What’s Left: A Burning Cup of Tea



Shortly after President Obama’s speech on healthcare to a joint session of Congress, I wrote an opinion for this very column that expressed my concern with the “You lie!” incident, the infamous town hall summer of ’09 and the general collapse of civility and reason in politics (if they ever existed). These things and more, I wrote, were attributable to the so-called Tea Party.

One year later, in mid-September, I am writing about the Tea Party once again. To put it in the Tea Party vernacular, the movement that I described one year ago was a T-PINO (Tea Party In Name Only) compared to what it is now. This is no longer about a horde of grumpy growlers ruining tourists’ days at the National Mall. The Tea Party is real.

In the last year, scattered flames of Tea Party anger have merged into a roaring wildfire that has burned establishment Republicans right out of their seats. The flames, fanned by Glenn Beck (who seems intent on solving the global water crisis solely with his tear ducts) and Sarah Palin (RELOAD!) might just burn across the aisle and unseat Democrats on November 2. It all comes down to whether or not the heat of Tea Party extremism will send moderates running for cooler-minded candidates.

My hunch is that it will. That’s not to say that Republicans won’t come out of November with big smiles on their white, older than average, male faces. I am simply arguing that Tea Party victories in primaries increase the chance of Democratic victories in their general elections.

As an apathetic know-nothing liberal, I can imagine few things that would make me want to get out and vote more than a Tea Party candidate threatening my beloved Democratic lawmaker. Whether it’s part of my socialist agenda to vote against candidates that would do away with the Department of Education or my crusade to kill the Constitution by standing up for the rights of Muslims to build community centers wherever zoning laws permit, I assure anyone still reading this column that I would make extra effort to vote against a Tea Partier, and I’m not alone. Many liberals fear the Tea Party for its extreme views, its political power or both.

The self-titled and hilariously misnamed “Tea Party Patriots” point to their “stunning” (not really) victories in GOP primaries across the nation to “refudiate” claims like mine. Yet one must remember the remarkably small number of primary voters in Delaware, Alaska, Florida, Utah and other upset states. With such low voter turnout, as few as 30,000 (Delaware) nutcases could and did put whoever they want in the hot seat for the November election.

But could Tea Party candidates, for the reasons I mentioned above, drive liberals en masse to the polls? Combine that possibility with the recently disenfranchised moderate Republican, who might stay home or in some cases, vote for the moderate liberal to avoid the horror of a Tea Partier “representing” him. Together, these two scenarios could send incumbent Democrats back to Capitol Hill.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting wait-and-see election season concerning the question of Tea Party vs. Democrat. For the sake of my political preferences and personal pride, I hope that the latter is victorious. But who knows? Can anyone recommend a good tea leaf reader?