Never mind swing voters, the GOP’s first priority must be to regain the trust of their base

Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who this week was defeated by a Tea Party outsider      

When will the Republicans start to realise that they no longer have the trust of the very people they claim to represent? This week has seen an earthquake in Washington as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in the Republican primaries for the Virginia seat he has held since 2001 by a long-shot Tea Party outsider; if this isn’t proof of dissatisfaction with the GOP establishment then I don’t know what is.

The influence of the Tea Party has steadily grown since George W Bush left the White House in 2009, as grassroots American conservatives have become more and more disaffected with the unaccountable and unrepresentative Washington establishment. Angered by what Tea Party godfather Jim DeMint describes as the ‘aggressively liberal’ agenda pursued by the Obama administration, ordinary men and women see no hope in a Republican Party which is failing to pick the president up on the issues which truly matter; a stagnant economy, uncontrolled immigration and the masses of red tape and regulations which make setting up a business more and more difficult.

In Britain, this is a phenomenon which has led to the rise of UKIP, fuelled by the anger of those who can no longer identify with David Cameron’s Conservatives and are looking to a new political party instead. However, the American situation is very different, as their protest movement has manifested itself not in a separate party, but in an internal faction which is steadily driving the GOP further to the right.

I don’t agree with the Tea Party on everything; like UKIP, they are susceptible to their fair share of clowns and loonies, the ‘Obama-is-a-Muslim’ brigade who clog up social media with (at best) thinly-veiled racism and who enjoy branding the entire Republican establishment as ‘RINOs’ (which, for the uninitiated, stands for Republican In Name Only). These tactics should shock and appall any sensible person, whilst I personally can’t help but wonder whether these same people who say they want to restore the Ronald Reagan glory days would even describe the Gipper himself as a RINO if he were starting out his political career today.

However, despite the fact that these abhorrent tactics are so prevalent amongst certain sections of the Tea Party’s support base, it is clear that this is a movement which has tapped into a very real sense of public anger and disaffection with the current state of US politics. At a time when President Obama is implementing the most regressive and damaging political agenda since the Carter days, the Republicans should be a credible alternative to the Democrats and their failed policies, but yet they are still seen as an impotent bunch of crony-capitalists who are well and truly in the pockets of big business.

The Tea Party want to make US politics more accountable, and this overarching vision should be welcomed no matter what one may think about their wider political philosophy. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to care far more about loopholes and earmarks for the super-rich and the big corporations instead of representing the American people, and the backlash Eric Cantor experienced this week is proof that the public will not stand for this any longer.

Cantor’s challenger was Dave Brat, an unassuming economics professor who ran a simple campaign but yet was able to unseat the GOP’s main man in the House of Representatives, and so other establishment figures must now be realising the end of their careers could well be in sight. In Tennessee, Senator Lamar Alexander is facing a challenge from the Tea Party’s Joe Carr, whilst Mississippi’s Thad Cochran could be facing the end of his 36-year Senate career after he was narrowly defeated in the first round of voting by conservative challenger Chris McDaniel. This rise of the conservative grassroots can no longer be dismissed by Washington; the GOP must change, or else face political extinction.

George Reeves

Also published on my personal blog:


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