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Primaries show Tea Party demise?

Mitch McConnell's primary victory over a Tea Party endorsed challenger has led some to proclaim that the Tea Party is dead.
Mitch McConnell's primary victory over a Tea Party endorsed challenger has led some to proclaim that the Tea Party is dead.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

No sooner had the results come in from the dozens of primaries around the country on Tuesday than biased news sources such as The Washington Post were gleefully proclaiming the demise of the Tea Party. Such dancing and revelry were based on the fact that Tea Party candidates did not do very well while establishment candidates, incumbents mostly, did very well.

But does this in any way prove the Tea Party is dead? The answer is an emphatic no. The Tea Party is alive and well and is growing in strength and influence.

So why did Tea Party candidates do so poorly in the primaries? And why did establishment Republicans win? The answers to these questions will reveal factors that have nothing to do with the power and influence of the Tea Party.

In looking over the political landscape after the Tuesday contests in both major Parties, one thing stood out in sharp focus. Incumbents won the day. This was true for Democrats as well. Thus, it was the incumbent factor and not the Tea Party that determined the outcome of the various primary races around the country.

But isn't the incumbent factor precisely what the Tea Party is working against? And if so, isn't the fact that the incumbents won a sure-fire signal that the voters repudiated the Tea Party? No, not really. In many of the races where the establishment Republican incumbent won, he or she made a bee line to the Tea Party to claim that their views are consistent with Tea Party ideals. They would not be doing that if the Tea Party were waning in influence. If anything, their actions and words show that the Tea Party is more important than ever. Even Republican establishment candidates attempt to align themselves with Tea Party ideals because their internal polling shows that their constituents agree with much of the Tea Party's message. And this is not to mention the fact that many incumbents were Tea Party endorsed when they won in 2010 and 2012.

In other races where the establishment Republican did not go out of their way to embrace the Tea Party, there were other reasons for their success. For example, Mitch McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader. If the GOP wins back the Senate in November, he will become the Senate Majority Leader. For decades political history has shown that in primaries it is awfully difficult to defeat a Minority/Majority Leader, or the one who is the Speaker of the House. And herein lies John Boehner's advantage. It is awfully hard to defeat a sitting Speaker of the House in a primary challenge.

Another factor is the lack of political savvy on the part of some Tea Party candidates. True, that lack of career politician savvy is one reason for their appeal to the grassroots. But this is also a source of their weakness. A few major missteps will turn voters away in droves. This happened to the Tea Party endorsed Republican challenger to Mitch McConnell. You can't publicly state that "dog fighting and cock fighting are an important part of our American heritage" and not expect to suffer greatly for it at the polls. Had the Tea Party been afforded a candidate who had more savvy and who knew when to keep his mouth shut, then it would have been entirely possible for McConnell to be defeated.

The Tea Party is still in its infancy when it comes to vetting candidates. As it grows and matures, it will get much better at spotting someone who is not only close to the constituents but possesses a certain professional decorum that enables him/her to avoid verbal missteps.

One more factor must be emphasized to understand the political landscape currently. Americans who describe themselves as conservative or libertarian are aware, either consciously or unconsciously, that the choices they make could secure a restoration of Constitutional law or inadvertently hurt the cause of liberty. Most Americans are quite ready to get rid of Obama and the Democrat stranglehold on the Senate. Incumbents are known entities who have a track record of winning. So, perhaps the voters chose not to rock the boat in the primaries. Their eye is on the goal -- take both Houses of Congress.

Do I agree with this tactic? Only to a degree. No one wishes to see Harry Reid ousted as Majority Leader more than I. But this does not mean that I will endorse or work for candidates whose views are highly troublesome, such as Lindsey Graham.

Thus, my role in this election cycle will not be to endorse candidates except for a tiny select few. My role is to focus on issues. Hammering away at the core issues will help voters more than anything else to make good choices at the polls.

You may also be interested in the following:

My personal blog, The Liberty Sphere.

My popular series titled, Musings After Midnight.

My ministry site, Martin Christian Ministries.

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