The Tea Party and Republicans

June 23rd, 2012

Jeff Toobin writes that the GOP has absorbed the once-libertarian Tea Party. Or is it the other way around?

When the Tea Party first appeared as a national political force, in 2009, it was often described as libertarian—focussed mostly on lowering taxes and repealing health-care reform. Social issues, it appeared, were distinctly secondary concerns. This view now appears precisely wrong. Following their victories in the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Partiers and their allies have proven to be preoccupied with, even obsessed by, social issues—most especially abortion.

One doesn’t hear a lot about the Tea Party these days—but that’s not because it’s gone away. Quite the opposite is the case, in fact. The goals and values of the Tea Party have been absorbed by the Republican Party at large; there is, at this point, no meaningful difference between the Tea and Republican Parties. When the Tea Party surfaced in 2009, it was basically a rebranding of what used to be called “the base” of the Republican Party. But the base now is the party.