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“The Tea Party Is Abandoning Paul Ryan”: It’s No Longer A Matter Of ‘If’ The Full Movement Will Turn On Him, It’s When

When Mitt Romney chose Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 presidential election, the tea party was ecstatic. “It’s a big step toward what the tea party has been trying to accomplish,” Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, said at the time. “It gives people a reason to be more enthusiastic about the Republican ticket.” But just two years later, Kibbe and his fellow tea party activists are singing a different tune: Ryan has betrayed the movement.

The first significant break between Ryan and the tea party came at the beginning of this year, when he collaborated with Senator Patty Murray, the Democratic chair of the Senate Budget Committee, on a budget that avoided another government shutdown. That deal replaced $65 billion of the sequester over the next two years by requiring federal workers to contribute more to their pensions, implementing new fees on airline tickets, and cutting spending a decade from now. While the deal actually reduced the deficit by $20 billion in total, the far right was furious. “It is disappointing to see Chairman Ryan forget lessons learned this past spring, when House Republicans united to win reasonable spending limits in the face of President Obama’s hysterical predictions that even modest cuts would harm our nation,” said Tim Phillips, the president of American for Prosperity. Erik Erickson, of Red State, wrote “Bend over America, here it comes.”

If Ryan hoped to recover any good will with his famous budgetthe one he releases each year as head of the House Budget Committeethose hopes were quickly dashed. Sarah Palin called it “a joke” and other tea party leaders criticized it for insufficiently cutting spending. Those comments are tough to square with the previous praise tea party leaders have heaped on Ryan. The “Path to Prosperity” is one of the main reasons that they were thrilled with Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate, and the 2014 Ryan Budget is just as conservative as in the past. (Only in this version and the FY 2014 one was Ryan able to balance the budget in ten years.)

Things have only grown worse since then. In July, Ryan confirmed their suspicions when he announced a new deficit-neutral antipoverty program. In doing so, he effectively disowned his budget, which proposes huge cuts to programs for low-income Americans. Tea party groups have yet to weigh in on Ryan’s proposal, but it’s hard to see how they’d approve. If the spending cuts in Ryan’s 2015 budget were too small, then his antipoverty agenda, which doesn’t cut welfare spending at all, won’t be acceptable.

This past week, Ryan has hit the media circuit to publicize his new memoir, The Way Forward, in which he puts more distance between himself and the tea party. He has eschewed the phrase “makers and takers” and even rejected his previous analogy of the social safety net as a “hammock” that “lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Ryan’s repudiation of these phrases will be seen as yet another dismissal of the tea party worldview.

The final straw may have been his description of the government shutdown. In The Way Forward, Ryan calls that political strategy a “suicide mission.” As Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney write in the Huffington Post, Ryan’s account whitewashes his actual role in the shutdown. He was more supportive of it than he admits. But the message is clear: The tea party’s strategy hurt the Republican Party and should not be repeated. This has not gone over well on the right. In Politico Magazine, Scottie Nell Hughes, the news director of the Tea Party News Network, writes, “[W]e of the grassroots GOP are in no mood to hear that our push for defunding Obamacare and using the debt ceiling to force President Obama to curb reckless spending had all the wisdom of a Japanese kamikaze.”

“If Paul Ryan does not have enough tact to forgo insulting the conservatives within his own party,” she added, “then I have serious doubts he has the wisdom and judgment needed to lead the GOP to victory in 2016.”

Ryan’s fall from grace on the right is emblematic of his transition from ideologue to practical policymaker. In the process, Ryan has received a better reception on the left. At The Week, writer Ryan Cooper called it a “marked improvement from his previous efforts.” But this transformation is not without its costs: Ryan is no longer the tea party golden boy.

“I’m very disappointed in Paul Ryan,” Judson Phillips, the founder of the Tea Party Nation, writes in an email. “He has a raging case of Potomac Fever and his only goal now seems to be embracing John Boehner’s freshly laundered white flag of surrender.”

Ryan has not yet alienated his more conservative colleagues in Congress. And many activists, particularly those less attentive to the daily happenings in Washington, may not have even noticed his betrayal. But repeatedly this year, Ryan’s actions have made it clear that he is distancing himself from the tea party. It’s no longer a matter of if the full movement will turn on him. It’s a matter of when.


By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, August 21, 2014

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dumbest Rock In The Box”: Unemployed Ken Cuccinelli Finds A Job With Rand Paul Suing Obama

Say you’re Ken Cuccinelli. You’ve recently lost the Virginia governor’s race to Terry McAuliffe, of all people. You’ve given up your post as America’s most litigious state attorney general. A good chunk of the GOP establishment resents your hyper-conservative crazy talk for damaging the brand. Yet another snowstorm is bearing down on the nation’s capital in what has been a particularly cold and miserable winter—and despite this, most Americans still believe that global warming is a real thing. How on earth do you pull yourself out of this funk?

Sue the president, of course! And the Director of National Intelligence! And the heads of the FBI and NSA! And anyone else you can think of who might know anything about the massive government spying program that Edward Snowden revealed to such great effect. And to guarantee public attention (because, really, at this point, why should anyone be paying attention to you?), file the suit on behalf of someone vastly more popular than you—for instance, libertarian nerd-chic rockstar and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul.

So it was that, late Wednesday morning, Cuccinelli and Paul stood before a gaggle of political reporters on the freezing plaza outside the E. Barrett Prettyman district court house, a vaguely Soviet-looking box of a building just a couple of blocks west of the Capitol, to tout their freshly filed complaint against a government gone wild in its violation of the Fourth Amendment. In his brief remarks, Paul cited the “huge and growing swell of protest” against the government’s overzealous monitoring of its own citizenry. To illustrate what he predicts will be “a historic lawsuit”—a class action complaint on behalf of every American citizen who has used a telephone in the past seven-plus years—Paul brandished two fistfuls of cell phones (including one with an especially snazzy leopard-print case). Considering the hundreds of millions of Americans who use phones, he noted gravely, this case “may well be the largest civil action lawsuit on behalf of the Constitution.”

Paul and Cuccinelli did not stand alone, physically or metaphorically. The Tea Partying libertarians at FreedomWorks are co-plaintiffs in this case, and a couple dozen of the groups’ young ground troops had been milling about in the cold for the past hour, chanting and snapping pics and generally lending some pep to the proceedings. After Paul got the presser rolling, FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, characteristically hipsterish in his black-rimmed specs and blade-like sideburns, offered his take. “This is one of the most important things my organization has been involved in,” he asserted. “This isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It isn’t about the Obama administration. The government has crossed a line.” Kibbe then assured everyone that FreedomWorks was going to “put that genie back in the bottle.”

As lead counsel, Cuccinelli fielded questions about the legal whys and hows of the suit. Yes, he is optimistic that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. No, he does not expect it to be tried in conjunction with a similar suit brought by Larry Klayman, the lawsuit-happy conservative gadfly who has a similar complaint wending its way through the courts. Is he worried about “standing”—that is, showing that his clients have themselves been injured and so have the legal right to file this complaint? Don’t be ridiculous! “If you use a phone—and both my clients do—then they are injured by the gathering of this information,” he insisted. Most fundamentally, why exactly are Paul et al even bothering with this crusade when there are multiple other suits already farther along in the pipeline? “The other cases thus far are on behalf of individuals,” explained Cuccinelli. “That does not provide relief for every American using telephones.” By contrast, this class action seeks not only to end the data collection but also to compel the government to purge its databases of all info amassed since 2006. In other words: When Paul wins, we all win!

And make no mistake, Senator Paul has his eye on winning—though political watchers suspect he is focused on a juicier prize than some random lawsuit, even a constitutionally “historic” one. It has, for instance, been repeatedly noted that Paul’s online effort to gather the signatures of Americans upset by the NSA’s spy games will yield a fat database of like-minded voters that could be usefully mined for, say, a presidential campaign.

As for Paul’s new BFF, bringing Virginia’s lightning-rod ex-AG on board with this case makes better political sense than legal sense. Not to question Cooch’s legal chops, but surely Paul had his pick of Fourth Amendment geniuses. In fact, Paul and Cuccinelli are currently embroiled in a nasty spat with former Reagan administration attorney Bruce Fein—who spent the past several months working with Paul on this complaint before being unceremoniously jettisoned for Cuccinelli.

It’s not just that Fein’s people are ticked that Cuccinelli has taken over the case; they are accusing the former AG of appropriating huge chunks of a legal brief previously written by Fein. As Fein’s spokesman (and ex-wife) Mattie Fein fumed to the Washington Post on the very day of the presser, “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein.” Testy emails have been zipping back-and-forth between Teams Paul, Cuccinelli, and Fein, complete with finger-pointing and name calling. In one, Mattie, somewhat indelicately, called Cucinnelli “dumb as a box of rocks.” Bottom line, she told the Post, “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit.”

From a political perspective, however, one can easily imagine why Paul would value this particular box of rocks. While the senator already has the love and trust of the GOP’s small-government enthusiasts, he needs to do some serious wooing of its social conservatives. Thus, for example, his recent efforts to revive the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. So who better to ally himself with in his current undertaking than anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights champion Cuccinelli? For many of the same reasons that Virginia women gave their AG the cold shoulder in November’s gubernatorial election, Republican “values voters” love the guy. Paul’s making common cause with Cuccinelli could help soothe some of the base’s suspicions regarding the libertarian senator’s moral fitness.

Not to suggest that the senator isn’t genuine in his outrage over the NSA’s antics. Those Paul men are nothing if not consistent in their small-government passions. But if linking arms with Cooch in this crusade happens to serve Paul’s broader political aims, where’s the harm? (Unless you’re Bruce Fein, of course.)

Certainly, Cuccinelli seems happy with the arrangement.  At Wednesday’s presser, after Paul bid the media farewell to return to his senate duties, the former AG hung around to answer additional questions. As the TV camera guys broke down their equipment and the FreedomWorks activists began drifting back down Constitution Ave., Cuccinelli lingered on the plaza, surrounded by a tight circle of reporters. Nothing takes the sting out of a frigid winter day like a warm bath of attention.


By: Michele Cottle, The Daily Beast, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Brace Yourselves Republicans”: Three New Facts About The Tea Party That You’re Not Going To Like

For a movement that’s helped to reshape the Republican Party—and by extension, reshape American politics—we know shockingly little about the people who make up the Tea Party. While some in the GOP once hoped to co-opt the movement, it’s increasingly unclear which group—the Tea Party or establishment Republicans—is running the show. Politicians have largely relied on conjecture and assumption to determine the positions and priorities of Tea Party activists.

Until now. The results of the first political science survey of Tea Party activists show that the constituency isn’t going away any time soon—and Republicans hoping the activists will begin to moderate their stances should prepare for disappointment. Based out of the College of William and Mary, the report surveyed more than 11,000 members of FreedomWorks, one of the largest and most influential Tea Party groups. The political scientists also relied on a separate survey of registered voters through the YouGov firm to compare those who identified with the Tea Party movement to those Republicans who did not. (Disclosure: The political scientist leading the survey was my father, Ronald Rapoport, with whom I worked in writing this piece.)

For the first time, we can now look at what a huge sample of Tea Party activists believe, as well as examine how those who identify with the Tea Party differ from their establishment GOP counterparts. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the study:

1. Tea Party activists are not Republicans.

Republicans are now reliant on the Tea Party. While the number of Tea Party supporters has declined since 2010, they still make up around half of Republicans, according to NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys. More important, they are the most active supporters when it comes to voting in primaries, volunteering on campaigns, and participating in various other activities political parties are reliant upon. Seventy-three percent of Republicans who attended a political rally or meeting identified with the Tea Party. The activists are vehemently anti-Democratic. Among the FreedomWorks sample, only 3 percent of people voted for Obama or a Democratic House candidate in 2008, and less than 6 percent identify as either independents or Democrats.

Yet the Tea Party activists doing work for the Republicans are surprisingly negative about the party they’re helping. While 70 percent of FreedomWorks activists identify as Republican, another 23 percent reject the Republican label entirely and instead, when asked which political party they identify with, choose “other.” Asked if they considered themselves more Republican or more a Tea Party member, more than three-quarters chose Tea Party.

Given that so many don’t identify with the GOP, it’s perhaps not surprising that the activists also rate the party they vote for so poorly. Given a spectrum of seven choices from “outstanding” to “poor,” only 9 percent of activists rated the Republican Party in the top two categories. Meanwhile, 17 percent put the party in the bottom two. In total, 32 percent rated the party in one of the three positive categories while a whopping 40 percent rated the party in one of the negative ones.

In other words, the activists providing a huge amount of the labor and enthusiasm for Republican candidates are, at best, lukewarm on the party they’re voting for. Few are concerned about what their impact on the future of the GOP will be. Which brings us to:

2. Tea Party activists aren’t nearly as concerned about winning.

Or at least they’re significantly more concerned with ideological purity than with political pragmatism. The survey asked FreedomWorks activists if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “When we feel strongly about political issues, we should not be willing to compromise with our political opponents.” Altogether, more than 80 percent agreed to some extent. Thirty-two percent of respondents “agree strongly” with the statement. Meanwhile, less than 10 percent disagreed even “slightly.” In another series of questions sent out to FreedomWorks activists, the survey asked whether they would prefer a candidate with whom they agree on most important issues but who polls far behind the probable Democratic nominee or a candidate with whom they agree “on some of the most important issues” but who’s likely to win. More than three-fourths of respondents preferred the candidate who was more likely to lose but shared their positions.

In other words, the Tea Party cares more about what nominees believe than whether they can win—and compromising on politics means compromising on principle.

The findings help explain what’s happened in so many GOP primary races.  Both nationally and at the state level, moderate GOP officeholders found themselves with primary challengers. The Tea Party has helped propel several upstart candidacies, like Christine O’Donnell’s infamous effort to win Delaware’s Senate seat or more recently, Richard Mourdock’s successful challenge to sitting Senator Dick Lugar. In both of those cases, and several others, the Tea Party candidate has proved too extreme for the general election and lost. But despite the losses, the push toward conservative purity continues. A recent New York Times story showed that even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, seen as the leader with the most clout in the Tea Party movement, has been unable to move the faction’s members in his party into more moderate terrain. In light of these survey results, that makes sense—Tea Party elected officials are simply reflecting their supporters. Meanwhile, those left in the establishment fear the party’s new direction.

3. Attempts to bridge the gap between establishment Republicans and the Tea Party are doomed to fail.

There’s no shortage of moves from Republicans to keep the Tea Party in the fold while shifting things more to the center. After the dismal GOP performance in the 2012 elections, establishment figures began pushing back against the Tea Party. Famous consultant Karl Rove announced a new political action committee designed to challenge extreme GOP candidates with more marketable ones. The national party even put out a report after the 2012 losses that pushed for more pragmatic candidates that could have a broader appeal. As noted, even Eric Cantor is trying.

But the gap between the two groups is huge. In the YouGov survey the study uses, more than two-thirds of Tea Partiers put themselves in the two most conservative categories on economic policy, social policy, and overall policy. Only 23 percent of non-Tea Partiers place themselves in the most conservative categories on all three issues; nearly 40 percent don’t locate themselves in the most conservative categories for any of the three policy areas.

Most jarring: On some issues, like abolishing the Department of Education and environmental regulation, the establishment Republicans are actually closer to Democrats than they are to the Tea Party respondents. That’s a gap too large to be overcome by a few political action committees and gestures of goodwill.

Tea Party activists dominate the Republican Party, and they’re no less willing to compromise with the GOP than they are with Democrats. FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe summed it up nicely in his book title: Hostile Takeover.

Simply put, the GOP is too reliant on the Tea Party—and based on these survey results, the Tea Party doesn’t care about the GOP’s fate. It cares about moving the political conversation increasingly rightward.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, April 29, 2013

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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