Opinion: Thank You, Tea Party, for Getting the GOP Shellacked in 2012

Right after “We’ve lost America!” and “Buy farmland and guns,” the strangest thing I heard after President Obama’s victory was that the reason Governor Romney lost was due to the fact that he wasn’t a “real conservative.” Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots (which is about as “grass-roots” as Major League Baseball) put it this way:

"We wanted a fighter like Ronald Reagan who boldly championed America's founding principles... What we got was a weak moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment."

So the premise here is that if only the Republican Party had chosen a candidate worthy of the Tea Party, Americans everywhere would have been knocking over little old ladies in order to get to the polls. To quote Michael Bluth, “I don’t think that’s true.”

I will give the Tea Party their due in that they are perfectly capable of lining up candidates who can win seats in the House. But the average population of a Congressional district is around 650,000 people, many of whom don’t vote in the general election, much less a primary, and especially not a primary in a midterm election, which is exactly when all of these Tea Party candidates started winning. In fact, the biggest weapon the Tea Party has against the Republican Party is the threat of a primary challenge to an incumbent.

In other words, they aren’t counting on strong support for their policies and beliefs as much as they are counting on the apathy and ambivalence of the citizens of that particular district, which makes sense. In some districts, if you lined up enough of my drinking buddies at the polls and made sure a Star Trek marathon was on TV come primary day, you might have a shot at sneaking me onto the ballot, and I’m a total shambles.

Come to think of it, so was Christine O’Donnell. Remember her? She was a Tea Party backed candidate for the Senate in Delaware who ended up blindsiding a guy named Michael Castle in the primary election. Castle was a former governor of the state and a nine-term Congressman. He absolutely knew his way around DC, and for that matter he knew his way around Dover. If you live in Delaware and happen to be a Republican, then who better to represent Delaware in the Senate?

But primary day happened, and maybe Love Seed Mama Jump was playing in Bethany Beach, or maybe it was free Buffalo Wing night at Deer Park Tavern in Newark, or maybe nobody knew or cared that there was an election that day, and the next thing the citizens of Delaware knew, Christine O’Donnell was the Republican candidate for Senate.

I could make a big deal out of the witchcraft thing, but I won’t. When I was in my early twenties I dated a girl who messed around with that sort of stuff, and while I didn’t think she was crazy, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted her representing me at a fantasy football draft, much less the United States Senate. 

The point is, the Republicans had a Senate seat waiting for them, and it was one that was absolutely going to be occupied by an experienced and dedicated politician and civil servant named Michael Castle, but he was too mushy and moderate for the Tea Party, so they nominated a political also-ran who’s main claim to fame was going on MTV and asking teenagers to not masturbate. That, more than the witchcraft, represented to me a total detachment from reality. Christine O’Donnell, 40 percent, Democrat Chris Coons 57 percent.

This same scenario happened in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was pretty much roundly despised by much of his electorate. A perfectly reasonable candidate named Sue Lowden was beaten in the Republican Senate primary by Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. Ms. Lowden was the former Chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party. Sharron Angle wanted to get rid of Social Security. Anybody want to take a guess as to which candidate was backed by the Tea Party? 

Harry Reid, 50 percent, Sharron Angle, 44 percent. Ms. Lowden’s ticket to Washington wasn’t nearly as certain as Mike Castle’s, but surely she would have gotten more regular election votes than a woman who recommended chicken bartering as a replacement for Obamacare. Nevada Republicans had a shot at not only getting another seat for the Senate, but at knocking out the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, but as usual, everybody was asleep on primary day except the Tea Party. Nevada voters might not have liked Harry Reid much, but Sharron Angle simply scared them to death.

Indiana’s Dick Lugar was not only an experienced Republican Senator, but a reliable conservative. He’s gone, taken out in a primary by Tea Party backed Richard Mourdock, who got shellacked in the general election by Democrat Joe Donnelly. Indiana is as red as a baboons butt, but the Tea Party candidate was still too far to the right for Indiana voters, particularly when said candidate had such interesting ideas about God and rape.

Speaking of rape and interesting ideas, Missouri now has a Democratic senator, thanks mainly to Tea Party favorite Todd Akin. So that’s four senate seats that now belong to the Democrats, three of which were almost sure to belong to the Republican Party, but the Tea Party rolled up in the clown car on primary day, and nobody was buying what they were selling when November came.

Like I was saying, the Tea Party can and will nail down an occasional congressional district, particularly in midterm elections when voter turnout is low. But just because you happen to be holding the conch on the island in Lord of the Flies doesn’t mean you are in any way a desirable candidate for the mainland. The only people who celebrate harder than the Tea Party when one of their “real conservative” candidates end up on a ballot for the Senate are the Democrats.

So by all means, Tea Party. Throw a “real conservative” on the big ballot for 2016. Just remember that one man’s “real conservatism” is another man’s “stuff that’s all over the floor of a cave.” The Tea Party’s win-loss record in the Senate is proof enough of that.