However you describe tea party activists — political insurgents, grassroots conservatives, far-right radicals, an irrelevant minority — one trait can’t be placed at their door: inactive.
Consider these two examples:
In Washington, House Republicans are again feeling the pressure of tea-party constituents — despite the fact that this year’s GOP primaries produced few tea party victories. The most obvious example is the House’s legislation on immigration reform, which last month was “reshaped” under the guidance of the party’s staunchest foes of immigration reform, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
“The Tea Party wing,” The Times wrote, “has continued to drive the party’s legislative agenda.”
Also in Washington, a collection of tea party groups has rallied around Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, who for many has become the most prominent congressional voice against illegal immigration in the United States. In a letter sent to Sessions, these groups have implored the senator to keep up his fight against what he sees is the nation’s lackadaisical enforcement of existing immigration and border-security laws.
“Your words and actions show that you still believe in us, the American people; you understand the strength and power of our ranks,” the tea party groups told Sessions. “We the ‘tireless minority’ of Patriots manning the phones and burning up the switchboards in DC have heeded your clarion call.”
How different these recent tea party sightings are from the spring and early summer, when tea party-influenced candidates across the nation struggled for Election Day traction. The primary defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, represented the tea party’s biggest victory of 2014, but that success bled over into far fewer races than far-right pundits had hoped. Need a local example? Look no further than state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who survived a primary challenge from Oxford’s Steven Guede, a tea party activist.
As the foreign-policy issues commanded much of Washington’s attention in recent months, the tea party’s obituary has sat unfinished, gathering dust. That may be where it needs to stay — for now, at least.
In the House, the voice of the tea party and its congressional adherents remains a bothersome boil for Speaker John Boehner. He has, in the words of The Times, “publically set out to marginalize the more vocal right-wing members” of his party, and he’s failed. The House continues to feel far-right heat on fundamental issues such as immigration. Sessions’ tea-party correspondence offers even more proof that, for now, moderate Republicans’ hopes of ridding themselves of this democratic nuisance won’t happen anytime soon.