In the past five years since Rick Santelli, a correspondent for CNBC, led a bevy of options traders on an anti-government rant, the Tea Party has gained enormous influence over conservative politics and particularly the Republican Party. Despite their small numbers, Tea Party Republicans have dominated the GOP in Congress and beyond. They threaten establishment Republicans with primary challenges and negative media campaigns. And all of this has occurred while appealing to less than a third of the American people and registering their lowest favorability ever.
The GOP today is no more popular than the sagging Tea Party. Following their crushing losses in 2012, the RNC produced a study that they themselves referred to as an autopsy that contained a laundry list of suggestions for reviving their future prospects. High on the list was expanding their outreach to African-Americans, Latinos, women, and young voters. However, in practice they have only further alienated all of those critical groups since the report was issued.
Recognizing the emerging trends, the Republican National Committee has conceded that they are no longer an effective organizational unit. Consequently, insiders are reporting that the party will soon announce a major reorganization, the principle feature of which will be a re-branding of the party of Lincoln with an even older historic reference: The Tea Party.
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This turn of events may come as a surprise to many rank-and-file Republicans, but hints of this fundamental transformation were visible to those paying close attention. Michael Steele, the former chairman of the RNC, addressed this a couple of years ago saying that…
“It’s important for our party to appreciate and understand [the Tea Party] so we can move toward it, and embrace it.”
The current RNC chair, Reince Priebus (whose name without the vowels is RNC PR BS), has also attempted to erase the line delineating the Tea Party from the GOP saying that…
“It’s not Tea Party tactics. This is what the American people want.”
Of course, every poll shows that that statement is not true. Nevertheless, Republicans continue to wrap themselves in Tea Party linens. House Speaker John Boehner joined the choir saying that…
“There really is no difference between what Republicans believe in and what the Tea Party activists believe in.”
The ribbon round the package has to be Sarah Palin’s admonition in a speech she gave to the National Tea Party Convention:
“The Republican Party would be really smart to start trying to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible because this is the future of our country. The Tea Party movement is the future of politics.”
It may be the sentiment in that speech that resulted in Palin being tapped to become the chair of the newly reconstituted GOP. Sources say that she was chosen by acclamation among an elite group of Republican Party leaders during a closely guarded conclave last week at the Florida residence of David Koch, one of the infamous Koch brothers who are responsible for bankrolling the Tea Party since its inception. Others in attendance were said to include Texas senator Ted Cruz, radio politi-vangelist Glenn Beck, outgoing House Tea Party caucus chair Michele Bachmann, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (who was sporting a “Draft Putin 2016″ button on his lapel).
The process of converting from Republicans to Tea Partiers will not begin in earnest until after the mid-term elections in November. After that there will be a flurry of activity from construction and furnishing to letterhead and logos. And by 2016 what was once referred to as the “Grand Old Party” (and more recently as the “Greedy One Percent”) will be a footnote in American history.
But don’t expect these changes to be anything more than cosmetic. The all new Tea Party will still be an intolerant, compassionless, science-denying, theocratic, advocate for corporations and the rich. Whether they are called Republicans or Tea Partiers, they are still committed to wealthy interests and opposed to ordinary working Americans. Some things never change.
[Update 4/2/2014] April Fools! But for the record, the first two paragraphs and all the quotes are true. So the re-branding has already occurred in principle.