This morning Patricia Murphy at the Daily Beast analyzes a Tea Party that has seen stronger days:
But after months of wondering how the Tea Party would change the primary game, leaders inside the movement admit they never came in off the sidelines. For the Tea Party movement, the 2012 presidential primaries have been a bust.
Murphy’s analysis seems accurate:
“Not Romney” is the most popular candidate among his fellow activists, Littleton says, though no one can agree who “Not Romney” is. Without an agreement on that score, the real Romney has coasted to easy victories in New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada, even winning a clean 50 percent of the Tea Party vote in Nevada on Saturday night while the other 50 percent split themselves among Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum.
Mark Meckler, founder of the Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest Tea Party coalition, also says the Tea Party isn’t playing a role in picking the nominee. But that is by choice, not by accident, he says.
“The real Tea Party movement is not a political party, it’s a movement,” he says. “How can a movement endorse anybody? It really can’t.”
One possible reason for the lack of consensus: Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum have each committed what most in the movement consider original sins against constitutional freedom or fiscal sanity. Gingrich and Romney both supported the TARP bank bailout in 2008, as well as individual mandates in health insurance years earlier. Santorum, the most socially conservative of the three, voted for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” among other massive earmarks, during his time in the Senate.
“No candidate is perfect,” Meckler says. “Candidates will make mistakes. I don’t want to see the movement associated with those kinds of mistakes. I support ideas, not people.”
I too have shared these kinds of sentiments amongst colleagues as I observed my Tea Party blogger/activist/political operative friends jump to different candidates. Some surrendering to Romney’s electability, others animated by Gingrich’s debate theatre, the social conservatives clinging to Santorum, and almost everyone just throwing their hands in the air with dreams of a brokered convention and a Hero Arriving on a White Horse.
The problem: the Tea Party is united by shared political objectives, not shared values. We very much agree that we want a smaller government in line with the political principles of the founding fathers. But we are very much divided in what methods and tactics are both effective and ethical. (As is to be expected in a movement made up of Christians, secularists, Jews, Objectivists, Ron Paul anarcho-capitalists, gay libertarians, Catholic pro-lifers, and seemingly every other culture or religion in America.) Thus, in a field of weak candidates with miniscule ideological differences (save for Ron Paul) the Tea Party divides amongst its disparate factions with each going toward the candidate who most matches their own idealized ethics, values, and culture. That’s what all the fighting is really about: we agree that we must climb the mountain, we just dispute which route is best. But we’ll figure it out eventually — even if we have to call each other mean names in the process.
If the mainstream media wants to lie to themselves and their readers by describing this process as a “death” then we should allow that fantasy’s continued indulgence.
David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media and writes a post each day on news and politics at PJ Tatler and culture and entertainment at PJ Lifestyle. He can be contacted with feedback and story tips at DaveSwindlePJM[@]gmail.com and on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He enforces commenting guidelines on his posts — rude, off topic and ad hominem comments will be deleted.