In the wake of the 2008 presidential election, the unthinkable happened: a grassroots populist movement sprung forth from the bowels of the two major parties. Conservative citizens, angered by the status quo, formed what became known as the Tea Party movement, a loose-knit coalition of like-minded Right wing organizations dedicated to fiscal conservatism and anti-establishment candidates. For a brief time, they seemed like a beacon of hope in a sea of despair, living proof the long dormant American citizen still had fire in his belly. They were able to unseat politicians, advance legislation, and steer government policy. For four long years, the movement prepared for the 2012 presidential election and what was to be their crowning achievement, the election of a true conservative president.
Dreams may be nice, but if history has proven one thing, it is dreams rarely come true. Barack Obama may not be re-elected this November, but this year will mark the end of the Tea Party. Early on in the campaign season, it seemed as though the Tea Party could potentially survive into the indefinite future. The movement nearly unanimously disavowed Governor Mitt Romney, shunning him as though he was a leper despite warnings he was destined to become the Republican nominee. Conservative activists flocked to candidates like Herman Cain or Rick Santorum, and although these men never stood a chance, at least they represented a threat to the establishment, even if on a minor scale. Tea Parties across the country professed the movement would remain adamant in its convictions. It was, after-all, the last bastion of populist hope, the scourge of power hungry party bosses and career politicians. Many boasted there was no power in Heaven nor earth capable of forcing the Tea Party to compromise its principles; come Hell or high water, they would never endorse the former Governor of Massachusetts.
All of this sounded noble, but talk is cheap, and many observers questioned whether these rogue Republicans would actually live up to their threats when they finally arrived at the ballot box. Unfortunately, there were several signs that the Tea Party was about to commit suicide and cave in to the demands of the establishment by surrendering their last crumb of independence to the greedy Republican cookie monster. They begrudgingly began to accept the GOP-propagated fallacy that Mitt Romney’s policies represented a drastic departure from those of Barack Obama, and that it was every conservative’s patriotic duty to remove the incumbent from office. Sure, Romney wasn’t the best candidate in the world, but he was a step in the right direction, and there was too much at stake during this election cycle to let Barack Obama remain in office for another four years. Once they managed to sell that message to the masses, it was just a matter of time before the Tea Party bought it. Before long, they were focused explicitly on one thing: defeating Obama. It didn’t matter who replaced him, so long as he was gone.
Today, Mitt Romney is not worried about the Tea Party, nor is Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any other politician for that matter. While many activists claim this compromise is only temporary and that after the fate of the free world is secured the Tea Partiers will reclaim their position as crusaders of conservative righteousness, America’s elected officials know better. They have seen “independent” movements like this before and know they never last. The establishment got what they wanted all along and nobody will ever view the Tea Party as credible. Why should anyone? When push comes to shove, they will cave in and endorse the status quo, at risk of “spoiling” the election. They will never regain the fierce reputation they once had and that’s exactly what the Republican Party always wanted.
One can’t blame the Tea Party for falling for the GOP’s trap. Many of those involved were political novices, unprepared for the barrage of propaganda the Republican machine hurled their way. The Republican Party wanted to see the Tea Party silenced more than anyone else; the Democrats didn’t feel threatened by them after the 2010 Congressional midterm elections because they knew it was just a question of time before the GOP squashed their internal insurrection. The 2012 presidential election was the culmination of a three-year operation to infiltrate and discredit the movement, which at one time did represent a threat to the Republican hierarchy, which is no longer the case. Many in the Tea Party don’t recognize it and believe they have outsmarted their opponents, but the truth of the matter is they were never going to be removed from the political landscape via physical force; it was subversion of their treasured ideology that did them in. Why does America even need a Tea Party now that it has proven incapable of resisting the pressure of the two-party system?
It is true that there is no unified “Tea Party” and several renegade groups have refused to tow the party line, instead endorsing Ron Paul, the vast majority are now in Romney’s pocket. During an election where there are literally more than a handful of qualified, credible conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney, there is no excuse for the Tea Party’s behavior. Congressman Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party’s candidate and Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, will likely both be on the ballot in enough states to conceivable secure enough electoral votes to become president. Why not back one of these gentlemen? Because the Tea Party has surrendered its war on the establishment, and like any person or organization that sells its soul, the movement will soon suffer the repercussions of its relationship with the devil.