What Now for the Tea Parties?

Scott Brown has managed to take Ted Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts and swing the independent voters from the Democrats to the GOP.

The right is pleased with itself, especially the tea party movement. They believe that by electing Brown, they have driven a stake through the heart of the health care vampire.

Unfortunately -- like any horror story -- the villain may yet live. Democrats had already begun drafting contingency plans for Brown’s election when things started looking bad. They will consider every possible trick in the book before considering the white flag.

Conservatives may in fact be better positioned should the Democrats continue their arrogant ways and push through health care (which will probably be the Senate plan now). If the president and his party ignore the overwhelming anger of the American people, it will be curtains for many Democrats.

Alas, political observers -- including this one -- think that the liberals who control the Democratic Party are so dedicated to the cause of universal health care that they will sacrifice as many seats as necessary. They have been waiting 30 or more years for the right opportunity to push their socialist agenda, and would rather go down in flames than step back.

The tea party movement now has a big problem. They have thrown their lot behind a RINO in the form of Scott Brown, a man who voted for RomneyCare. Brown leans further left than Dede Scozzafava. Now the RINOs will point to his victory and see it as a sign that their “moderate” ways are vote winners, and all the angst that should be directed at the RINOs -- for helping get us in this mess in the first place -- may dissipate. Will conservatives be able to make a case for primary challengers against the RINOs for 2010? Will their short-term pragmatism prove too clever by half in the long run? After all, Brown did not thank the tea party movement in his victory speech, despite the many tea partiers who helped him win.

Will tea party movement conservatives be able to guide the Republican Party in the wake of a RINO being elected in Kennedy’s old seat? And what has this whole campaign done to the movement that tries to proclaim itself to be non-partisan? When the Republican Party needed them, the tea party movement fell into line. How can the movement proclaim its independence when it has just stumped for a Republican who is not even a conservative?

This special election has been a gift to the Republicans in their quest to co-opt the tea party. Surely it would be ironic if Ted Kennedy in death helped the Republican Party get back to electability. Yet Kennedy may have delivered lapsed Republicans back to the party, and split the tea party movement so it is no longer as big a threat to both parties.

Ultimately, if the tea party movement wants to see the House and the Senate spurn its liberal Democrats, they should hope for shenanigans. Voters have very short memories, and this vote for Brown may placate them. In victory, the tea party movement must continue to press its message of limited government, fiscal conservatism, and the free market.

They need to quickly return to the task at hand. Scott Brown’s election does not render the April 15 rallies less important. The movement needs to keep its eye and pressure on elected officials in D.C., and they also need to make sure Brown is seated as soon as possible.

It is up to the tea party movement regarding whether this will be merely a Pyrrhic victory in the long campaign against the socialist agenda. This is one small gain -- possibly even a temporary one if Brown votes as he did in Massachusetts -- in the long quest to return the U.S. back to its constitutional roots of prudent governance.