Tea Partiers to GOP: Fall in line or face challengers

John Rossomando Contributor
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Prominent leaders within the Tea Party movement have a warning for presumptive House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. – keep their campaign promises to cut spending and repeal the health care law or face defeat in their next primaries.

Tea Partiers plan to remain a political force to be reckoned with going into the 2012 presidential races and beyond, and they plan to prove party politics as it has existed for the past century are over. They see a sharp contrast between themselves and earlier conservative groups such as the Christian Right or the Reagan coalition, which allowed themselves to be manipulated and outmaneuvered by the Republican establishment.

“We are not going to back down, and we are going to be holding people’s feet to the fire — the new incoming freshmen as well as the old guard that’s still there,” said Tea Party Express leader Amy Kremer. “We’ve heard from the Republicans over the past 12 or 24 months about what they would do if they gained control.

“Now is the time to stop with the lip service and show actions; you know actions speak a lot louder than words, so now we in the movement are now going to see if they are going to walk the walk.”

Compromise with Democrats on key issues would be a non-starter for Tea Partiers, and doing so would prompt a Tea Party backlash, Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Mark Meckler said.

Meckler warns Republican senators up for re-election in 2012 to think twice about voting on compromise with the Democrats because they will face the same fate at outgoing Utah Sen. Robert Bennett or Delaware Rep. Mike Castle.

McConnell’s support for earmarks, for example, could put him in hot water with the Tea Partiers who promise to take him down the next time he runs unless he relents.

“I guarantee there will be primary challenges in 2012 for those folks that don’t hold strong,” Meckler told The Daily Caller. “I guarantee in two years we will vote all of them out and have another celebration.”

Boehner would find himself at the top of the Tea Party’s list of primary targets if he goes back on any of his campaign promises, Meckler said.

“We can’t expect in three months to have ObamaCare repealed; to have the budget balanced, or have our debt paid down,” Kremer said. “That’s unrealistic and we need to be realistic, but we want to see progress.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and it’s going to take a couple of election cycles before we get enough conservatives in there, so that we can completely turn things around.”

Elected conservatives such as Republican Study Committee chairman Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., anticipate the House Republicans will keep their word. “It is time for us to walk the walk,” Price said.

According to Price, Republicans will make repealing the president’s health care plan, restoring the Bush tax rates if the Democrats don’t act in the lame duck session, and vigorous oversight of the Obama administration’s actions on a host of fronts top priorities come January.

The movement’s leaders say the Tea Party movement represents a new political paradigm in American politics outside the control of traditional political party structures, which will act on a freelance basis.

“You will see people who have been involved in and at the head of the old paradigm fight that change, but I think that change has already taken place,” Meckler said. “But I think that people who don’t see that have missed the shift in the paradigm.”

Meckler believes social networking and the Internet has broken the stranglehold party bosses have held over the nominating process for the past century.

Resistance to this change came from the GOP establishment following Election Night when Tea Party- backed Senate candidates such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware; Sharron Angle in Nevada; and Ken Buck in Colorado went down to defeat. Many Republican activists connected with the traditional party establishment seized on these defeats and sought to blame the Tea Party for the GOP losses.

“I think it’s a bit of a joke. You can always look at the glass half-full,” Meckler said, referring to millions GOP leaders spent trying to prop up Carly Fiorina’s failed bid against California Sen. Barbara Boxer while
starving more conservative candidates of needed resources. “It’s insane for organizations like the RNC and state Republican parties saying the Tea Partiers cost them anything.

“The Tea Party just was responsible for one of the greatest Republican victories in history.”

Longtime conservative activist Grover Norquist, whose Wednesday meetings have attracted countless Tea Party activists, agrees, saying the GOP critics miss the scale of the Tea Party movement’s positive
contribution to this year’s election and its lasting effect.

“It has lasting power because it elected 680 state legislators and 20 states with Republican Legislatures who will be redistricting state legislators and congressmen for the next decade,” Norquist said. “They
chose the right election to get involved in because they chose the election that chooses the state legislators who decide the legislative lines for the next decade.”

Republicans stand to do better for the next decade because of the Tea Partiers’ contributions, Norquist said.

Analysis of the Nov. 2 elections provided by RedState.com found Tea Party-backed candidates did considerably better in competitive races than Republican challengers from prior years, even in races where they lost.

Although Tea Partiers have differences from earlier waves of conservative activists going back to the Goldwater Republicans of the 1960s, they have received similar disdain from the party establishment.

But Norquist anticipates the GOP establishment will grow more accustomed to the Tea Partiers over time and that will change.

Gov. Jim Gilmore, who currently heads the Free Congress Foundation and who chaired the Republican National Committee from 2001-2002, anticipates the Tea Partiers will play an increasing role within the GOP because it stands closer to their goals than the Democrats.

“They didn’t run as independents; they ran as Republicans and captured the Republican nomination,” Gilmore said.

But the former RNC chairman says he does not know what direction the Tea Party movement will take in the next couple of years due to its unconventional leaderless structure.

“What we are seeing here is an outpouring of concern over the future of the country and a healthy one,” Gilmore said. “But how that manifests itself in political matters going forward, we really don’t know.”

Price sees significant commonality between the GOP and the Tea Parties, and he believes the two will continue working together for the foreseeable future.

Kremer, Meckler, and Supeme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, who runs the group LibertyCentral.org, hesitate to say who they will support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

They say it will be hard to predict how the Tea Partiers will affect who gets nominated in the 2012 election, but Kremer told CBN’s David Brody Friday that Mitt Romney’s support for RomneyCare in Massachusetts could cause Tea Partiers to stymie his 2012 bid.

“It will be hard to see how things play out, especially with some of the groups, because many of them have a long heightened history with the Republican Party,” Meckler said.

Tea Party Express plans to play an active role influencing who gets nominated through its wide network of supporters, Kremer said.

Kremer says her group will likely make up its mind in the next six months on who it will support.

According to Norquist, the Tea Party movement’s most direct affect on the race will be on the GOP presidential candidates themselves, with many jockeying to be the movement’s candidate of choice.