As the ultra-right movement fades, tea for ... two?

August 30, 2013 

Maybe they’re just tired. Or maybe there were never very many of them anyway. Or maybe their campaign to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which already has helped Americans, isn’t gaining the steam they sought.

Whatever the reasons, a meeting this week at a Raleigh hotel of the tea party true believers produced considerably fewer believers than leaders had wished for. There perhaps weren’t more cameras than tea partyers (a couple of dozen), but it was pretty close.

The truth about the tea party always has been that the volume produced didn’t reflect a choir but maybe more of a quintet. A very loud quintet, enough to scare nervous Republicans. And, yes, the tea party had some success getting a fractional minority in Congress that stood in the way of consensus for House Speaker John Boehner.

But the fight is old; the president they oppose has been re-elected. And Obamacare, the bane of tea partyers, is kicking into gear and already helping some people, including children with pre-existing medical conditions who now can get insurance. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the legality of the reform, tea partyers are up against it.

Therefore, they’re showing signs of desperation, which is what brought them to Raleigh. They were trying to get members of the state’s congressional delegation to sign a letter promising to vote against any legislation that funds Obamacare, even if it means shutting down the U.S. government and programs such as Medicare.

Sen. Richard Burr, who isn’t signing, called that “the dumbest idea I ever heard.” And he’s a conservative Republican.

It appears the tea party is not so formidable anymore, as Republican leaders realize that the electorate is growing more diverse and perhaps more open-minded. Perhaps they understand that a group that wants to roll back the clock on government may be a hindrance to Republicans ever seeing the Oval Office again.

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