The Tea Party Strikes Back

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


For two weeks, the extreme right has been forced to listen to party sages blame the 2012 election loss on them. Todd Akin! Richard Mourdock! Demographic apocalypse! The 47%! Now they’re fighting back:

“The moderates have had their candidate in 2008 and they had their candidate in 2012. And they got crushed in both elections. Now they tell us we have to keep moderating. If we do that, will we win?” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader.

….Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite, trounced Texas’s establishment candidate in a primary on his way to becoming the second Hispanic Republican in the Senate, and the battle he waged in the Lone Star State epitomizes the fight between the two sides. Although he is considered a rising star with a personal biography that GOP leaders wish to promote, Cruz falls squarely in the camp that thinks Romney was not conservative enough and did not fully articulate a conservative contrast to President Obama, except during the first presidential debate.

“It was the one time we actually contested ideas, presented two viewpoints and directions for the country,” he said at the Federalist Society’s annual dinner in Washington. “And then, inevitably, there are these mandarins of politics, who give the voice: ‘Don’t show any contrasts. Don’t rock the boat.’ So by the third debate, I’m pretty certain Mitt Romney actually French-kissed Barack Obama.”

I think that Vander Plaats is selling himself short. Given the fact that conservatives eventually decided that George Bush was nothing more than a big-spending, Latino-pandering RINO, they could argue that moderates lost two elections for them (1992 and 1996), won two elections but destroyed the party brand in the process (2000 and 2004), and then lost two more elections (2008 and 2012). So that’s a full 24 years that moderates have been screwing things up.

Will this narrative gain traction? I don’t know. But I could definitely see things playing out this way. One possibility is that the extreme right has one last big hurrah, nominating someone like Rick Santorum in 2016, and then gets absolutely blown out of the water due to a combination of a toxic candidate, changing demographics, and an economy finally in pretty good shape. And that will be their Waterloo. Cooler heads will finally prevail and by 2020 we’ll have two relatively sane political parties in America.

I have no idea if things will really play out like this. But it’s certainly a possibility.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest