The beginning of the end for the Tea Party faux revolution occurred this Sunday on ABC's This Week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell effectively tipped his hand when asked whether the Tea Party will help or hurt Republicans.
"One thing we know about everybody who's been active in this movement, we know none of them are going to go out and vote Democrat," he stated.
McConnell confirms what polls show and many of us have long suspected: The Tea Party is the Grand Old Party with a caffeinated beverage.
In early August on NBC's Meet the Press, House Minority Leader John Boehner plugged the web site "America Speaking Out" as part of the Rush Limbaugh-maligned "GOP Listening Tour." Visitors submitted ideas and then those ideas were voted up or down others. With millions of votes and page views, the site is a fascinating read. Strangely, the ideas voted highest are mostly centrist: abolishing Don't Ask, Don't Tell; divorcing from the Religious Right; not kowtowing to the NRA; and, denouncing Palin/Beck/Limbaugh.
An idea voted "up" over one thousand times reads, "Can we make policy decisions that are based on sound science and that are data driven and quantifiable? Not politicized ones?"
One responder put it best, "I don't think this is a libtard. He actually has a decent point. People should make policy decisions based on common sense."
Some of the most selected ideas on the site included not outsourcing jobs overseas and cutting back expense allowances given to Members of Congress.
What about party-defining issues like abortion? The idea receiving the most votes said to make it "safe, legal and rare." The "open mike" section contained almost unanimous calls to legalize weed. Keep in mind these are the new ideas Republicans asked for and were given other self-identified Republicans.
So what did the Republican Party do with this new information? They released their 21-page "Pledge to America" legislative agenda. In it, they played right into the recent criticism from President Barack Obama that the GOP just wants to go back and do the same thing they were doing during the Bush Years. They've even used the phrase "back to 2008 levels." Yes, relive the golden era of 2008 when the economy imploded and the Democrats won in a landslide. Great idea … for the Democrats.
Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," cut clips from the 1994 "Contract with America" footage and aired it alongside the current video. Some talking points are verbatim. Congressman Boehner is on videotape twice, first 12 years ago, and then again most recently at the unveiling of the Pledge at a hardware store, stating, "A smaller, less costly and more accountable government in our nation's capital."
"Your fresh new ideas sound slightly –– did I say ‘slightly' –– exactly like your old ideas," Stewart quipped.
Reading the "Speaking Out" site, it's clear there is more common ground than partisanship would have us believe. Many originally Republican ideas, like mandating all Americans purchase health insurance as a way to ensure coverage and contain costs (introduced as an alternative to "HillaryCare"), the GOP now vehemently opposes. Cap and Trade is a free market idea. It came out of conservative ideology, but now somehow it's a cattle prod to electrify the base against "job-killing environmentalists." The bailout is despised Republicans and blamed on Obama, but it was signed Bush. The soaring deficit? Republicans were for it before they were against it.
The current Republican Party is counting on the Tea Party's morphing into the attack wing of the GOP –– isolating moderates and anyone with genuine new ideas. And that means there will be Representatives who are not actually representative.
In a two-party system, if one party is broken, then the entire system is broken.
So where do the reasonable Republicans go who were not listened to?
The extremists have had their two years of attention, screaming in front of television cameras. Is it time for the conversationalists, yet? Is the center due for a comeback?
Already springing up are non-profit groups, like No Labels, who will officially launch later this year, seeking to promote centrist candidates and to bring Democrats and Republicans together.
Hmm. The moderates? That seems like … a pretty new –– if not novel idea.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of Fishbowl.