Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Does the Tea Party Actually Matter?

Is the Tea Party a Ponzi scheme?

More than a few progressive Democrats may have already come to this conclusion, but Republican presidential candidates who participated in last night’s debate in Tampa certainly went out of their way to curry favor with Tea Party voters. Some had more at stake than others.

“I know we can do so much better in this country,” said Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann in her introduction. “That’s why I’m the chief author of the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, the bill to repeal Obamacare. And that’s why I brought the voice of the Tea Party to the United States Congress as the founder of the Tea Party Caucus.”

Bachmann described herself as “the leading voice in the wilderness of Washington all summer” against raising the country’s debt ceiling, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued to take more wind out of her sails as he fended off attacks from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Congressman Ron Paul on the economy, taxes, Social Security and immigration. She found her Tea Party mojo, however, when she blasted Perry over his executive order that requires HPV vaccines for girls as young as 11.

“I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong,” said Bachmann. “That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.”

Rhetoric and strategic one-liners aside, last night’s debate raises the obvious specter of whether the Tea Party will emerge as a tangible force in 2012. Voters will obviously answer this question at the ballot box, but today’s special election in New York’s Ninth Congressional District for could potentially prove a harbinger of things to come.

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