This piece appeared in the August 15th Boulder Daily Camera.
The 2010 election is often portrayed as the year the Tea Party arrived as a national movement. That is the major part of the story, but there is also a darker side of lost opportunity. The Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell losses deprived the Republicans of control of the Senate. Now we have a variety of insurgent Tea Party candidates unseating safe Republican elected officials.
These insurgents are convinced they will change Washington, DC, but the gamble is they might lose in a race a more moderate candidate such as Senator Lugar would have easily won. To me this is a self-destructive pattern in an election where the incumbent President is the issue not whether a candidate is sufficiently conservative to pass a litmus test. How does it benefit the Tea Party for Romney to win if the House goes more Democratic and the Democrats retain the Senate?
There were times in 2011 when I wondered if House Tea Party Caucus members had read the Constitution before they took the oath. They appeared genuinely shocked when Senator Reid could ignore them. Now I wonder if they have read the Constitution regarding the Vice-Presidency.
If you wish Governor Romney was more the Massachusetts governor who could work with Democrats and less the Tea Party ally, the nomination of Congressman Ryan is a hopeful sign. The greatest voice and face of the House Tea Party Caucus has now been sidelined into a dead end job where he will have no influence. I doubt Romney is going to empower Ryan in the way George Bush empowered Dick Cheney.
It is truly the first sign that Governor Romney is not just a great businessman but perhaps a shrewd politician. He gets all the Tea Party benefit of nominating Ryan, but sidelines him after the election. A fragmented Tea Party without its intellectual leader will be less important as Romney works with Congress on entitlement reform. This is particularly true if one of the Tea Party Senate candidates loses a “safe” Republican seat in Missouri, Indiana, or elsewhere.
I have no idea if Romney considered any of this as a method of sidelining the Tea Party after the election, but it will be the effect. Speaker Boehner must be relieved. He will have an easier time in a Romney administration without Congressman Ryan issuing budgets and blocking deals with Democrats.