With Ken Cuccinelli, their favorite son candidate for governor going down in flames, it’s little wonder the so-called “tea party patriots” are keeping a low profile in Virginia lately.
In the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Floyd, Virginia — where I live — the local tea party hasn’t updated its web site since Memorial Day. The organization’s “local governing meeting notes” page’s most recent post is April 23rd. The Virginia “Tea Party Patriots” web site says the Floyd group was “last active 397 days ago.”
The last post on the Floyd Tea Party web site is a collection of news cartoons and, ironically, the posting of each violates copyrights held by the cartoonists or their employers.
The nearby New River Valley tea party hasn’t updated its web site since March 19 and that post was only the third of the year. Two only two other items for 2013 were posted in early January.
“The tea party is barely a blip on the national radar,” writes Bill Sher of The Week. “What happened?”
The tea party planned to use the just-completed August recess of Congress to mount a national protest campaign against immigration reform but it never really materialized because the people who really run the so-called “grassroots” group are the billionaire Koch brothers and they support immigration.
So the effort fizzled and some feel that the tea party is dying along with it.
Not quite. The tea party is not dead but it is a far cry from what it used to be and merely a bitter memory to those who once feared it would become a potent political power. The uproar over the targeting of the tea party and other conservative groups by the IRS kept it in the news for a while this year but that has largely faded.
The Floyd tea party tried to sideline the county’s new comprehensive plan with loud, but baseless, claims that it was the puppet of some vague United Nations agenda but nobody in the county government listed to their hysteria.
Efforts to derail the Sustain Floyd movement fell flat as well.
“The Tea Party movement is dead. It’s gone,” says Chris Littleton, cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of Tea Party groups in Ohio. “I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant.”
Littleton’s comment was not made recently. He said it in early 2012 in a prediction that the tea party’s choices for the Republican presidential nomination had little chance at winning. He was right. Every tea party candidate for President fell by the wayside n the primaries and the inclusion of tea party favorite Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate didn’t mean a thing to voter. They lost.
Tea party leaders claim the problem lies with what they call the failure of Republican leadership to listen to their demands. A Pew Research poll released a few days ago says 71 percent of American voters who support the tea party are unhappy with the GOP leadership and want change.
There’s a big problem with that poll. Those who support the tea party represent only a very small portion of the voter population. A poll by Rasmussen Reports in January found that only eight percent of likely American voters are members of the tea party.
The demise of tea party influence may best be expressed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who was once a poster child for the party.
The threat of a tea party-backed primary challenge used to scare Republicans but when the tea baggers threatened to mount a primary challenge against Ryan because he supports immigration reform he just shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ve seen it all and I am used to this kind of political activity,” Ryan said. “It does not surprise me; it doesn’t really affect me.”