Opinion and Forefront

VANE: Republican values drive Tea Party victories

June 16, 2012

Robert VaneHas there ever been a more maligned political movement in the past generation than the Tea Party?

Puffed-up pundits, liberal media mavens, Democratic hired guns and bien pensant Republicans have all declared the Tea Party the alpha and omega of what’s wrong with the 21st century GOP.

But is the charge rooted in reality or just something fun to say while sipping your latte and pining for the return of Keith Olbermann?

How about we take a quick look at the only valid way to measure a movement’s political power—electoral results.

Since the Tea Party movement gained steam in early 2010, the national Republican Party and the Indiana Republican Party have had a nearly unbroken string of electoral victories.

The Republicans took over the federal House of Representatives by winning a net of 63 seats (with its total number of congressmen the highest since 1938).

In the Senate, Republicans won two Democratic seats, took four open seats, and successfully defended every one of its seats.

Governors? The Republican Party picked up a net of six offices and had a majority of governorships (29) for the first time since 2006.

Also, the Republicans made substantial gains in legislatures across America. In five states, both chambers flipped to the Republican side. Republicans expanded majorities in Florida, Georgia and Texas. In Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, Republicans took control of one house, thus giving them control of the entire legislature.

Overall, Republicans won a record 680 state legislative races. This meant Republicans were in charge of the crucial task of drawing the districts for congressional and state legislative races after the 2010 census. The ramifications of this could last for the next half century.

So, for the 2010 races, how exactly was the Tea Party movement a detriment for the Republican Party? Sure, there were highly publicized defeats of Tea Party Senate candidates in Delaware and Nevada, but measured against obituaries written for the GOP after the “hope and change” wave in 2008, the sum total of these results is remarkable.

In 2011, the Republicans in Indiana had a terrific year in mayoral races across the state. Most important, Greg Ballard held on to the mayor’s office, winning by 8,000 votes in a county that Barack Obama carried by 107,000 votes three years earlier. Evansville saw Lloyd Winnecke become the first Republican mayor without the last name Lloyd since the 1950s.

For years, the same people who now loathe the Tea Party constantly complained that they would be more sympathetic to the Republican cause if it would just drop all the social-issue rhetoric. So the Tea Party comes along, certainly more focused on economic and fiscal issues than social issues, and the complainers still aren’t satisfied.

The lesson? It is asinine to try to convince these folks that a strongly conservative Republican Party has a legitimate place in today’s political world. Short of changing our initials from GOP to NPR, there’s nothing we can do to end the condescension coming from the pretty people.

The Tea Party principles include limited government, fewer taxes and individual freedom—exactly the principles that were reaffirmed by Wisconsin voters earlier this month in that state’s recall election.

How are these different from the ideals espoused by most right-leaning Hoosiers, not just those who identify themselves as “Tea Party”?

Politicians imposing on individual liberty and spending money without a conscience is what fuels the Tea Party.

The Tea Party has the courage of its convictions and spares no one, not even Republicans, that it believes is not sufficiently dedicated to economic liberty and attacking our mind-boggling national debt.

Nov. 6 will be yet another test of the Tea Party’s political muscle, but if the past is prologue, its opponents are in for another long night of losing.•

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Vane, a U.S. Army veteran, has worked for elected Republican officials including Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and currently owns the public relations firm Veteran Strategies. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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