This morning, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is to be announced as the leader of the House’s Tea Party Caucus. Columnist Derek Wallbank wonders who will have the big brass ones to stand up with her in this alliance? Apparently about 10 fellow legislators have signed on, but many Republicans are wary of aligning too closely with the Tea Party.
The GOP is in a tough spot here. The Tea Party increasingly constitutes its most fervent and loyal base, and you wouldn’t want to distance yourself from that group. Especially when you consider how successful the Tea Party has become at dislodging Republicans off the GOP ballot who don’t cater to their worldview. But the public perception of the Tea Party by those outside it is of a radical fringe type group that’s just a hair-trigger away from an armed revolution. Aligning with such a group marginalizes the independent voters and leaves GOP Congressmen vulnerable in the general election.
Many, both inside and outside the Tea Party have correctly pointed out that it is the extreme teabaggers that get all the press coverage and that many in the movement are espousing reasonable positions.
I believe it’s true that the Tea Party is not all or even mostly made up of birthers, conspiracy theorists, anarchists, and white supremacists. I further believe the press does provide excessive coverage of the loonies, because, well… it’s not news when the bus arrives on time, only when it crashes. But it’s hard for them to claim victimhood when the most public faces of the Tea Party are people like Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Sharon Angle. The press didn’t anoint these folks, the Tea Party movement did.
Bachmann in particular is so out of touch with reality that the MN Progressive Project has taken to calling her Princess Sparklepony. She fears the census. She’s convinced The Fed is conspiring to create a global currency. She believes the healthcare bill promotes abortion and rations your care. She’s not worried about global warming because Jesus will save the planet. It goes on and on and on. She used to frighten me a little, but it’s gone so far that it’s just comical. Unless you’re from Minnesota, then it’s just embarrassing.
So here’s a little free political advice for the Tea Party. If you want to be taken seriously by people who don’t have a ready supply of pitchforks and torches and a hankerin’ to storm the castle, you need to put serious people out in front of your movement. Princess Sparklepony is perhaps not the most inspired choice.