Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer holds a wealth of wisdom for the TEA Party. Unfortunately, many in Virginia ignored it’s simple message. And the result has been a severe and damaging blow to the credibility of TEA Party and it’s efforts in the Commonwealth as all of the “TEA Party” challengers lost in a landslide to the more moderate, mainstream options.
Most of us who consider the TEA Party to be the best and greatest hope for putting America back on the road to prosperity and freedom could only sit back in horror and frustration as we watched a small group of ideologues place their collective heads where the sun don’t shine and support “candidates to nowhere”.
Not that these candidates are not good people. They are. And their message is true and righteous.
And it’s not that others should not oppose the entrenched powers in Washington. That is a healthy thing. And they always need to hear the hounds at the door. It keeps them honest, at least in theory.
The TEA Party is most effective at influencing public opinion and our elected officials.
As the TEA Party movement morphs and evolves, it also learns and grows. And sometimes you have to try and fail in order to learn. It can be a tough lesson, but is often necessary.
And as we look around the nation, we see success and we see failure in TEA Party efforts in elections and primaries.
Sometimes, the success is measured in terms of helping a Republican incumbent fight off a serious challenge from a Democrat. Even in cases where the Republican is not exactly the TEA Party Candidate, the efforts on behalf of the candidate opens the door to communication and the TEA Party take on future issues will be well received. In these cases, the TEA Party is an ally and a necessary and desirable one at that.
Some TEA Party candidates have opted for a third party attempt, but this approach has yielded very little success and most have abandoned the third party approach as a waste of time.
Another approach has been to mount a primary challenge. This has been both a success and a disaster.
In 2010, Christine O’Donnell challenged Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle in the Republican primary in Delaware. The TEA Party pushed her past Castle in the primary and she faced Democrat Chris Coons. Polls indicated that Castle would have easily won the general election, but O’Donnell went down in flames, 57% to 40%. A resounding defeat.
And who can forget the Alaska Republican Primary the same year where Joe Miller defeated Lisa Murkowski only to lose to Murkowski in the general election in a write in campaign. At least Murkowski was not a Democrat – barely!
This year in Indiana long time incumbent Dick Lugar was soundly defeated by TEA Party backed challenger Richard Mourdock – 61% – 39%. So far, this is a success, but the latest Rasmussen Poll from May 25, 2012 shows Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly tied at 42% each. We don’t know how this race will turn out, but most believe that Lugar would have had an easy win if he were the nominee.
So while some TEA Party backed candidates like Marco Rubio and Alan West have been real success stories, there have been a lot of busts. And there are a lot of Democrats in Washington who are benefactors of the TEA Party disasters. And these Democrats are 100% behind the destruction of America as disciples of the Progressive agenda and Barack Obama.
So, when should the TEA Party field a candidate themselves and when should they support a Republican front-runner or incumbent?
The answer is pretty simple. And here is where the last line of the Serenity Prayer comes into play.
And wisdom to know the difference.
Are we better off with Democrat Chris Coons in the Senate than Mike Castle? Obviously not! And we now run the risk in Indiana of dropping a seat to the Democrats in yet another example of a potential TEA Party disaster. A seat that was firmly Republican is now a toss up, making control of the Senate a much harder climb for Republicans.
The Golden Rule for the TEA Party should be to leave the race alone if it is reliably Republican.
Electing any Republican, particularly in the Senate, no matter how squishy, is a move in the right direction. They are still better than any Democrat and we need numbers right now.
How could the TEA Party work with someone like Dick Lugar? Well, we will never know. And they never really tried. They just blasted him out of office and put the seat in reach of the Democrats. And as bad as Lugar was on many issues, he is far better than a Democrat.
Right now, we need to stop the bleeding. We are still in triage mode. We simply can’t put a single seat in the Senate in jeopardy of falling into Democratic hands. It is important to have fiscally conservative elected officials who understand the Constitution representing us, but not having Democrats in office is a much higher priority. At least we have some leverage and communications with Republicans.
And once we gain control of the Senate and can afford to “trade up” without the risk of losing the majority in future elections, then we should mount challenges in the seats we have the best chance of both winning in the primary and holding in the general election.
Which brings us to the epic failure of the Virginia TEA Party in today’s primary.
On November 22, 2011, I declared George Allen the winner in this primary contest. To anyone with the most elementary skills of observation, Allen was the winner. Candidates Jamie Radtke, E.W. Bishop and Tim Donner had each failed to make a case for those not supporting Allen to back a single alternative. Allen’s support was too strong to believe that multiple challengers had a chance, and only a united effort from a single alternative candidate would ever have even a remote chance. A number of TEA Party folks realized the inevitable and decided to back Allen. I spoke with candidate Tim Donner after I wrote that and he agreed. He had already come to the same conclusion and was in the process of winding down his campaign and called it quits officially on December 28, 2011. And he subsequently did the right thing and endorsed Allen.
Delegate Bob Marshall entered the race late, but it didn’t change the inevitability of an Allen victory. By the time Marshall got in, Allen had already solidified the nomination and Marshall served mainly to further dilute the alternative vote in a three way split.
The single biggest mistake in this race was not paying attention to who had the best shot at defeating the Democrat, Tim Kaine. A Kaine-Allen contest is the best possible outcome for the TEA Party. Any other general election contest makes the Virginia Senate seat an easy hold for the Democrats.
Fortunately, in this race, a lot of TEA Party members saw Allen as the best chance for winning the seat and joined in his campaign to defeat Kaine. At least that is a start in working with Allen should he be successful in November.
Marshall and Jackson ran admirable campaigns and ran on the issues and did little to harm the Republican brand going forward and gave no aid and comfort to the enemy – the Democrats.
The same is not true of Jamie Radtke. When the rest of the world reached the point that the contest was over and Allen had won, Radtke shifted tactics from a positive campaign about fiscal conservationism and constitutional integrity into a campaign to exact as much harm and damage as possible to George Allen.
And if this is what the TEA Party is to become, then we have already lost. The campaign run by Radtke brought dishonor to both the TEA Party and the Republican Party and was an affirmation to all that those outside of the TEA Party movement that the TEA Party has an extreme and dark side.
I hope that in the postmortem aftermath of this primary and a healthy retrospective after the November election that the Radtke campaign becomes a case study for the TEA Party in what not to do in an election. Most TEA Party members would instinctively avoid associating with a campaign that was this far over the line. And when you move as far as Radtke did into the “dark side” of politics, it makes it nearly impossible to come back. While the other candidates have pledged to support the winner, George Allen, it is doubtful that Radtke will be able to even make the offer.
And in the 7th District Congressional Race, Congressman Eric Cantor easily dispatched primary challenger Floyd Bayne. Had Bayne won, this seat would have gone from a safe Republican seat to at least a leans Democrat. Another potential fail for the TEA Party. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
And while Bayne was not personally urging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, some of his supporters were. That is a despicable act.
Many in the TEA Party movement tell me that Eric Cantor is out to destroy the TEA Party. That he hates the movement.
I can’t address Cantor’s feelings, but since he faces no real threat from Democrats and the TEA Party seems to be interested only in throwing stones at him, it isn’t a real stretch to believe that he is not very fond of the TEA Party. How could he be?
The TEA Party in Virginia had a pretty miserable day at the ballot box today if you were supporting someone other than Allen or Cantor. They were totally ineffective and actually made things worse. Damage has been done to George Allen. Hopefully not so much that he can’t overcome it before November, but it will take a lot of positive messages to erase the bad. The TEA Party had a net positive effect for Tim Kaine, Barack Obama and the Progressives.
The challenge to Cantor was nothing more than a minor annoyance. Unfortunately, it served to further the chasm between Cantor and the TEA Party. Eric Cantor is going to be our Congressman for a long time. As long as he wants at this point.
It is time that the Virginia TEA Party begin looking at reality. If they cannot field a candidate that can both win a primary and defeat a Democrat in the general election, then it is not a smart move to try. In fact, it is counterproductive. And we run the risk of doing more harm to the country than good. This has to stop.
The TEA Party’s success at the polls in Virginia is less than stellar.
But the success at the Capitol, both in Richmond and in Washington has been much better. It is time that TEA Party learn to know what they can change and what they cannot. And once they figure out the difference, it is much easier to put a concentrated effort into the things we know we can change.
The Virginia TEA Party is not irrelevant, but some in the movement have a great capacity for focusing on a small battle at the cost of losing the war. And if that continues, the movement will become irrelevant.
The battle this year is taking the Senate and the White House and keeping the House. And if we are successful, the next battle will be to influence and persuade the Republican Majority to fix the country’s problems. We can’t do that by giving up seats to Democrats or alienating Republicans.
The battles take place in terms of months. The war will take years. Probably decades. We can only win if we focus on the big picture.