Coburn aide: Tea Party winning, even if "Tea Party candidates" aren't

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John Hart, Sen. Tom Coburn's communications director, attempts to help the mainstream media understand what's happening with the Tea Party movement, and in the process encourages Tea Partiers to be of good cheer, notwithstanding the renomination of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

For those keeping score, it is now roughly the GOP establishment 5 (Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia) and the Tea Party 1 (Nebraska).

But this win-loss story line doesn't reflect reality. The real struggle in 2014 is not between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party but within the Tea Party itself. And, more importantly, in spite of this struggle, the Tea Party continues to ascend.

Primary campaigns in states like Kentucky are merely bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions within the conservative movement. On one side is the grassroots -- the Tea Party. Alongside it is crabgrass -- the Tea Party establishment's sometimes invasive tactics, bad judgment (i.e. the government shutdown) and even worse candidate vetting that draw nutrients away from the grassroots.

(A little slap there at Ted Cruz?)

And what is the Tea Party establishment exactly? Like with the Republican Revolution of 1994, it's the part of the reform movement that went native after acquiring real political power. Today, it's the gilded conservative neighborhood of "This Town," Mark Leibovich's book about D.C.'s culture of self-love. It's the catered lunch that never adjourns; the cabal, the mutual-admiration society of master strategists who have never successfully limited government but know how.

In primary campaigns, it's the part of the Tea Party that has the hubris to suggest candidates like Bevin are representative of an organic uprising because it says so, regardless of what the real grassroots may think.

In that light, I wonder what Hart and his boss think about the campaign to replace Coburn. Former State House Speaker T. W. Shannon has rounded up endorsements from out-of-state Tea Party-related individuals and groups: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, FreedomWorks for America, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Mark Levin. Club for Growth PAC, which played an important role in Coburn's come-from-behind primary win in 2004, has yet to make an endorsement.

(Most recently, Shannon has been endorsed by Sen. Rob Johnson, the driving force behind the Oklahoma Senate's passage of the National Popular Vote compact. That's an endorsement I wouldn't trumpet too loudly. The same could be said of his endorsement by recent chairmen of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.)

But leaders of local Tea Party organizations like the Tulsa 9/12 Project and OKforTea have expressed their displeasure with groups from outside Oklahoma issuing endorsements before talking to local grassroots activists or investigating voting records. They aren't pleased with U. S. Rep. James Lankford's record either.

Many local conservative activists are lining up behind former State Sen. Randy Brogdon. The Oklahoma Conservative PAC endorsed Brogdon, and OCPAC chairman Charlie Meadows explained why, in a post that also praised Lankford and Shannon.

They are all good communicators, with Lankford being an exceptional talent. His experience in Washington gives him an edge in knowing the process. His intelligence and hard work there allows him to speak with a certain degree of expertise and gravitas....

In my opinion, T.W. Shannon has been the most conservative and finest Speaker of the House in state history. In many cases when Republicans get into leadership, they govern a little more liberal. However, that was not the case with T.W. as he even became a little more conservative than before he became Speaker....

When it comes to Randy Brogdon, the bio is conservative, consistent and reliable. He finished 8 years in the legislature with a lifetime Conservative Index Score of 93, a remarkable feat. He was the first Republican SENATOR to score a perfect 100 on the Index in modern times and he did that in his second year in the legislature and in a few more years following....

Bottom line, I believe Brogdon got the OCPAC nod because the people TRUST him, his whole time in government has been about limiting government and expanding liberty. The grassroots people know he will not be beholden to what I lovingly call the "Oklahoma Mafia", the rich and powerful who happen to be more into fascist capitalism and central planning rather than free market capitalism.

But the candidate embraced by the local Tea Party grassroots is reportedly running third in the polls. Should Tea Partiers be discouraged? That brings us back to John Hart's column. He says we shouldn't focus on who is winning but what has changed about what the winners are saying and doing. The Tea Party is transforming the mainstream:

Second, the transformation of McConnell's campaign from 2008 to 2014 shows the overwhelming persuasive and redemptive power of the Tea Party. In 2008, the Senate minority leader ran a series of ads touting his success at bringing home the bacon. In 2014, his campaign had lost that aroma. McConnell himself helped end earmarks in 2010 and recently said no to Majority Leader Harry Reid's call to restore the disgraced practice. McConnell's evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles.

In fact, thanks to the Tea Party, the old-style "bring home the bacon" campaigns have largely been wiped off the electoral map. Even Democrats have joined the Tea Party's anti-pork campaign. Mark Udall, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren have all vocally opposed earmarks, a rare challenge to Reid's rigid party discipline.

The Tea Party's influence, of course, extends well beyond earmarks. In race after race, candidates are embracing its message of less government, less spending, less regulation and more freedom, particularly on Obamacare....

The status quo apologists are so eager to belittle the Tea Party because they know its appeal is mainstream. Ronald Reagan (echoing Richard Nixon) called it the silent majority. Tom Coburn called it the rumble. But our founders called it America. The real Tea Party is just another name for our national aversion to centralized power, a core conviction that inspired our founders and is rooted in a deep understanding of history and human nature.

The good news for Oklahoma Tea Partiers is that the leading candidates for U. S. Senate are all talking about their principles. The question is whether the man who replaces Tom Coburn will conduct himself accordance with those principles.


James Lankford was elected in the 2010 "Tea Party wave," but that doesn't make him a "Tea Party" congressman.

Evidently even beating an incumbent with Tea Party support doesn't make you a "Tea Party congressman."

Francis Wilkinson praises the Tea Party for channeling anger into political activism:

To see what radical activism and rage-fueled politics look like without such constraints, just look back at the New Left. Black Panther shootouts. Symbionese Liberation Army shootouts. Kathy Boudin & Friends shootouts. The occasional ROTC building explosion. Reckless politics was a cause of death in those ugly years. To the extent that gun laws encourage suicide, homicide and manslaughter, it still is. But the word "laws" makes all the difference.

Unlike the New Left, the Tea Party has worked within the system. It has organized public demonstrations, supported candidates and lobbied legislatures. What it has not done is murder police officers or blow up buildings.

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Moogle Author Profile Page said:

I know it is single issue-ish of me, but I have a serious problem with the Shannon ad where he declares that our rights do not come from the Constitution but from God Almighty.
1. This is old fashioned populist grandstanding with makes the assumption I'm an idiot.
2. I strongly doubt most courts consult The Almighty when deciding cases of rights. (Actually, a lot of then don't bother consulting the Constitution either.)

Moogle Author Profile Page said:

To add a bit ...
Religious grandstanding is unlikely to be an effective legislative tool in DC. We need people who know how to be effective; not people who know how to grandstand.

Graychin said:

The Tea Party victory is nearly total. The Republican Party has adopted the TP platform nearly 100%.

"Mainstream" Republican candidates have moved so far to the right in response to Tea Party challengers that there isn't any more room to the right for Tea Party candidates to stand on.

Today, the only way to distinguish establishment candidates from Tea Party candidates is that the establishment candidates know how to behave in polite society. The Tea Party candidates still dress in clown suits.

Graychin said:


I also think that Shannon's religiosity in his commercials is pandering and grandstanding. Filming a political commercial in a church pew? Really?

But Shannon is correct about our rights coming from Almighty God, although that isn't the construction that Jefferson used in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

Shannon paraphrases "Creator" as the "Almighty God" of Shannon's own particular faith. But an atheist might even be satisfied to accept Jefferson's "Creator" as a mere metaphor. In either case, the point is the same - that we are born with our rights, and that they don't come from the generosity of any human agency.

Moogle Author Profile Page said:


Maybe in an abstract indirect sense via men who made choices based on spiritual belief. But to make that claim in the direct sense by specifically saying rights do not come from the Constitution suggests that God has decided, for whatever reason, to deny those rights to the majority of the planet's population. It gets into the notion that we are The Chosen (for which we should be thankful) and they are not (too bad for them).

Look at that phrase "endowed by their Creator" in context:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

God endowed everyone with these rights -- they are our birthright as human beings created in His image -- but it is still necessary to secure them. As a matter of justice in the sight of God, Government ought to respect and protect these rights, and if Government denies these rights, the People have the right "to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government...."

Moogle Author Profile Page said:

> certain unalienable Rights

Notice that "certain" is left undefined. And a poll of a population would produce an inconsistent list of what it includes. For example, the same men who wrote that did not consider voting to be an unalienable right. In fact, it was quite restricted; they did not accidentally overlook it.

"Certain" is defined in the Constitution. When you claim that it is not the supreme law, but is superseded by some higher authority from which your rights REALLY come, then you do the same thing as those who invent a new "interpretation" of your rights based on some higher moral ideal; they just don't call it "God". If you can invoke some higher authority as the supreme law, so can they. If you can invoke your idea of divine will, so can they.

If you like your Constitutional rights, you need to keep it the supreme law and condemn the introduction of other higher authorities, principles, ideals, etc. Your specific rights do, in fact, come from the Constitution. Anyone running for US Senate needs to understand this.

Watchman said:

Moogle, that is exactly backward. The Constitution (as written, not necessarily as interpreted) gives the government a small set of carefully limited rights and powers in order to protect--not to give--the rights that already belong to the people. I understand that isn't the way it is working in our day, but it is the way it was intended.

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