During a press conference today, Sen. Chuck Schumer referred to the stalemate in Washington today as the “tea party shutdown.” Schumer may be doing some political calculation in order to allow the GOP as a whole to save face. After all, he’s got to work alongside of these people. However, it is completely disingenuous for him to characterize bringing the government to a halt as solely the work of the tea party.
We’ve watched over the last several years as the so-called tea party candidates have inserted themselves into the Republican party. And the Republican party has done little or nothing to discourage them or their attendant extremism. In fact, many in the Republican party used the ascent of the tea party as an excuse to espouse their own extreme right-wing views more openly and shamelessly.
Consequently, it’s virtually impossible to delineate where the GOP ends and the tea party begins. They have become one and the same. While there are certainly more extreme members with more extreme views, they blend in all too inconspicuously with the GOP at large.
With the current government shutdown, certain more centrist members of Congress have attempted to distance themselves from the tea party extremists within their ranks. But the party as a whole has not yet come up with a strategy to restrict tea party influence within the GOP in a way that is commensurate with their actual numbers. Consequently, the GOP owns this shutdown.
The basic questions that we were asking when the tea party first formed still haven’t been answered. Which is it? Are you upper or lower case? Are you a faction of the Republican Party, and therefore the “tea party” or “tea party caucus”? Or do you consider yourself an actual legitimate third party, or Tea Party?
If it’s the former, then the GOP needs to take your views into consideration but make its collective decisions based on the majority within the party. (This especially means you, Mr. Speaker.) That also means that the GOP owns all of the insanity within its ranks, in those cases in which the extremists convince the more mainstream members of Congress to vote with them.
If it’s the latter, then the tea party earns its upper case status, along with all of the responsibilities and obligations that a political party has. So far, the tea party has reaped all the rewards of both positions and has borne none of the responsibilities of either.
So make up your minds.
To paraphrase Jesse Pinkman, “let’s Party, bitches.”