What do yesterday’s primaries mean for the Tea Party, for the Senate and for 2016? For the Tea Party, it’s clear that the party’s over, and that radical-right extremists—the funny hat-wearing, conspiracy-mongering, Obama-hating, kooks who stormed the polls in 2010—have been shunted aside. For the Senate, it means that Democratic party hopes of hanging on to its threatened majority there have essentially vanished, since there will be few if any Tea Party kooks on the ballot in November. And for 2016, it means that the GOP is even more likely to nominate an establishment Republican, who’s paid his or her ideological dues to Big Business, the US Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street, such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush, and not anyone from the collection of Tea Party-allied rightists such as Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Mike Huckabee.
Needless to say, Wall Street and Big Business are gleeful.
That’s not to say that the Republican party has been taken over by Eisenhower-like politicians and the heirs of Nelson Rockefeller. For thirty years the GOP has cascaded rightward—although the exhaustion of the Tea Party may have put the brakes on further movement to the extreme right—leaving the party several clicks farther away from the center than it was in say, 1980. And the Tea Party’s influence on the party, built up since Obama’s election in 2008—which seems to have triggered a burst of racist paranoia—isn’t going away soon. The Los Angeles Times, in its news analysis, writes:
The GOP’s civil war now looks more like a merger: the establishment has moved right, and many of the tea party’s voters are rejoining/reconciling with that new mainstream—even if some of their self-appointed leaders are not.
As The New York Times put it in a May 19 editorial titled “Primary Day on the Far Side,”
No Republican has a shot in this year’s party primaries without paying homage to extremist ideas. Whether the Tea Party is still a political force is a moot point; the radicalism of 2010 and 2012 is very much alive in 2014.
It’s alive, but not exactly kicking. The lesson that the GOP will learn from the primary season of 2014 is that as long as it pays rhetorical homage to the Tea Party’s obsessions—the IRS, Benghazi, Obamacare—it can safely move forward on things that matter, such as immigration reform and cooperation with Wall Street–allied, conservative Democrats on “entitlement reforms” without worrying that much about Tea Party primary challenges.
The business press points out that as the Tea Party loses, business wins. Bloomberg, analyzing the results of the vote yesterday—in which Tea Party kooks were devastated in Kentucky, Georgia, Idaho and elsewhere, in keeping with other recent primary votes—headlined its piece “Tea Party Losses Tilt Republican Split to Business Gain.” It reported:
“These results are a big step in the right direction,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed, who advises the nation’s largest business-lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
After the 2012 election, Reed said the chamber’s leadership instructed its political operation to “get more engaged in candidate selection and primaries to identify and support House and Senate candidates that believe in growth, governing and can win in November.”