The Tea Party has Congressional Republicans Running Scared

Tea CupThe ascendency of the Tea Party has left the GOP rudderless and leaderless. Don’t believe it? Look at gridlock in Washington for proof.

The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart says Republicans in Congress are so terrified of being primaried by the Tea Party they can’t get anything done because compromise with Democrats could enrage the base.

What’s worse is Tea Partiers chose ideological purity over the health of the GOP.

Why have Republican leaders become so weak? Partly, it’s the result of not holding the presidency. In the American system, unlike parliamentary ones, opposition parties lack centralized leadership, and thus tend to be fractious. Still, McConnell and Boehner enjoyed a far tighter grip on their rank and file in Obama’s first two years in office, when Republicans stood virtually unanimous against Obama’s fiscal stimulus and health-care overhaul.

What’s changed is the ascendance of the Tea Party. In April, a group of William and Mary political scientists did the most comprehensive survey of Tea Party supporters yet. They found that Tea Partiers have become the foot soldiers of the GOP. Between 2010 and 2013, 73 percent of the movement’s backers were Republicans who attended a political meeting or rally. Those foot soldiers are far more conservative than other Republicans. Indeed, when asked whether they support government regulation of the environment and the existence of the Department of Education, non–Tea Party Republicans were closer to Democrats than to their own party’s activist wing.