Let’s face it: the Tea Party has liberals scared. If the Tea Party was dying and ineffective, then liberals wouldn’t spend so much time attacking us. So why are liberals scared of the Tea Party? For four reasons:
1) The Tea Party is young. The Tea Party Senators elected in 2010 and 2012 (Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul and Tim Scott (appointed)) have an average age of 46. It’s one thing to attack the Republicans as old and white when Mitch McConnell and John McCain are the faces of the Tea Party; it’s another when Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Tim Scott are the faces of the Republicans.
2) The Tea Party has made progress on traditionally liberal causes. Liberals were traditionally the advocates of civil liberties as it related to issues like spying and wiretapping. But then Justin Amash, a young Tea Party congressman from Michigan pushed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill to limit the power of the National Security Agency to collect records on citizens. It’s been Tea Party congressmen like Rand Paul, Justin Amash and Ted Cruz who have been leading the fight (with some Democrats too).
Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in Maryland vs. King that police officers could continue their DNA collection during normal arrests. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), much reviled by the Left, released a statement saying the ruling “expands government power, invades our liberty, and undermines our constitutional rights”. The following day, Thomas Massie (R-KY) condemned the decision on the House floor, saying “I strongly disagree with the five justices…it is an intrusive invasion of privacy and property…unchecked government power…poses real risks to our liberty”
After Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster of John Brennan’s CIA nomination, the ACLU and Code Pink publicly thanked him, with Code Pink reportedly sending chocolates and flowers to his office. Code Pink, an anti-war group, has traditionally been a huge supporter of the Democrats but with Rand Paul garnering their praise, liberals are worried about losing even their most far-left supporters.
3)Despite what the mainstream media says, the Tea Party is able to reach across the aisle.
1)Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 619)- Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY)
2)Smarter Sentencing Act (S.1410)- Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-Utah)
3)Justice Safety Valve Act (HR. 1695)- 17 co-sponsors, including Tea Party congressmen Thomas Massie and Trey Radel (good foresight there Trey)
4)Kristen Gillibrand’s Sexual Assault bill/amendment-Ted Cruz and Rand Paul
The first three examples allow for greater flexibility in the sentencing of federal crimes, especially concerning drug charges. The fourth example is a military sexual assault bill introduced by Kirsten Gillibrand and co-sponsored by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul (note:there are a few versions she has out there and it is difficult to find the exact one).
4) Liberals are starting to lose their normal attack lines on Republicans-
“Republicans are war-mongers! Republicans are corporate, big business sell outs!” These made-for-bumper sticker phrases are becoming more and more obsolete as the Tea Party starts gaining power. The Tea Party is decidedly anti-corporatism, unlike many in the Republican and Democrat parties. The Tea Party partially arose in response to the corporatist bailout of Wall Street. Essentially, the Tea Party and OWS have the same reason for foundation.
On the war front, it was many of the most conservative, Tea Party congressmen and women who were speaking out against striking Syria. While Nancy Pelosi, on the advice of her grandson, was beating the war drums, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul voted “no” to the Syrian strike resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It’s reasonable to say that it was the teaming up of the Tea Party and the anti-war Left which effectively killed a Syrian strike and forced diplomacy (one candidate for office told me about going to a protest against Syrian military action with the Tea Party and a socialist group).
In an article in the Japan Times from October 2, 2013 titled “Is the GOP’S Rand Paul America’s leading liberal”, Ted Rall echoes many of the same points. He points out, for example, that “When George W. Bush was in power, “liberal” California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein railed against NSA spying on Americans, calling it an impeachable offense. Now that the president is a member of their party, Boxer is silent and Feinstein is the NSA’s PR flack.”
Liberals are scared of the Tea Party because we are young, we’re stealing their causes, we can reach across the aisle on important issues and we’re neutralizing their oldest attack lines.
Matthew Lamb | Loyola University | @mlmb24