The Tea Party Express has been hijacked and if you look closely you can see Senator Mitch McConnell firmly at the helm. That’s right, the unflappable, undeniable and seemingly unbeatable Senator from Kentucky along with his merry band of establishment type conservative bandits have pushed back the likes of Matt Bevin and his other whipper snapper “more principled” conservative colleagues.
Even the Tea Party now seems to be realizing that when it comes to minorities – and especially Latinos, who are known for their family values, work ethic and religiousness – finding what you have in common with potential voters is more important than pointing fingers at them.
Has the train actually left the Tea Party’s station? It sure is looking that way. And if you’re a mainstay Republican, then McConnell is not only your flag bearer, but also your soothsayer to boot. After all, it was McConnell who back in March called it just as it seems to be turning out: “We are going to crush them everywhere.”
So what was McConnell’s master plan? Nothing! Well, nothing but money and time that is. The money was easy, a reported $21 million garnered and another $3 to $4 million from the Chamber of Commerce and a Super PAC called “Kentuckians for Strong Leadership” who bought him enough TV time to make him look like Elvis.
But money aside, McConnell’s win may have less to do with him and more to do with his opponents baggage. McConnell’s millions tagged his Tea Party opponent with the moniker “bailout Bevin,” which seemed to stick like freshly mowed bluegrass on a rainy day.
But it goes beyond money and Kentucky politics for this year’s crop of challengers like Matt Bevin. It goes right to the heart of the Tea Party itself. Fair or not, the Tea Party has allowed itself to be branded as anti-women, anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, anti-science and anti-youth. It’s like starting a race barefooted and 50 yards behind the starting position of your opponent who’s racing with a brand new pair of Asics. Good luck with that.
Even the Tea Party itself seems to be coming to grips with its bad rap. Not with words, but with actions. Just this week, Tea Party express co-founder Sal Russo announced his support for comprehensive immigration reform. Here’s Russo pushing for the very same plan he used to be vehemently against.
"We need to make the 11 million people who are here illegally obey the law, pay taxes and come out of the shadows. We have to get them right by the law in exchange for legal status, but not unbridled amnesty. This should include penalties, background checks to root out criminals, and the requirement that they learn English, understand the Constitution and be committed to our basic freedoms," said Russo.
If what he’s asking for sounds slightly familiar, that’s because it’s almost a carbon copy of what former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez reasonably drew up years ago. Gutierrez, upon orders from president Geoge W. Bush, presented his reform program in 2006 to Republicans whose conservative wing was so nonplused by it, they summarily rejected his plan.
The most vehement detractors of all were the same rigid anti-immigration conservative factions who would go on to become what we today know as the Tea Party coalition of the Republican Party.
Yes, even the Tea Party now seems to be realizing that when it comes to minorities – and especially Latinos, who are known for their family values, work ethic and religiousness – finding what you have in common with potential voters is more important than pointing fingers at them.
But it may be too little too late. Mitch McConnell and his merry band of non-Tea Party types have taken their “more principled” conservative opponents to the woodshed and the beating may be heard from coast to coast before it’s over.
It’s too bad. The Tea Party’s original platform regarding less government, frugality, citizen involvement and individual responsibility seemed ideal. Now, all we can do is watch as their train leaves the station, maybe for good.