Can we officially conclude the establishment Republican Party has declared war on the Tea Party? Evidence is pointing that way, and Missouri Congressman, Blaine Leutkemeyer, is the latest to take a shot, not across the bow of, but directly into the hull of several Tea Party organizations.
John Boehner said,
They are misleading their followers. They’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly I just think they have lost all credibility. You know they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare, and to shut down the government. And most of you know, and my members know, that wasn’t the strategy that I had in mind.
During a December 28, 2013 Saturday morning KFTK-97.1 FM Talk Radio interview, Leutkemeyer echoed the talking points of John Boehner’s December 2013 press conference. He accused conservative Tea Party groups of working against a conservative agenda and undermining the Republican game plan. His frustration continued through the interview, which only served to enflame listeners, who swiftly sounded off to oppose the congressman’s support of the establishment agenda. In fact, so much of the St. Louis radio station’s audience objected to the Congressman’s stance, the host, Dr. Randy Tobler, brought him back the following week, to clarify his statements.
One would think, a seasoned politician would walk back comments, which may have enflamed his constituents, but not in this case. During the January 4, 2014 interview, Leutkemeyer went even further to point fingers, and name names of specific Tea Party groups that he characterized as “liberal organizations in conservative clothes.” He mentioned Club for Growth, Freedomworks, and most specifically, Heritage Action.
“Heritage Action is just over the top in the way that they behave,” according to Leutkemeyer.
“ . . . they have a different agenda. They are not conservatives. They are out here using our conservative movement. They are using our Tea Party folks, and using other conservative groups, and pitting one against another, and dividing our conference, dividing our party, dividing conservatives by what they are doing. And so, as a result, it is really hurting the entire conservative movement, and putting a bad stamp on everything. . . . These guys are not who you think they are.”
This examiner.com article outlines how Leutkemeyer continued to make misstatements related to Heritage Action’s legislative score card, specifically as to how they scored Republicans and Democrats. It also points out that he is the lowest scoring Republican in Missouri.
The flap ensued, on the radio for two more weeks, in response to Leutkemeyer’s claims, so talk-show host, Dr. Randy Tobler, invited Dan Holler, Communications Director for Heritage Action on January 18th, to get the Tea Party perspective . Holler quickly explained, the policy detail promoted by groups like Heritage Action seeks to change the standard of incremental politics in Washington D.C. Policy markers and “good conservative government” should be led by Republicans, now holding office, instead of allowing Harry Reid to set the standard and expecting Republicans to follow.
The criticism raised by Republicans concerning Tea Party and grassroots expectations on voting, was also addressed. While Boehner, and his establishment constituency, may not appreciate pushback from outside influence regarding their agendas, Holler goes on to state that groups, like Heritage Action, collect feedback from the voters when they craft bills to submit to legislators in D.C., which is a fair and counter weight to the K Street lobby that now dominates, inside the beltway.
Boehner and Leutkemeyer are not the only establishment Republicans spreading the anti-Tea Party talking points. Last month, David Welsh, a former researcher for the Republican National Committee called the Tea Party, “modern day Birchers.” Senator Mitch McConnell describes the Tea Party as being “misled.” And even Governor Mike Huckabee stood up for Boehner by accusing “certain groups” of raising money to attack the Republican Party.
Talk show host, Randy Tobler, makes a critical point, in a couple of the radio interviews, regarding the effectiveness of the Tea Party voice. He cites while the Tea Party may be well informed and up to date on most of what goes on in Washington D.C., and in their own states, most of the United States still gets its news from media outlets, like NBC, CBS, and ABC which beat the FOX network by more than 3 million viewers, during the 4 th quarter ratings totals. And while Tea Party numbers are growing, and certainly that is enough to cause discomfort within the ranks of the establishment Republican Party, it’s not enough to expect them to take the Tea Party seriously, to the point of expecting a change in present behavior.
Perhaps the message, back to establishment Republicans, in response to their frustration at raised voices against their now fragile empire would be, the system works as it was designed to work. Our Constitution provides a way for the voting constituents to bring forth their demands, and a system of removal for those who do not represent those demands. Now, the sleeping giant has awakened. They are telling you they no longer want a dysfunctional body of representation who operates under the policies of incremental politics in order to hold on to inflated positions of power they were never intended to possess. Neither, incremental politics nor power-hungry representation, serves a free republic.
The Tea Party has experienced various growing pains, since its 2009 birth, and they aren’t likely to go away even, and especially, if they continue to be ignored by the establishment Republican Party. It just remains to be seen how the present place-holders of the current elected adjust to and handle the pressures of the upcoming political battles in 2014 and 2016. While establishment Republicans may be waging small battles for now, don’t count out the Tea Party for winning the war.