There seems to be a growing sense of buyer’s remorse among both members of the Tea Party Movement and Republican Party regulars surrounding the primary win of Christine O’Donnell. Buyer’s remorse is a condition that arises after people have bought something or bought into something with a feeling of personal comfort that then disappears after the purchase. The buyer is then left with a sense of remorse over having made the purchase in the first place. Questions surrounding O’Donnell’s ability to get elected and her past personal history have caught the attention of prominent Republicans like the head of the Delaware GOP, Tom Ross, Karl Rove, or Congressman Mike Pence, (R-IN). Pence recently said that while a verdict on O’Donnell’s political future is up to the voters in Delaware, he also said that she has an obligation to explain past public statements. One should not be too surprised by the fact that more and more Republicans are uncomfortable with O’Donnell considering the controversy stirred up within the G.O.P. regarding how to accommodate the Tea Party Movement. Republicans officer holders and the G.O.P. leadership may pay lip service to the fact that is up to the Delaware voters to decide who will be their next Senator, but don’t fool yourself in thinking they would not have preferred Mike Castle and along with him a chance at retaking the Senate.
Likewise her election has given rise to anxiety within the organization of the Tea Party Movement. The discomfort within the movement is evident in the commentary of heavy weights like Dick Armey right down to the level of rank and file operatives. While it’s not surprising that established Republican office holders and operatives would be dismayed and at odds with the Tea Party movement, what is interesting to note is the degree of controversy that Ms. O’Donnell has created within the movement itself. Tea Party money man, Dick Armey, former House Minority Leader and head of FreedomWorks, the powerhouse advocacy group which has poured millions into the campaigns of Tea Party candidates declined to back O’Donnell and has yet to endorse her. Armey was reluctant to support O’Donnell in the primary, “largely because of concerns over her electability. Armey has been leery of social conservatives like O’Donnell, who is far more Christian Coalition than tea party. In fact, he has spent the past few years bashing social conservatives for trying to use government to impose their moral agenda on the rest of the country.” according to Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones.The remorse over O’Donnell’s election is more than evident among many of the movement’s foot soldiers as well as the following representative quote shows: “Andrew Ian Dodge is the Maine state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea party umbrella groups. TPP doesn’t endorse candidates, but that hasn’t stopped Dodge from expressing his own opinion about O’Donnell. He thinks she’s a bit of a nutter. “Everything I’ve seen about her has made me laugh my ass off,” he says. “What the hell do you say? First you have Alvin Green, and now you have her.” His concern is that if she loses in the general election to Democrat Chris Coons, the defeat will be widely regarded as a reflection on the tea party movement-and he doesn’t want that….Dodge also takes issue with O’Donnell’s status as an “outsider.” He explains: “Alvin Green is an outsider. Carl Paladino, who has never run for anything, is an outsider.” O’Donnell has run four times for national office and lost. “She’s not an outsider,” he says. “She’s a loser.” Dodge notes that while it hasn’t made national headlines, there is a reasonable and healthy discussion inside the tea party movement about whether O’Donnell deserves national support…There’s video of her saying masturbation leads to AIDS. O’Donnell is on record attacking masturbation as sinful, decrying the costs of AIDS prevention and research, and criticizing the “lifestyle which brings about this disease.” Further examples of rank and file discontent with the O’Donnell election can be found in the sources below.
Much is made about the fact that the Tea Party Movement is so decentralized, that it is a truly grass roots “peoples movement”, this being the explanation given for the wide variations in the quality of the candidates that the movement produces. Whether or not the movement is truly “grass roots is debatable, but herein rests an essential question: If the Tea Party Movement is to morph into a viable component of, or a replacement for the GOP, can it do so given its current diffuse method of organization, operation and candidate selection? To what extent is the movement undermining its own credibility and emerging “brand name” by allowing candidates of dubious and questionable quality to represent it in high profile races such as the ones in Delaware and Nevada. If its candidates are seen as too extreme, to bizarre or just plain farcical, who will take the movement seriously outside of its own rank and file? And based on the polling from the conservative Rasmussen Reports; the number of voters who identify as Tea Party members is still relatively small. Rasmussen’s August poll showed: “national telephone survey finds that 13% of voters say they themselves are Tea Party members. Thirteen percent (13%) more say they have close friends or family members who are part of the Tea Party movement… Sixty percent (60%) say they have no ties to the movement, but that’s down nine points from late May.” Fourteen percent (14%) are not sure. Prior polling by Rasmussen had shown identification with the Tea Party to be higher at 24%. That said the real challenge for the Tea Party Movement is to convince the independent voters that their candidates are worth voting for. There is more than ample polling to show that independents view the Tea Party in a less than negative light, but I suspect that most of that polling represents the proverbial generic and generalized type of question, one in which the respondent does not have to voice an opinion about a particular candidate that holds specific positions that the respondent may or may not endorse. And therein lays the root of all of the consternation surrounding the primary win for Ms. O’Donnell. She is the product of a system that has no apparent quality control and that lack of control has produced a candidate that raises more questions than answers as to whether or not she is fit for the office of U.S. Senator. The byproduct of this controversy is a host of questions as to the inherent logic, or lack thereof, of the present form of organization of the Tea Party Movement and its overall staying power on the American political scene. Is it as Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said: “a fad” or is it an emergent political force to be reckoned with? Only time will tell. In the interest of full disclosure I have twelve members of my own extended family who are active in the Tea Party Movement.