Reports of the death of the Tea Party are greatly exaggerated.
For about two years now, certain observers have been declaring the demise of this insurgent tendency within the Republican Party. However, despite recent headlines, we should expect to hear more from the tricorn-hat crowd, especially if they continue to raise money.
The news of late suggests that establishment Republicans are staging a counterinsurgency. Speaker of the House John Boehner has removed four Tea Party darlings in the House from prominent committee positions. It’s punishment, pundits say, for their lack of loyalty to GOP establishment positions.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who will lose his place on the House Budget Committee, issued this statement:
“The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move and a sure sign that the GOP establishment cannot handle disagreement.”
The year is not ending very nicely for the Tea Party. Many of the candidates it backed lost on Election Day, including Richard Mourdock, who was vying for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana. Mourdock did not endear himself to the GOP old guard when he defeated six-term incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary. Lugar would have been a shoo-in to retain his seat in the general election had Mourdock not knocked him out.
Then there was the embarrassing fit Karl Rove threw on the set of Fox News’ election night coverage, when he insisted that the network’s analysts had called the election prematurely for Barack Obama. Rove has been noticeably scarce on Fox ever since.
More recently, Dick Armey removed himself from FreedomWorks, the group he helped found, in a dispute that Politico reports was about a lieutenant’s use of funds.
Now comes news that Sen. Jim DeMint, one of the most solid conservatives in that chamber, is stepping down.
This looks like disarray, but it is not the “End of the Tea Party Movement,” as a CNN.com headline put it.
So far, there is no sign of a shifting of the tectonic plates of the conservatism on which the Tea Party movement was built. Nor are there any indications that more moderate views will soon be prevailing in the GOP.