In the ’14 primaries, conservative insurgents sip weak tea

    In the 2014 season, tea-party conservatives have a more wretched winning percentage than even the Philadelphia Phillies. And that should tell you plenty.

    Despite the insurgents’ high hopes for the ’14 GOP primaries, they haven’t knocked off a single Senate incumbent or establishment Senate candidate – a losing streak that was extended last night, when they failed to depose Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. They’d somehow deemed Roberts to be insufficiently conservative – he’s the fifth most conservative senator, says the right-wing Heritage Action group – and they sought to replace him with a zealot named Milton Wolf. But Wolf was so loony (more on that later) that the tea-partying Club for Growth refused to endorse him, and he lost to Roberts by a decisive margin.

    And that virtually closes the book on the tea party this year. There’s one more big Senate primary – GOP incumbent Lamar Alexander is on the ballot in Tennessee tomorrow (yes, a Thursday primary) – but he has done the requisite grassroots spadework and is not believed to be imperiled by tea-partying Joe Carr, a state legislator who thinks Lamar virtually sinned against nature by voting last year for immigration reform. Lamar may be boring, the candidate equivalent of white bread and mayo, but he’s well liked back home. Also, Sarah Palin has agitated against Lamar; that alone should seal his primary win.

    So, the Senate primaries in review:

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    The tea party failed to knock off Pat Roberts.

    Or Mitch McConnell.

    Or North Carolina establishment candidate Thom Tillis.

    Or Texas incumbent John Cornyn (challenger Steve Stockman basically blew up on the launch pad).

    Or Mississippi incumbent Thad Cochran. (Tea-partying Chris McDaniel is still refusing to concede his June defeat, claiming anew on Monday that Cochran won unfairly by mobilizing too many black people. I kid you not. McDaniel’s formal complaint says that “a comparative analysis of county by county increases indicates that Cochran’s vote increases correlated to the percentage of blacks in each county.” Oh the injustice! Republican primaries should be for whites!)

    Gone are the days, apparently, when the tea party can engineer GOP Senate primary shockers, like in 2010, when they sank establishment fave Mike Castle and replaced him on the Delaware ballot with punch line Christine O’Donnell; and in 2012, when they toppled veteran incumbent Richard Lugar and fatally replaced him on the Indiana ballot with Richard (rape pregnancies are “God’s intent”) Mourdock. Other tea- party laughingstocks included Nevada’s Sharron Angle (a gift to Harry Reid in 2010) and, of course, Missouri’s Todd Akin (a gift to Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2012).

    Having learned its lesson multiple times, the GOP establishment has struck back – Mitch McConnell vowed earlier this year to “crush” the right flank – by raising more money than the tea party, tiptoeing rightward on issues, and stroking the folks back home. (The outlier this year was not a Senate race. House GOP leader Eric Cantor coughed up his seat to a tea-party unknown mainly because he took his Virginia district for granted.)

    Tea party types know they’ve been outmaneuvered. Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative website Redstate, wrote recently: “Right now, the establishment and their hired guns are firing at a level the challengers are not and cannot (match), due to funding and less experience in politics. K Street (shorthand for the GOP’s lobbying arm) is pouring money into these races in a way the grassroots has never fundraised. The establishment intends to cling to their precious.”

    But the tea party hasn’t done itself any favors by fielding lousy challengers. Case in point, Milton Wolf in Kansas. Perhaps he wouldn’t have lost last night by 7.3 percentage points had he not done stupid things on Facebook. A radiologist by trade, he posted the X-rays of some of his patients, including dead ones – and played the pics for chuckles. One time, he showed a guy whose head had been blown off by a gun, and he wrote: “It reminds (me) of the scene from Terminator 2 when they shoot the liquid metal terminator guy in the face at close range and it kind of splits him open temporarily almost like a flower blooming. We all find beauty in different things.”

    All told, barring a miracle against Lamar in Tennessee tomorrow, the tea party’s ’14 season is over. Nevetheless, the GOP’s internal tensions will again be manifest during the ’16 presidential primary season, which will start in earnest right after the November midterm votes are tallied. But if the tea party hopes to have a say in the next nominee, it can’t keep flailing like the Phillies.


    To mark the impending 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation – on Aug. 9, for sweeping and unprecedented crimes against the Constitution – I’m still highlighting noxious Nixonian nuggets from his White House tapes. For instance, he was somewhat concerned that Secretary of State Bill Rogers seemed so comfortable around black people. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the president of the United States:

    “Bill Rogers has got – to his credit it’s a decent feeling – but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York. He says, well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on. My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years. I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have to be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it.”

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal