This past Sunday, on NBC's Meet The Press, Grover Norquist had a warning for the president, Democrats, the nation, and perhaps the world: If America ends up going over the "fiscal cliff" there will be a Tea Party revival that will outweigh that of the 2010 midterm elections. "Tea Party two is going to dwarf Tea Party one if Obama pushes us off the cliff."
I have a question. Has Mr. Norquist resigned as president of Americans for Tax Reform and turned to comedy? If not, maybe he should quit his day job because I laughed so hard at the idea of "Tea Party two" as a warning to our president, my political party, and our nation. Oooh..."Tea Party two." Scared President Obama? Democrats? You should be, or so Mr. Norquist thinks. Is the "Tea Party two" like Jaws II, or worse yet, Godfather III?
Look, all joking aside, the Tea Party, which isn't a party at all, had a handful of political victories in 2010. But as I predicted, those "Tea Party candidates," who are technically Republicans, acted like the red R on their cape dictated when it came time to voting. There was no "T" next to their name when they ran or were elected and when they got to Washington. The GOP schooled them not only on how to behave, but on how to vote. So the faithful lost their religion so to speak. And America wasn't fooled by a party which was a movement. America also wasn't fooled by a group that claimed to be nonpartisan, not conservatives, not angry, or not anti-Obama when it turned out to be just that: extremely partisan, very conservative, angry and definitely against the president. In other words, the original plan for the Tea Party either got off track or they lied. Oh, excuse me, let me use political terms: They misspoke.
Another reason I had to laugh at Mr. Norquists's warning of the second coming of the Tea Party? Polls show since last spring a continuing decline in support for the Tea Party. And there was an analysis done by the Pew Research Center showing that support for the Republican Party has fallen even further in those places that once supported Tea Party candidates than it has in the country as a whole. In the 60 districts represented in Congress by a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, Republicans were viewed about as negatively as Democrats. And the analysis suggests that the Tea Party may be dragging down the Republican Party. That analysis was proven true by the results of the last election. Other polls have shown a decline in support for the Tea Party and its positions, particularly because of its hard line during the debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction.
So when Mr. Norquist warns the president about pushing the country over the fiscal cliff, I think he is really speaking to Republicans who are lining up now to walk away from their original pledge to him and his organization not to increase taxes. I think Mr. Norquist is saying, work with the Democrats and we'll put so much power and money behind a Tea Party candidate to challenge your seat in Congress that you'll lose your job. So a warning to the president? Or a threat, an unspoken form of bullying to any of the 95 percent of Republicans who signed his pledge?
Some say Democrats should heed Mr. Norquist's warning. Some say the Tea Party is no longer relevant, they had their 15 minutes of fame and they were a one hit wonder. (This blogger among those of that opinion).
So when Mr Norquist took center stage on NBC's Meet The Press and David Gregory asked the question "Are you over?" I think it was Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat of Missouri who was in the same segment on Sunday, who said it best: "I just met him for the first time this morning," McCaskill said. "Nice to meet him. But, you know, who is he?" Or perhaps my two toddlers, who when they hear me mentioning "Grover," think I'm talking about a furry guy on Sesame Street.