Published on TheHill.com on March 11, 2014
Establishment Republicans always remind us of how the Tea Party cost the GOP crucial seats in 2010 and 2012, which might have delivered control of the Senate to the Republican Party. And, they have a point. If Tea Party candidates had not won primaries in Delaware, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana and Missouri, these states might now be sending more Republicans to the Senate.
But, consider the alternative. Had Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) not won their primaries, imagine how lifeless the Republican minority in the Senate would be. The party’s current intellectual and ideological cutting edge has come from Tea Party primary victories.
Would we rather have Charlie Crist, now running as a Democrat, in the Senate from Florida, or Marco Rubio?
Would we prefer mute Bob Bennett as the Republican senator from Utah, or the outspoken Mike Lee?
In Kentucky, would Trey Grayson, unknown and undistinguished, have been a better spokesman for our party than Rand Paul?
Would the go-along, get-along Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have been anything close to the dashing, charismatic figure cut by Ted Cruz in Texas?
And in Wisconsin, one can only wonder if anyone other than Ron Johnson could have upended Russ Feingold to take the Senate seat in that liberal state.
Day in and day out, it is these firebrand Tea Party senators who are dominating the conservative benches in Washington. Add to their ilk the likes of Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and David Vitter (R-La.), and you have accounted for the most active, ideologically confrontational and politically effective members of the Republican Senate minority.
On the state level, has there been a governorship that better embodied the potential of Republican change than that of Scott Walker in Wisconsin? He has shown us all how to win the education issue for the GOP and has let us all see how curbing public-sector unions can return government to the people.
The fact is, like it or not, the Tea Party is the soul of the Republican Party.
There is no better example of the need to have the Tea Party continue its cleansing of the U.S. Senate than the looming primary in Mississippi. Thad Cochran (R-Miss), 76, has been the leading pork dispenser on the Republican side of the aisle for decades. He once vied for the honor with Alaska’s Ted Stevens; now he has it all to himself. Silent on major national issues, rarely heard from in the Senate, he stands as an apostle of the old ways, pursuing increased government spending with all the vigor of a Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) or Scoop Jackson (D-Wash.) of a bygone era. Without a scorecard, you couldn’t tell which of these old-fashioned senators is a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative.
We will not return to national power by electing faceless, nameless Republican senators who do not stand up and never fight hard.
The passivity of the Republican minority in the Senate is the stuff of legend. But the Tea Party members have changed all that and deserve our thanks and commendation.
Sometimes, the amateurs of the Tea Party lead us astray. No one can deny that Missouri, Indiana and Delaware would be represented by Republicans had the Tea Party not nominated candidates who made themselves unelectable. And it is probable that we would have won seats in Nevada and Colorado as well but for Tea Party primary victories.
But a lifeless, soulless GOP would be no inspiration to anyone.
Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Johnson, Lee: These names light up our sky and animate our party. Where would we be without their star power?
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