How the Tea Party is ruining the Senate

Shaefer Bagwell argues that Tea Partiers are ruining the Senate because of their unwillingness to compromise.

The Tea Party is an infuriating political phenomenon. I dislike how they are disorganized. I dislike the way they categorize every news organization except Fox News as “elitist.” I dislike how they act like they have a monopoly on love of the Constitution and patriotism.

None of these reasons are why I am mad right now. I’m ticked off because the Tea Party is ruining the Senate.

It began in 2009. The Tea Party ran candidates in the primaries against senators who had been there for decades, or against the establishment candidates in the primaries. There are two classic cases: Utah and Delaware. Senator Bob Bennett of Utah had served the people of his state faithfully for a generation. He’d been there for so long that everyone knew him and respected him. He knew how to get things done. He was an old hand. He was conservative, a fighter, and as far as I can see, exactly what a Republican would want in a senator. He got creamed in the Utah Republican primary for the 2010 Senate election.

In Delaware, the Republicans were poised to take the Delaware Senate seat. Not only would that have bolstered their chances to retake the Senate, but it would have been an ideological victory. The person who had held that seat for the quarter century before is the current vice president: Democrat and Tea Party boogeyman Joe Biden. Mike Castle, the establishment Republican candidate, was poised to crush Democrat Chris Coons in the general election. The Tea Party had other plans, and ran perpetual loser Christine O’Donnell in the primary. She won, and lost the general by the same margin Castle would have won by — humiliating herself and the Delaware Republican party in one fell swoop.

Tea Partiers seem unwilling to compromise

Now, as far as I am concerned, the Tea Party can replace winning Republicans with losing Republicans all they want. But when the Tea Party candidates start winning general elections, like they did in Utah, Kentucky and Florida, I start having a problem. See, the Senate is the saucer that cools the coffee. They are supposed to be the compromisers, the deliberators, the men and women who can come together and get things done. As far as I can tell, Tea Partiers in office have no interest in compromise or deliberation. They want their tax cuts and they want them now. There is no flex, no give and take, no action. It’s tax cuts or nothing. It’s the repeal of health care, or nothing.

When senators start to have that attitude, there are casualties. Senators like Maine Republican Olympia Snowe find that they no longer have the willpower to remain in the government, and that breaks my heart. Snowe is everything a senator is supposed to be. Cool-headed, deliberate, conciliatory and action-oriented, she is what the framers had in mind. But the Tea Party has degraded the debate to such a point that it’s a constant battle in the Senate. She had the definition of a safe seat. The people of Maine were just waiting to keep re-electing her for the rest of her life, and she gave it up because of the working conditions.

When great public servants like Republican Senators Snowe, Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch get thrown to the wayside in place of idiotic, childish Tea Party divas, something has gone horribly wrong. I just hope the people of the Tea Party states wake up before they do something foolish, and get rid of the people who actually care about getting stuff done.

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