You don’t hear much about the Tea Party these days, but perhaps you should. After all, as Al Regnery, publisher to the conservative stars pointed out on his visit to “The Bill Walton Show,” it just elected a president.
The concerned community members and amateur activists who formed Tea Party groups in the early days of the Obama administration were the economic nationalists, populists, libertarians and country club Republicans who joined together in November 2016 to elect President Trump.
They’re basically looking for political doers. They favor getting things done. They are not strongly ideological, nor are they party joiners, and most would rather call themselves independents than conservatives or, especially, Republicans.
But they want government to fulfill its duties effectively – and not much more. They want a head-on approach to solving problems and clear explanations of what is going on. And when Trump came along with a can-do attitude, a pledge to address their problems and an ability to understand them better than anyone else in politics, it was electoral magic.
The trick to keeping these people who are not conservative voting for conservatives is for Trump to implement his – their – agenda and to be successful in doing so, said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and one of Washington’s best-connected conservatives. And action is key.
Conservatives and the rest of Trump’s coalition know his agenda, his promises to reduce the size and scope of government, will be tough to implement, Schlapp said. “But what they will not tolerate is after they give them this power, this authority, if government just starts to continue to grow …”
Trump seems to understand this and has taken significant action on the items he deems most important. He has cut 300 pages out of energy regulations. He has removed all mentions of global warming from the White House website and ended the requirement agencies devote given percentages of their budgets to combating global warming.
His Department of Education has rescinded both the Obama administration’s policy on transsexuals in school bathrooms and the kangaroo courts it established on college campuses to prosecute male students accused of sexual assault.
He has gotten tough at the border, reducing immigration by more than half. He has changed labor, coal and land-use regulations and ended the practice of using the military for social engineering experiments.
What does this mean for Republicans? Given the numbers – they control 68 of the nation’s 99 legislative chambers, 37 governorships, both houses of Congress and the White House – they are, on paper, in the best shape they’ve been in in more than a century.
But there was a feeling among Schlapp and Regnery that they are a spent force in some ways, reduced from a generator of ideas and organizer of political support to a candidate selector and fundraising organization.
They have over-promised and under-delivered, and they too have been slow to catch on to how Trump dispatched 17 of their brethren in the primaries then overcame the best-funded candidate in history and a good many from his own party to become president.
Will we see a third party or a realignment of the GOP? And if a realignment occurs, along which lines – a Trumpian party no longer committed to unadulterated free trade or a classical liberal party that truly looks to reduce the size, scope and cost of government?
Or perhaps another iteration of the Tea Party. After all, that appears to be the winning formula.