Tea Party’s effect on politics

Hilary Bassett

In 2009, the Tea Party movement came out in force and left a significant impression on Iowa politics as many incumbents got the boot and newcomers, many of them Republicans, took their place.

“I think it was incredibly instrumental in the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 elections,” said James McCormick, professor and chairman of the political science department. “They energized a lot of candidates and some of their followers to get to the polls.”

The tea party movement began because of their negative viewpoint of the current political parties and current political structure, focusing in particular on lowering government spending and promoting a smaller government.

“We had dramatically overreaching policies that were taking us off a cliff and still will if we don’t do something,” said Ryan Rhodes, member of the Iowa Tea Party.

Having recently gone through an election, Gov. Branstad understood the use of the Tea Party movement and how they can really impact a campaign.

“We were able fold tea partiers into our grassroots organizations,” said Tim Albrecht, Branstad’s communication director. “They were an important volunteer force on part of our get out to vote strategy.”

But some see the movement as having a negative impact, especially within the Republican Party.

“I think the biggest effect the Tea Party has had is within the Republican Party itself,” said Sam Roecker, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party. “It’s created two wings of the Republican Party: one that’s traditionally more fiscally focused and then the Tea Party wing, which has kind of taken off into this radical social wing of the party.”

McCormick agrees that this impact has occurred, but argues that this will have little effect in the 2012 elections coming up.

“There is a common opposition to Obama and I think that will ultimately serve as a rallying cry for them,” McCormick said. “I don’t think that Obama will be able to generate the intensity that he did in 2008.”

But McCormick also noted that the Obama campaign is known for raising a lot of money.

“That is probably going to dwarf any kind of action that the Republican nominee can engender and I think that will also … impact what the Tea Party can do as well,” McCormick said.

After the large impact of Tea Party seen in the 2010 elections, members believe the party’s impact will continue into the 2012 elections.

“The Tea Party will have a dramatic impact on this next election because the issues we have are the issues that resonate with the average American and that’s something that I think presidential candidates are going to need to address if they want any credibility whatsoever,” Rhodes said.

But critics argue this may not be true and that the movement might instead be decreasing.

“It seems like their activity has kind of leveled off now,” Roecker said. “The crowds that they had a couple of years ago or last summer aren’t there anymore; it’s more of a small, local movement now.”

Overall, it is generally agreed that it is too soon to tell the type of impact we will see when the 2012 fight begins to gain steam.

“I don’t think the tea party has identified the one candidate they want to rally around,” McCormick said. “Until there’s a republican nominee that the tea party embraces, I think only then can tell what kind of impact they’re going to have.”