Constance Dogood is a Tea Party leader who now works on staff for a newly elected Republican member of Congress. Below is an exclusive excerpt from her new book, How the GOP Establishment is Co-Opting the Freshman Tea Party. ConservativeHome asked her 2 questions about the thesis of her book:
CH: Your thesis is that the GOP establishment is coopting the Tea Party freshmen. But some would say the establishment never would have gone as far in the GOP budget in April, or even fought as hard as it did for the 2011 cuts (however dissatisfying the final number was), were it not for the Tea Party's influence. In other words, couldn't you say that the Tea Partiers in Congress, through their resistance to being coopted, are having a positive impact in Washington?
Dogood: The new Freshmen have definitely had an impact. They have managed to change the dialogue in Washington from "we must spend more" to "how much should we cut?" That is a big change in attitude. However, the Republican leadership is attempting to pacify the Tea Party and their elected representatives with symbolic votes that have little real meaning. For example, the vote to repeal Obamacare, while correct, had little real world impact. The same was true for the straight up or down vote on funding Planned Parenthood. These gestures are meant to placate angry voters. Meanwhile, they the Republican leaders are telling these new representatives "this is the best deal we can make." The Tea Party wants their representatives to say "no deal," but when you dig in like that, it makes the leadership look bad. They appear to not be in control of their unruly children, and they simply can't allow that.
CH: What do you now believe is the best way for the Tea Party to relate to the GOP? That is, should it be a separate party? Or, simply a grassroots movement that gets Tea Party candidates elected but then stays out of Washington? Or, should it beef up its Washington presence and seek to take on, or take over, the establishment?
Dogood: Personally, I think a third party is a losing proposition for conservatives. All it does is dilute the vote and get more liberals elected--like last week in New York. I just want to see our Republicans remember that they are the fiscal and social conservatives in the district, they should vote that way.
I’ve been around the Tea Party since the beginning. I remember trying to get the local Republican Party to send out a notice to their membership of our first little gathering. They had no interest in us. They thought we were a bunch of kooks. Then about three thousand people showed up to protest the out-of-control spending that was going on in the spring of 2009 and suddenly my phone started ringing.
My friends in Tea Parties in other cities and towns tell me similar stories. In the beginning, the message from the Republican Establishment was “You are not us.” It was therefore a delicious irony when the Establishment noticed our big numbers, especially among the coveted fifty-and-over demographic (those old folks vote in droves), and we got to tell them in turn, “You are not us.”
Oh, they tried! They tried to co-opt the Tea Party. They tried to attach themselves to us by declaring that they, too, were fed up with government spending; they, too, thought Congress should abide by the words of the Constitution; and they, too, thought Washington was a deep cesspool of lying, ineffective hypocrites who are completely out of touch with their constituents. (All while enjoying “members only” dining rooms and taking “members only” elevators to catch “members only” trains to enter “members only” doors at the Capitol.)
The Establishment as a whole did not see the coming storm. They belittled the notion that a group of regular people, using communication tools favored by college students, could possibly push them out of their comfortable chairs. Of course, when RINOs like Charlie Crist in Florida and Sue Lowden in Nevada were toppled by Tea Party candidates, they started paying attention. The Establishment “leaders” hustled over to Fox News and talked about how fabulous the Tea Party was for America. They were more than happy to see the Tea Party go after the Democrats, but were very unhappy when we went after weak-kneed Republicans. Their basic attitude was clear: hunker down and wait until these people get tired and go home, even while they slavishly pandered to us.
The problem came when we didn’t go home.
So now that the Tea Party helped turn the tide and put Republicans back in charge, the leaders of the Republican Establishment would like for us to just skedaddle back to whatever we did before and let the “professionals” run the government....
This exclusive excerpt is taken from How the GOP Establishment Is Co-Opting the Freshman Tea Party Class, released this week by Broadside Books.