For some time now I have been predicting the death of the Tea Party. It hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part. It certainly could be patriotism! 2016 has been a strange political cycle to say the least. Drawing conclusions from it is only slightly less dangerous than running through a minefield. However, looking at some results from Kansas on Tuesday night I think I may have detected a pattern. Let’s explore.
The pattern started in my backyard in the North Carolina Second Congressional District Republican primary. Redistricting pitted two incumbent Republicans “Sleeping” George Holding and Renee Ellmers against each other. There was a third candidate in the race, Tea Party perennial Greg Brannon. Brannon seems to run for anything that is open and thankfully never wins. Both Holding and Ellmers are right of conservative (the real conservative) and Brannon makes them look like liberals.
Ellmers originally won her seat in the Tea Party landslide of 2010, but only after a recount, it was that close. Ellmers was supported by various out-of-state Tea Party groups and individuals including Sarah Palin.
Holding ended up winning by a wide margin with Ellmers barely edging out Brannon for second place. If you believe the stories on the street there were several factors at play in this race but one that can be verified is that Brannon, not Ellmers nor Holding received the Tea Party’s backing. What Ellmers did receive was the endorsement of Donald Trump.
Keep in mind this was a very small turnout election that was held to satisfy a late court ruling. The only races on the ballot were the House races and a judicial race. Sad as it may be, North Carolina is like most of the country and judicial races don’t exactly get the voters to beat a path to the polls. Normally the Tea Party is most effective in low turnout affairs, hence the fear of most Republicans of a primary from their right.
Tuesday night incumbent Tea Party/Republican Tim Huelskamp lost in Kansas’ First Congressional District to a mainstream Republican opponent. I don’t know the politics of that race as well as NC2, but it cannot be dismissed as something to do with Huelskamp alone. Some 11 other radical incumbents for positions in the Kansas Legislature also lost to mainstream Republicans.
I often sight Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas, in my writing. In this case it is more like what is Kansas telling us and what did they do correctly. For the past several years Kansas has been ruled by the extreme right team of Governor Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. In the process they have basically bankrupt the state and ruined the public education system. It seems the voters, even the Republican voters, have finally awoken to reality.
This is a small sample size, but it is all we have to go on at this point. It appears a case can be made that the Tea Party endorsement is no longer a ticket to victory even in a Republican primary or solid red district. Also a Donald Trump endorsement apparently means next to nothing in anything resembling a competitive race.
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