Can tea party make it to 10?

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

Today we offer a belated birthday acknowledgement to the tea party movement, which turned 5 recently.

It was Feb. 27, 2009, when conservatives just down Interstate 55 in St. Louis rallied against President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and threw loose tea leaves into the Mississippi River. Additional rallies took place around the country that day.

CNBC Business News editor Rick Santelli helped plant the seed for the tea party movement a week earlier, though, when he stood on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during a broadcast and railed against the Obama administration’s plan to offer mortgage relief to Americans.

Five years later, people still are talking about the tea party. The movement advocates for smaller, constitutionally limited government and free markets. Its focus now is on repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which provides health-care coverage to uninsured Americans.

The movement helped give rise to such names as Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Joe Walsh, Michele Bachmann, Marco Rubio, Christine O’Donnell and Glenn Beck.

But no-compromise tea party Congressmen, including Cruz, are at least partially blamed for — or credited with, depending on how one chooses to look at it — the unpopular federal government shutdown in 2013. Ultimately, the shutdown and the tea party’s involvement damaged Americans’ view of the Republican Party, something from which the GOP continues to try to recover.

One could argue that a positive contribution by the tea party has been its scrutiny of spending and entitlement programs at all levels of government — “waste, fraud and abuse,” as some refer to it.

But government scrutiny alone is not enough to turn the tide of public opinion or sustain a political movement many view as uncompromising and extremist. How the tea party fares in this year’s elections may be an indicator of its ability to make it another five years.

— GateHouse Media Illinois