and along with some bombs thrown in the president’s direction, it is likely he will toss a few grenades into the establishment’s bunker as well.
The Red-on-Red war will be too irresistible for the media to ignore, which means Senator Paul’s speech will receive maximum, even loving exposure by a press eager to build up the GOP Civil War narrative, fanning the flames of controversy as best they can. It’s fairly clear at this point that many in the Tea Party don’t care. This is a fight that they embrace eagerly and if it ruins the party’s chances for victory in 2014, well, there’s always 2016.
Meanwhile, President Obama and the Democrats are popping popcorn and sitting back in their easy chairs, watching and giggling as the Republicans self-destruct. While an entertaining spectacle, the GOP smash-up could bring about what both sides claim would be catastrophic to the republic; the president holding a majority in both Houses of Congress with two full years to continue his “transformation” of America, unimpeded by an organized and effective opposition.
But that’s small potatoes when compared to sticking it to the establishment, or teaching the Tea Party a lesson. This is what’s really important to the country. Everything else — all that stuff about the survival of America as we know it and all that other garbage — window dressing only.
So by all means, let’s continue with the bloodletting. With both sides claiming the other wants to “destroy” them, what’s the worst that could happen? Obama triumphant with his foot on the neck of Republicans who were too stupid to see past their own parochial self interest and unite in the national interest. Rove, the Tea Party, libertarians, evangelicals — any common ground that’s possible won’t be achieved as long as the factions see each other as an enemy as dangerous as liberals and the Democrats.
That would make a marvelous epithet on a headstone for the GOP.