Sunday’s Washington Post asked that question in political writer Chris Cillizza’s blog “The Fix.” As might be expected in the inside-the-Beltway crowd’s hometown newspaper, Cillizza’s answer was someplace between “maybe” and “I hope not.”
In what looked like a sly rebuttal to Cillizza’s commentary, the Real Clear Politics website carried a link to his column directly above the link to an article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Lugar Faces Serious Tea-Party Challenge.”
The fact that the Tea Party isn’t a political party in the sense that the Democratic Party and Republican Party are “parties” has always befuddled most establishment analysts and pundits.
They don’t quite understand that Tea Partiers aren’t involved in politics to acquire the trappings of power – a corner office in an elegant government building and invitations to ritzy Georgetown soirees.
The small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Partiers are involved in politics first to change the debate, and then to change the country.
Cillizza quotes Jon Lerner, a Republican consultant, to that very point, “The reason for the appearance of less tea party success is that the establishment candidates have moved markedly to the right this cycle…”
Well, many establishment Republican candidates have moved at least somewhat to the right. Some, like Indian’s Senator Richard Lugar haven’t, and as a result appear to be heading for defeat.
Other establishment Republican candidates who listened to the people and adopted more conservative positions, especially on spending and the growth of government, look like they might survive Tea Party primary challenges.
Winning an election with a candidate who claims Tea Party affiliation is the only test of relevance that the inside-the-Beltway crowd seems to understand. However, from the Tea Party perspective first you win the debate, and then you win the election.
From that perspective, winning individual elections this year becomes somewhat beside the point. What makes the Tea Party relevant, now and in the future, is not the won-loss record of individual candidates, but the fact that the Tea Party is steadily winning the debate on the national debt and the danger of the growth of government.