Dave Weigel at Slate has done some fun sleuthing and discovered that the House Tea Party Caucus, launched by Michele Bachmann, is, if not dead, in critical condition and slipping away fast:
Today, the membership page for the caucus is defunct. The caucus hasn’t met since July 2012; it has posted no news since July 2012. In the press, “Tea Party caucus” has become an offhand way to refer to conservatives. In her speech to CPAC, which included a typically Bachmann-ian error about how much TANF money is wasted on administration, Bachmann didn’t mention “the Tea Party.”
The only dispute I have with Weigel’s analysis is that the Tea Party cannot be dead if it was never alive. It has long been my observation that there never was a Tea Party. All of its constituents are Republicans (or vote Republican). All of the elected representatives who associate themselves with it are Republicans. All of its policy positions are straight from the GOP Party platform. Much of it’s original organizing muscle was provided by establishment Republican operatives like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and GOP flacks Russo Marsh & Rogers. The Tea Party is, and always has been, a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP, and everyone from Republican leadership to the GOP PR agency (aka Fox News) knows it:
John Boehner, House Minority Leader: There really is no difference between what Republicans believe in and what the tea party activists believe in.
Michael Steele, Republican Party Chairman: It’s important for our party to appreciate and understand that so we can move toward it, and embrace it.
Mark Skoda, Tea Party Leader: This movement is beginning to mature … not as a third party but a force to be reckoned with in the traditional party structure.
Carl Cameron, Fox News: They plan to establish separate spin off political action committees to fund raise for candidates who back Tea Party goals and the official Republican National Committee platform.
Newt Gingrich, Former GOP House Speaker: If the Republican Party offers a positive alternative in a way that Tea Party activists and independents join them, the tide could turn.
Consequently, the Tea Party could not have died. Its purpose was to promote the most extreme, far-right positions of the GOP and to denounce compromise and cooperation. That stubbornness has resulted in unprecedented gridlock in Washington and decline in support for the Republican Party to historic lows. The Tea-publican bonds are tightly wrapped and they cannot pretend they were never an item. The GOP web site even featured a page explicitly aligning themselves with “Tea Bagging” (which is interesting because they now consider the term derogatory).
So, no…the Tea Party is not dead. It was never alive. And its place in the GOP is as firm as ever despite their failure to acknowledge it. Bachmann’s defunct caucus is a joke and the infighting between the GOP establishment and their Tea Party wing is just more fertile material for humor. Karl Rove and Sarah Palin are at each others throats. RNC chair Reince Priebus and Rush Limbaugh are feuding fiercely. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a Tea-publican primary challenger. And John Boehner is being ostracized from within his own ranks.
Aah yes, these are good times.