Did you hear the one about Jimmy Carter thinking he was the original tea party candidate? That is how any discussion about the former president being associated with any tea party movement should begin. But alas, it isn't a joke because it is President Carter himself who believes he is the original beneficiary of tea party fervor.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday of this week, former President Carter said, "I was a candidate that was in some ways like the tea party candidate. I was a complete outsider. I capitalized legitimately on the dissatisfaction that was permeating our society." Carter went on to admit the tea party movement will be "quite a major factor" in the November election but it won't last. "I think they will be much less of a factor in 2012 and in future years."
Like former President Clinton, General Colon Powell, and most of the former "country club" and now "establishment" Republicans, Carter just doesn't get it. The tea party movement is here to stay because its legacy will be the reformation of the Republican Party. Had the leaders of tea party groups across the country decided to compete with rather than reconfigure the Republican Party, they would have splintered in a thousand different directions and quickly ceased to be a serious threat to the status quo.
But leaders of the movement wisely realized it would be much more effective and have a much greater immediate impact if they simply got involved in the Republican Party primaries and forced the "rhinos" off the political stage. And force them off the stage they did. In Florida, Nevada, Delaware, Utah, New York, Kentucky, South Carolina and Alaska, rhinos were sent packing. From Lisa Murkowski (it took me two attempts to spell her last name right which is why her write-in campaign is doomed) to Mike Castle and from Bob Ingles to Bob Bennett, the sound of the crumbling of the Republican establishment could be heard above the cheers of tea party revelers.
The Republican Party will become the party of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and moral saneness or it will cease to exist. Speaking at the conservative Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council Senator Jim DeMint said, "It is not possible to be a real fiscal conservative if ones does not understand the value of having a culture based on values."
On CNN's "State of the Union," DeMint bluntly pronounced the death to the Republican Party if it fails to live up to its principles limited government again.
The GOP appears to be getting the message. President Obama rolled out the tried and true class warfare card hoping to divide conservatives over preserving the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but ending them for people making $250,000 or more. In years past, the tact would have worked but this time Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell vowed to fight to the end to preserve the Bush tax cuts for every American. Five Senate Democrats promptly joined him. In the House, John Boehner appeared to waver, saying if the only choice he had was to vote up or down on a middle class tax cut he would vote in favor of the relief. Almost immediately, Boehner backpedaled recommitting himself to McConnell's position, and was joined by close to 40 House democrats.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour said, "Republican and tea party voters united means Mr. Obama defeated." I agree. If the House and the Senate passes into Republican hands in November, the Reid, Pelosi, Obama agenda will eventually become a sad footnote in the history of American politics. It will take its rightful place on the ash heap of bad ideas right next to the Carter Administration and Walter Mondale's attempt to unseat President Reagan.
Earlier in this article I pointed to the fact that recently, former President Jimmy Carter claimed to be the original tea party candidate way back in 1976. Carter certainly has a role to play in an early expression of tea party fervor but it wasn't during the 1976 election and he wasn't the tea party candidate. It was the 1980 election where President Carter served as the inspiration for Republicans to reject the pseudo conservative values of George Herbert Walker Bush and embrace true conservatism as embodied by Ronald Reagan.
Party on tea partiers … the Grand Old Party has heard you, has changed, and is now ready to bring real change to Washington.