Recent centrist moves and minor steps toward compromise on the part of Ohio Republicans has apparently angered the Ohio Tea Party, with the advent of the election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for the gay-rights group Equality Ohio, breaking the proverbial camel’s back.
From an article in the Columbus Dispatch:
Feeling betrayed by the Republican Party and its leaders, tea party groups in Ohio appear to be uniting and moving toward either a split from the GOP or action to punish Republican candidates who fail ideological purity tests.
A series of events, culminating with the April 26 election of Matt Borges as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, spurred a flurry of meetings and conference calls among tea party leaders last week to plot a course of action heading into the 2014 statewide election.
Options being discussed, according to Seth Morgan, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, range from breaking off into “a third party, to an insurrection (within the Republican Party) and everything in between.”
As I see it, any outcome here could be good. The tea party’s waning influence has left them with much less power than they had at the height of the movement – according to the article, “a 2012 poll by The Washington Postand the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 28 percent of Republicans identified themselves as tea party supporters.” If they do decide to split off and form a third party – which is probably the best possibility – then their last remaining bit of influence and clout, which is derived entirely from their position as part of the Republican Party, will be gone. They will once and finally be relegated back to the fringes of the political spectrum where they belong, and from whence they came. Even if they attempt to join forces with another extremist group – such as the Ohio Constitution Party, the chairman of which, Don Shrader, met with Portage County Tea Party executive chairman Tom Zawistowski to discuss just such an alliance – in an attempt to substantiate themselves, the would no longer be on the main stage of the political theater, and thus their influence would not constitute the credible threat that they may still represent now.
“An insurrection” within the Republican Party could be just as beneficial, and even more detrimental to the entire right wing by splitting up the conservative vote. Whether they start backing independent third-party candidates, or do it from within the Republican Party, they will rob the Republican candidate of as much as 28 percent of conservative voters, meaning the possibility that a Democratic candidate could only need 30 or 31 percent to win. (This is not to mention that the tea party itself is plagued by fragmented leadership and a lack of clearly defined organization and goals.)
Would they really do this? Yes:
“The suggestions range from everybody leaving the party in a mass exodus, to staying in the party but get challengers in primaries for every race of anybody who ever crossed us, to under-voting in certain races,” [says Lori Viars, vice chairwoman of the Warren County GOP and leader of Warren County Right to Life].
Why would they do this? Because the tea party has always been “committed more to principles than winning elections.”
The list of tea party grievances includes action last December by Republican legislative leaders to bury the so-called heartbeat bill, which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.Social conservatives also were riled by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s change of position on same-sex marriage after his son revealed he is gay, and by the election of Borges, who once lobbied for Equality Ohio, a gay-rights group.
Fiscal conservatives were incensed by Republican Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals to expand Medicaid health services to 275,000 needy Ohioans, to broaden the state sales tax and to tax shale oil and gas producers.
Finally, if the tea party succeeds in its initial goal of causing the bulk of the GOP to skew further rightward, radicalizing it in exactly the opposite direction from where it should and wants to go, and in effect giving the tea party more influence, the prognosis, though not as definite, could be equally bleak for the whole conservative movement.
[College of William and Mary political scientist Michael] Rapoport said that the peril for a Republican Party that already “has gotten smaller” is that the more influence the tea party gains over it, the less appeal the GOP will have to voters overall because surveys show that a majority of voters do not support the tea party.
And – with Ohio being the new bellwether/prized battleground state – so goes the country.